By: Dominique Johnson
In response to the plea of the Catholic community in Alaska in the 1920s, three sisters of St. Joseph of Peace traveled to Ketchikan on a steamboat with the intention of opening a new hospital.
In the document, “We Carry on the Healing” by Sister Susan Dewitt, CSJP, Bishop Crimont is quoted making a plea to the Sisters, “After two years of fruitless efforts to secure Sisters for a foundation in Ketchikan, we turn to you as our last hope.” He added, “the doctors want the Sisters.”
The order of sisters had a history of operating hospitals in the Pacific Northwest and eight years before heading to Ketchikan the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace opened a small hospital in Wenatchee, Washington with an $800 donation from the Knights of Columbus.
In 1923, the three sisters, Sisters Antonius, Germaine and Benedict opened Little Flower Hospital in Ketchikan to serve the communities healthcare needs. The sisters prided themselves in helping their patients with compassion and dignity. Though led by Catholic sisters, the care provided at the hospital is available to everyone in the community, no matter their faith.
Being a teaching order as well and seeing the need for Catholic education in Southeast Alaska, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, opened Holy Name Catholic School in 1946, with the Sisters serving as teachers.
In 1963, the city of Ketchikan built a new hospital facility and leased the property to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Later in the 1960s, when the Sisters saw that there was a need to build a system to better streamline their work. So, they created a network of hospitals and PeaceHealth was born.
The hospital has grown over the years with an expansion that was completed in 2016, which includes the most extensive operating floor in the state of Alaska.
The hospital in Ketchikan is also unique in the PeaceHealth system, as it is the only PeaceHealth hospital that houses a long-term care unit. The unit has 29 beds that help serve the needs of the communities aging population.
Though there are no longer Sisters working in the hospital, PeaceHealth in Ketchikan still serves the community with the same charism established by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Clinical Bioethicist and Holy Name School graduate, Anne Margaret Shuham, said, “The mission and values of the Sisters live on through every person that works here.”
Even though there are no longer sisters working at Holy Name School, there is still a connection with the hospital. Holy Name School provides daycare space for PeaceHealth employees.
The legacy left in Ketchikan by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace is still making an impact in the community today with a commitment to their mission to, “carry on the healing mission of Jesus Christ by promoting personal and community health, relieving pain and suffering, and treating each person in a loving and caring way.”
To learn more about PeaceHealth and volunteer opportunities at the hospital in Ketchikan visit www.peacehealth.org/ketchikan-medical-center.