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A Brief History of Mercy Regional Medical Center
The first hospital in the Four Corners region was Mercy Hospital of the San Juans, started by the Sisters of Mercy in 1882. Although it had only six-beds and was attached to a boarding school, the small hospital opened to great fanfare on September 1. It was located along the Animas River in what was then an open field north of old downtown Durango.
In 1884, a new building, often referred to as the "stone hospital" because of its native sandstone construction, was finished and the hospital's name was changed to Mercy Hospital. Major additions took place in 1892, 1931, and 1952, and over the following 50 years, the building, located at 375 East Park Avenue, went through various additions and remodels, while older sections of the facility were demolished to make room for the new.
By the late 1990s Mercy Medical Center was operating at capacity, but unable to expand because downtown Durango had literally grown up around it. Plans were drawn for a brand new facility, to be built in the newly annexed Grandview area of Durango.
In June of 2006, Mercy Regional Medical Center opened. The 212,000-square-foot facility is state-of-the-art, with the latest medical technologies, an attached 153,000-square-foot medical office building, ambulatory surgical center, and plenty of room to expand in the future.
The old Mercy Medical Center building was demolished in 2006 and the land was donated to the city of Durango. The new Durango Library now occupies the former hospital site.
A Brief History of the Sisters of Mercy
Catherine McAuley was born in Dublin, Ireland, in September, 1778, to a prosperous Catholic family. Her father, James McGauley, died in 1783 when Catherine was just five years old, but his compassion for the poor--especially children and families who lived nearby--was a lifelong example for his eldest daughter.
When her mother Elinor died in 1798, Catherine chose to live in the home of relatives, some of whom were non-Catholic and had little tolerance for her pious practices. In 1803 Catherine was invited to live in the home of William and Catherine Callaghan as a companion to Mrs. Callaghan. The Callaghans were childless and upon Mr. Callaghan's death in 1822, Catherine inherited their fortune of £25,000 (the equivalent of about £1,048,000 or $1.6 million in today's currency), their estate, "furniture and plate."
In 1824, Catherine used her inheritance to lease property on Baggot Street, a fashionable neighborhood in Dublin, for the purpose of building a large house for religious, educational, and social services for women and children. Other women, intrigued by the house and the work for which it was intended, were attracted to Catherine and began to join her preparations for the ministry she planned.
On September 24, 1827, the Feast of our Lady of Mercy, the first residents came to live in the house they called "the House of Mercy" in honor of the day, and two years later, the chapel was dedicated. Between late 1829 and 1830, after prayerful deliberation and consultation, Catherine and her associates agreed to found a new religious congregation. Though this was not her original intention, Catherine began the founding of a new religious congregation of women dedicated to service to the poor.
Catherine and two of her associates entered the Convent of the Presentation Sisters in Dublin on Sept. 8, 1830, to begin formal preparation for founding the Sisters of Mercy. Fifteen months later, the trio pronounced vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and to persevere until death in "the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy." Thus, the new community was founded on Dec. 12, 1831.
Catherine lived only 10 years as a Sister of Mercy, but in that time, she established nine additional autonomous foundations in Ireland and England, and two branch houses near Dublin. When she died in 1841, there were 150 Sisters of Mercy. Shortly thereafter, small groups of sisters left Ireland at the invitation of bishops in Newfoundland, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina and Australia.
The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in the United States in 1843 at the invitation of the Bishop of Pittsburgh. Their energy in ministering to the sick and economically poor attracted many new members. By 1854, Sisters of Mercy had come from Ireland to settle in New York and San Francisco. They continued to spread throughout the country, establishing schools and hospitals where they went, including Durango.
Mother Mary Baptist Meyers and four other Sisters of Mercy arrived in the fast-growing mining town of Durango on April 29, 1882. They were recruited from St. Louis, Missouri, by Colorado's first bishop. Being a nursing and teaching order, within four months, the sisters were running two schools, a temporary orphanage, and a small hospital attached to one of the schools.
The Sisters' community involvement and membership grew over time with the establishment of the order's first Colorado motherhouse in Durango and their expansion into other Colorado communities. During her 18 years in Colorado, Mother Baptist sent Sisters of Mercy to Ouray, Cripple Creek, Manitou Springs, and Denver. She eventually moved the motherhouse to Denver, because funding opportunities were greater for the numerous charities and non-profits operated by the religious order. But Mother Baptist never abandoned Durango; she died on her final trip to the Durango convent.
Although the Sisters of Mercy are no longer involved in the hospital's operation, Mercy Regional Medical Center honors-and continues-the Sisters' legacy of care.
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