Avera McKennan's roots run deep. The History begins with Nano Nagle. Nano was born in 1718 in County Cork, Ireland. In 1776, she founded the Religious Order of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The purpose of the Presentation Sisters was to help educate the poor and care for the sick and aged. As she grew older, Nano Nagle became known as the "Lady of the Lantern" due to her journeys to the homes of the poor by means of a lantern.
Nano Nagle’s story of bringing hope, light and healing to those in need has served to inspire the Presentation Sisters to continue her work. A century after the order's founding, Bishop Martin Marty invited the Presentation Sisters to Dakota Territory to teach children. In 1880 the first group of Presentation Sisters made the long journey and established their first convent in Fargo.
In 1888, the Presentation Academy was opened in Aberdeen. When diphtheria struck the town in 1900, the sisters converted part of the convent into a temporary hospital. Eventually, St. Luke's Hospital - the pioneer of the Presentation Health System - was opened and the Presentation Sisters took on the ministry of healing. After helping open three more hospitals, the Presentation Sisters came to Sioux Falls. In 1911, Sister M. Agatha Collins became the first superior and administrator of McKennan Hospital.
Today, the Presentation Sisters continue their mission through service and leadership in education and healthcare. Together with the Benedictine sisters, they have provided the guidance to make Avera Health the largest private health care system in the region. Its facilities are known for medical excellence, technological innovation, and their commitment to meeting the spiritual and emotional, as well as the physical needs of their patients.