What’s in a Name? The History Behind Avera’s Hospitals
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Published on March 16, 2021

Mckennan 1919 building

What’s in a Name? The History Behind Avera’s Hospitals

Avera celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, but the rich history of our nine sponsored hospitals dates back much farther than that.

Avera Health was formed in 2000 when the Benedictine and Presentation Sisters brought their health systems together in a unique joint sponsorship model. Avera was derived from the Latin word “avere” which means “to be well.”

Let’s take a look at how Avera’s sponsored hospitals got their names.

Avera St. Luke’s Hospital

Aberdeen, SD

St Lukes hospitalThe Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary established a convent and school in Aberdeen in 1886. When Bishop Thomas O’Gorman hosted the October ceremonies during the Feast of St. Luke, local townspeople reached out to the Sisters, asking them to open a hospital to help people affected by a 1900 diphtheria outbreak. In 1901, St. Luke’s Hospital was dedicated, named in part because St. Luke is the patron saint of physicians, and it's now known as Avera St. Luke's Hospital.

Avera Sacred Heart Hospital

Yankton, SD

Sacred Heart hospitalIn 1897, at the request of three physicians in town, Bishop Thomas O’Gorman asked the Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery to open a hospital. Later, they opened Sacred Heart Hospital in the main convent building. The term Sacred Heart is from the Catholic devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is a symbol of God’s boundless and passionate love for humankind, and serves as the facility's namesake.

Avera Queen of Peace Hospital

Mitchell, SD

Queen of Peace hospitalThe Presentation Sisters established St. Joseph Hospital at the request of Mitchell civic leaders in 1906. In 1991, St. Joseph Hospital and Methodist Hospital came together to create Queen of Peace Hospital. In the Catholic faith, Queen of Peace is a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary – the mother of Christ who is also known as the Prince of Peace.

Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

Sioux Falls, SD

Avera McKennan hospitalThe Irish name that is part of the moniker of Avera’s flagship care center comes from Helen Gale McKennan, a wealthy widow and land owner. In 1906, she willed much of her worldly estate to the betterment of Sioux Falls, including a $25,000 gift for the founding of a new hospital, which opened in 1911. In 2000, University Health Center was added to the Avera McKennan name to reflect the health center’s role in medical education.

Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital

O’Neill, Neb.

Avera St Anthonys hospitalThe first hospital in O’Neill was opened in 1933 in a two-story house that served the community for 10 years and was managed by two registered nurses, Lucretia and Clara Shoemaker, who later added doctors to their team. In 1946, businesses in O’Neill launched a hospital organizational project. Mother Erica, Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis agreed to staff and operate a new community hospital. St. Anthony – the “Wonder Worker of Padua” was chosen as the patron because, even in his day, he was instrumental in curing numerous sick persons and working tirelessly among the plague-stricken. Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital serves many people in central Nebraska.

Avera St. Mary’s Hospital

Pierre, SD

St Marys hospitalFive Benedictine sisters from the Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton arrived in Pierre just before the turn of the 20th century. They had $20 to complete their mission: build a school dedicated to the Blessed Mother, Mary. Townsfolk welcomed their efforts, and the Sisters began to renovate a run-down, abandoned hotel. They were encouraged by Dr. Theodore F. Riggs to build a hospital instead of a school. Dr. Riggs, who had earned his medical degree at Johns Hopkins University, joined their efforts and asked friends in the east to help him. John Hopkins students serving at St. Mary’s Hospital became a long-standing tradition.

Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center

Marshall, MN

Avera Marshall hospitalThe namesake of the city of Marshall was William Rainey Marshall, the fifth governor of Minnesota, serving until 1870. He was a banker, dairy farmer and newspaper publisher before serving in the Civil War. The Louis Weiner Memorial Hospital was the facility’s original name, in part with a donation from the Weiner family. After the city formed a partnership agreement with Avera in 2004, the facility was renamed Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In 2009, the city of Marshall sold the medical center to Avera.

Avera St. Benedict Health Center

Parkston, SD

St Benedict HospitalIn 1934, the Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Convent and Dr. J.L. Waldner started what we now know as Avera St. Benedict Health Center. St. Benedict is the namesake of the order of Sisters; he was an Italian saint known best for “the Rule of St. Benedict” which put into writing many of the key ideas of monastic life and service to others.

Avera Holy Family Hospital

Estherville, Iowa

holy family hospitalIn 1944, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother purchased a hospital from a Dr. Coleman. The Sisters changed its name from Coleman Hospital to Holy Family because the Holy Family (the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and the Christ child) was an essential part of their order’s mission. They later transferred sponsorship to the Presentation Sisters, along with an agreement that the Holy Family name would remain -- which it does, to this day, as Avera Holy Family Hospital.

Learn more about Avera’s history and mission.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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