Our Catholic Facilities

catholic cross“Before and above all things, care must be taken of the sick, that they be served in very truth as Christ is served.”― St. Benedict, The Rule of St. Benedict

The spirit of the Benedictines is carried on through Essentia's many Catholic-sponsored facilities. St. Benedict's words, spoken centuries ago, live on through the care provided by Essentia's Catholic-sponsored facilities under the guidance of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery.

Our History

In the late 1880s, Duluth, Minnesota, was a booming community at the edge of the wilderness. Shipping, mining and logging were operations expanding rapidly. Bishop James McGolrick, seeing the great need for health care, asked Mother Scholastica Kerst, Prioress of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota, to send Sisters to found a hospital. In February 1888, Mother Scholastica sent her blood sister, Sister Alexia Kerst, to lead a small group of nursing Sisters to establish St. Mary's Hospital in a building belonging to St. John’s Abbey in West Duluth.

In 1892, Mother Scholastica established a new Duluth Benedictine community. A new, more centrally located hospital was needed, and February 2, 1898, the new, state-of-the-art St. Mary’s Hospital was opened at the current site in the Central Hillside area of Duluth.

benedictine sisters 

These innovative and resourceful Sisters began one of the first health maintenance organizations, ensuring revenue for their ministry by offering access to Benedictine hospitals for the price of an annual ticket. Sr. Amata Mackett, known as Sister Lumberjack, traveled across northern Minnesota offering the tickets to lumberjacks and later miners. The funds not only supported the existing ministry but helped the Sisters to grow and expand health care services across the region. By 1910, the Sisters owned and operated four hospitals in addition to St. Mary’s, including St. Joseph’s in Brainerd, St. Vincent’s in Crookston, St. Benedict’s in Grand Rapids (now Grand Itasca) and St. Anthony’s in Bemidji.

From these beginnings, the Benedictine Sisters launched a health care ministry that built hospitals across northern Minnesota and later sponsored Catholic hospitals in other Minnesota communities. The Sisters eventually gave up ownership of the hospitals to provide better care for the people they served. Over time, the Sisters realized that more collaboration was important to ensure continued, high quality health care. In 1997, St. Mary’s Medical Center and its affiliates merged with the Duluth Clinic to become SMDC. The Catholic facilities in what is now Essentia Health remain dedicated to following the healing ministry of Jesus to care for all people.

Today, the founding Sisters' work lives on, thanks to the physicians and staff providing care in these Catholic facilities:

Our Catholic Mission

Throughout Essentia Health we are called to make a healthy difference in people’s lives. As a member of the Essentia Health family, our mission as a Catholic, Benedictine sponsored facility is to promote Christ’s ministry of holistic healing for all human life with special concern for the poor and powerless.

Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services

Download the Ethical and Religious Directives [PDF].


Our Benedictine sponsors recognize the importance of prayer not only in the care we provide but within the fabric of all we do as a health care organization. Prayer can be used in a variety of settings, such as opening and closing a meeting, special holidays, prayers for healing, or the blessing of a meal. Please use the following link to view the prayers found at the Catholic Health Association website. View prayers here.


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