Ascension Michigan: Our Heritage, Our Story

Called to Continue the Healing Ministry of Jesus

The roots of our ministry — the roots of who we are as Ascension — go all the way back to the God who created us. In the scriptures, we see that God is always acting on behalf of creation and of human persons in community, especially on behalf of those who are poor and vulnerable. Throughout history, God has continually reached out in love.

When our ancestors encountered the person of Jesus, they heard the Good News of God’s dream for the world — the full flourishing of every human person, a unity of the human community marked by peace and justice. The healing ministry of Jesus entrusted to us to continue today is a sign of the fullness of God’s reign.

Today, we are called to be the expression of God’s healing love in the world. We carry on the ministries our ancestors witnessed in Jesus: prayer and worship, healing, teaching, caring for those who are poor and marginalized — all ministries that serve human dignity and the common good.

The women and men who founded Catholic healthcare lived in community, and carried out the ministry of healing, serving the whole person and whole communities. In their being and their actions, these persons were a living sign of God’s love and healing presence.

In Ascension, our identity as a ministry of the Church guides us to be a community and to act in ways that give witness to God’s loving presence. Our Mission points the way and echoes the story that goes back to the dawn of creation: to the love of God poured out into creation, to the calling forth of the human family made in the image of God.

Today, as Ascension, we live our unified Mission to be rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer, to serve all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable, to offer spiritually centered, holistic care that sustains and improves the health of individuals and communities, to be advocates for a compassionate and just society through our actions and our words.

As important parts of a national, integrated ministry, Ascension physicians and caregivers work in collaboration to provide compassionate, personalized care for all, especially those who need it most. Just as our historic sponsors adapted to the needs of their times and communities, we are making changes to meet the needs of our times within our communities. As we unite under one shared Mission statement and name, we will continue to draw from the strong local service heritage of all of our health ministries. This is our story. 


  • 1844 Sisters of Charity arrive in Detroit

    Detroit Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere appeals to the Sisters of Charity in Maryland — a community of women established by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1809 — to come to Detroit to operate schools and “do other good works in the community.” In 1844, four Sisters of Charity come to Detroit to found a school. Very soon their scope expands to include a hospital and an orphanage.

  • 1845 St. Vincent Hospital, Detroit

    The Sisters of Charity open St. Vincent Hospital in 1845, the first hospital in Michigan. The facility begins as a school, but converts to a hospital due to severe community need.

  • 1850 St. Mary’s Hospital and Providence Hospital, Detroit

    Several branches of the Sisters of Charity based in Emmitsburg, Maryland, choose to become part of the International Daughters of Charity whose motherhouse is in Paris. In doing so, they become the first American Province of the Daughters of Charity. That year, following several years of fundraising, the Daughters open a new hospital named St. Mary’s amidst a raging cholera epidemic, and St. Vincent Hospital ceases operations. Later, the Daughters establish the House of Providence as a home for unwed mothers and orphans, located at West Grand Boulevard. It transitions to an acute care hospital named Providence Hospital in 1910. After 100 years of service, St. Mary’s Hospital is sold to a group of physicians in 1949.

  • 1859 Psychiatric Hospital opened by Daughters of Charity

    Originally named Michigan State Retreat for the Insane, this facility is the first private psychiatric hospital in Michigan — built at a time when virtually no healthcare was available for the mentally ill. Renamed St. Joseph’s Retreat and relocated to Dearborn in 1883, it closes in 1962.


  • 1874 St. Mary’s of Michigan - Saginaw

    The pastor of Saint Mary Catholic Church in Saginaw — Reverend Francis van der Bom — was concerned that there were no health facilities in the lumbering forest and sawmills in the area north of Detroit. He wrote to the International Superioress of the Daughters of Charity, requesting that the Sisters open a hospital in Saginaw. In August 1874, four Daughters of Charity arrive in Saginaw prepared to do God’s work in the wilderness and found the city’s first hospital in a temporary facility. St. Mary’s quickly outgrows its temporary quarters and, in 1875, it moves to a larger building. The Daughters sell $5 health insurance certificates covering the care of lumbermen with two stipulations: the hospital will not treat men who are drunk, and — because patients at this time are treated in wards — the certificate does not cover contagious diseases like tuberculosis or pneumonia, which would spread quickly in the open environment.


  • 1889 Sisters of St. Joseph travel to Michigan

    In 1836, in response to a request from St. Louis Bishop Joseph Rosati, Mother St. John Fontbonne sends seven Sisters of St. Joseph from France to the United States to work with deaf children. They arrive in Carondelet, Missouri, and over the next 20 years spread rapidly to a number of communities in the U.S. and Canada. One community they establish is located in Watertown, New York. Guided by a profound sense of mission and a deep desire to respond to the needs of the sick and poor, in 1889 Mother Margaret Mary Lacey and 11 Sisters of St. Joseph travel from Watertown to Kalamazoo, Michigan, following an invitation from Monsignor Francis O’Brien. There they establish the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth, Michigan.

  • 1889 Borgess opens in Kalamazoo

    Also in 1889, the Sisters open Kalamazoo’s first hospital, the 20-bed Borgess Hospital, named after Bishop Caspar Henry Borgess, Detroit’s second bishop. It is the first hospital sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth. Borgess Hospital is well-utilized by the community, and in 1917 the decision is made to construct a facility at a new location in Kalamazoo.

  • 1898 Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth Motherhouse is established

    The Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth is dedicated in 1898, and from that base, the Sisters extend their “labor for the dear neighbor” throughout Michigan. Many of the Sisters engage in the mission of Borgess Hospital. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth become a part of the Congregation of St. Joseph in 2007.


  • 1900 Forerunner to Crittenton Hospital Medical Center opens in Detroit

    The Florence Crittenton Mission opens on Brush Street in Detroit in 1900 as a sanctuary for women and children in need.

  • 1918 Borgess-Lee Memorial - Dowagiac

    Lee Memorial Hospital is built in 1918 in memory of the Lee family’s daughter who passed away. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who operate Borgess Hospital, acquire the facility in 1946. The name changes to Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital in 2000.


  • 1920 Sisters of St. Joseph open forerunner to Genesys - Grand Blanc

    After witnessing the success of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Kalamazoo hospital, Detroit Bishop Michael J. Gallagher ask the Sisters if they would come to Flint and open a hospital for the rapidly growing population there. The Sisters arrive in Flint in September 1920, and open St. Joseph Hospital in a former residence. The hospital expands as health needs grow. At the same time, other local hospitals in the Flint area are being built. Eventually, hospital facilities become more and more costly to maintain and upgrade, and affiliations are developing. Finally, In February 1997, the local hospitals make history by consolidating four hospitals into one, with the opening of Genesys Regional Medical Center.


  • 1940 Oakland General Hospital - Madison Heights

    Oakland General Hospital originates as a freestanding hospital serving the needs of people living in suburban Detroit, specifically Oakland County. It is acquired by St. John Health System in 1994. In 2007, St. John Health combines its Macomb Hospital and Oakland Hospital to create one hospital — St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital — with two campuses, one in Warren and one in Madison Heights. One of the Wheaton hospitals, Elmbrook Memorial (bottom), began in 1910 as Misericordia Hospital, sponsored by the Misericordia Sisters. This small group of women got their start helping the homeless and ill of Montreal. In 1848, this group became known as the Sisters of Misericordia and later migrated from Canada to Wisconsin. In 1969, a replacement hospital was built in Brookfield and named Elmbrook Memorial Hospital, and in 1984 Elmbrook Memorial became a part of the Wheaton Franciscan system.

  • 1943 Brighton Center for Recovery - Brighton

    The Bloomfield Hills Sanatorium is founded in 1943, and in 1950 its founders first establish inpatient beds dedicated to treating alcoholism. The Sanatorium founders locate a 92-acre site east of the city of Brighton. On October 1, 1953, Brighton Hospital opens its doors as the first addiction treatment center in Michigan. In 2011, after a ten-year business partnership with St. John Providence, Brighton Hospital joins the system and becomes part of Ascension. Its name is changed to Brighton Center for Recovery.

  • 1952 St. John Hospital & Medical Center - Detroit

    The Sisters of St. Joseph open St. John Hospital on Detroit’s east side in 1952, and it undergoes significant additions and renovations over the years to become a tertiary hospital for the region. St. John Hospital & Medical Center absorbs the patient populations of Saratoga, Holy Cross and Detroit Riverview Hospitals — which had been acquired by St. John Health — between the years of 1997 and 2007.

  • 1953 St. Joseph Health System - Tawas City

    The Tawas community forms the Tawas Hospital Association to raise funds for a new hospital for the area. Upon completion in 1953, the hospital association asks the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth to oversee the hospital’s operations.


  • 1961 Borgess-Pipp Hospital - Plainwell

    Pipp Community Hospital opens in Plainwell in 1961, and becomes part of Borgess Health in 1996.

  • 1961 St. Mary’s of Michigan - Standish

    Leaders of the Standish community see that the community needs a local hospital that is convenient and accessible for its citizens; Standish Community Hospital is built to serve those needs. The hospital affiliates with St. Mary’s of Michigan in 2003. Today, it is a critical access hospital and skilled nursing facility.

  • 1965 Providence Hospital relocated

    A new Providence Hospital is built in 1965 by the Daughters of Charity in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, to replace the facility on West Grand Blvd.

  • 1965 St. John River District Hospital – East China Township

    River District Hospital is built by leaders of St. Clair County in 1965 to replace another local community hospital that is undersized and obsolete. St. John Health begins managing the hospital in 1979; River District becomes part of the health system in 1994.

  • 1966 South Macomb Hospital - Warren

    South Macomb Hospital opens in 1966. It joins St. John Health System in 1997, and changes its name to St. John Macomb Hospital. In 2007, St. John Health combines its Macomb Hospital and Oakland Hospital to create one hospital — St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital — with two campuses, one in Warren and one in Madison Heights.

  • 1967 A newly built Crittenton Hospital opens in Rochester

    After a groundbreaking in a horse pasture in 1965, Crittenton Hospital opens in 1967, with about 5,000 people touring the new facility.


  • 1986 Daughters of Charity National Health System

    Daughters of Charity National Health System (DCNHS) is established, headquartered in St. Louis, extending the practice begun in the 1940s of sharing services among Daughters of Charity hospitals to bring greater efficiency to the healthcare ministry while continuing their commitment to the healing ministry of Jesus. By 1999, DCNHS includes nearly 80 hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics and other healthcare facilities in 15 states.

  • 1999 Merger of St. John Health and Providence Hospital and Medical Centers

    By virtue of the unification of the healthcare ministries of their historic sponsors, St. John Health (then-sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth) and Providence Hospital and Medical Centers (sponsored by the Daughters of Charity) also combine.

  • 1999 Ascension Health is formed

    The Daughters of Charity National Health System and the Sisters of St. Joseph Health System in Michigan come together to form Ascension Health, a national Catholic healthcare system, in order to extend into the future a shared healing Mission — caring for those persons who are poor and most in need — as well as a common Vision and set of core Values. At its founding, Ascension Health has 87,000 associates serving in acute care hospitals and other care facilities in 15 states and the District of Columbia. In fiscal year 1999, the new organization provides $374 million in community benefits and care for persons who are poor and vulnerable. The steering committee charged with naming the new health system considers hundreds of names. They decide on “Ascension Health” because the name clearly connotes the organization’s Catholic heritage, is easy to understand and remember, and implies an entity on the rise. The committee approves a new identity, fashioned in the shape of a trinity symbol, with an “A” in the middle. The three-color trinity symbolizes Ascension Health’s Catholic tradition – with green representing growth; blue, health; and purple, compassion. The integration of the “A” with the trinity symbol forever links the two and allows the new organization to tell stories of commitment, compassion, and growth of a healthy community.


  • 2001 Ascension Health Ventures established

    Ascension Health Ventures (now Ascension Ventures) is established to support Ascension’s health ministries by investing in medical device, healthcare technology, and healthcare service companies. To date, Ascension’s hospitals have adopted more than 270 solutions that were referred by Ascension Ventures.

  • 2002 Ascension Health leaders create our Call to Action

    More than 100 leaders from across Ascension Health gather to create the health system’s Call to Action — a commitment to provide Healthcare That Works, Healthcare That Is Safe and Healthcare That Leaves No One Behind, for Life. The Call to Action evolves in 2005 into our 2020 Strategic Direction. Our Strategic Direction continues today, as together we are driven by compassion and a dedication to provide person-centered care for all — especially those most in need.

  • 2002 Carondelet Health System joins Ascension Health

    The health ministries of Carondelet Health System, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, join Ascension Health, the first addition to the health system since its founding in 1999. Adding a third sponsoring organization serves in many ways to solidify Ascension Health as a true system with a shared vision of preserving and enhancing Catholic healthcare.

  • 2008 Providence Park Hospital – Novi

    Due to rapid population growth in western Oakland County, Providence Park Hospital opens in 2008 on the site of an existing Providence outpatient medical building in Novi. It is the first new hospital in Michigan in 20 years.

  • 2010 St. John Health system name change

    St. John Health changes its name to St. John Providence Health System, in recognition of the strong reputations of both organizations in the Detroit metro area.

  • 2011 Vatican formally recognizes Ascension Sponsor

    From its creation in 1999, Ascension Health had been “co-sponsored” as a faith-based healthcare system by the historic congregations and communities who brought their health ministries to form and grow the system. In 2011, the Vatican approves a request from Ascension Health’s historic sponsors to establish a Ministerial Public Juridic Person, now known as Ascension Sponsor. This is the official link that makes Ascension a ministry of the Catholic Church, continuing Jesus’ healing ministry through our particular mission. With the same courage that was theirs from their origins, the historic sponsors officially entrust their healthcare ministries to this Ascension Sponsor, providing a powerful continuity linking the past, present and future.

  • 2012 Alexian Brothers Health System joins Ascension

    The Alexian Brothers operate hospitals in the Chicago area as well as senior living facilities in other parts of the country. Their joining Ascension builds on our mutual strengths along the full continuum of care, particularly senior and long-term care, and reflects our shared commitment to provide person-centered care throughout the life cycle for all of the populations we serve.

  • 2012 Ascension is formed as parent for Ascension Health and other supporting subsidiary organizations

    Ascension, now the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health system, implements an innovative organizational structure in response to a changing environment. The evolution in structure increases focus on the delivery of a full range of support services, allowing Ascension’s subsidiaries greater freedom, while welcoming other organizations to join our healthcare ministry.

  • 2013 Health ministries of the former Marian Health System join Ascension

    The three health systems that comprised the Marian Health System — Ministry Health Care in Wisconsin and Minnesota, St. John Health System in Oklahoma, and Via Christi Health in Kansas — join Ascension, bringing a rich heritage from its founder, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Ascension welcomes nearly 29,000 associates who serve in more than 180 hospitals, clinics and other sites of care. Via Christi already had been an affiliate of Ascension in light of its sponsorship by the Congregation of St. Joseph — of which the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth had become a part upon the Congregation’s establishment in 2007.

  • 2014 Ascension At Home joint venture is created

    Ascension connects its various locally branded home care services as Ascension At Home, a joint venture with Evolution Health, a division of Envision Healthcare. Ascension At Home provides an array of post-acute services including home care, hospice care and infusion therapy.

  • 2014 Ascension Senior Living is established

    Ascension connects its various locally branded senior living operations around the country as Ascension Senior Living, one of the largest nonprofit senior living providers in the U.S. with more than 30 facilities in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Ascension Senior Living carries on the legacy of Ascension’s historic sponsors, who have provided care to the elderly for centuries.

  • 2015 Crittenton becomes part of Ascension and its Michigan Market

    Crittenton Hospital Medical Center selects Ascension Michigan after months of seeking a health system partner with a high-quality reputation and medical staff, financial strength, and commitment to the community. Crittenton’s location in Rochester is mid-way between the service areas of Genesys and St. John Providence in Michigan, adding a strong Northern Oakland County presence to Ascension’s statewide footprint, and increasing the organization’s ability to pursue its goal of creating a clinically integrated system of care to manage the health of populations.

  • 2016 Southeast Wisconsin operations and related corporate services of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare join Ascension

    Adding the strengths and expertise of Wheaton’s 11,000 associates to Ascension makes Ascension Wisconsin the second largest health system in the state and one of Ascension’s largest Ministry Markets.

  • 2017 Ascension: One Integrated Ministry

    Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, adopts a single common Mission statement across all of Ascension’s health ministries as well as a consistent Ascension identity in the communities we serve. This step along our journey reflects the unity of purpose of our One Integrated Ministry, honors our common Ascension heritage, and helps us sustain and grow our ministry for the future, furthering the healing ministry of Jesus.