St. Vincent’s Riverside was founded by the Daughters of Charity in 1916 to provide health services to those who were struggling the most in North Florida. In 2016, the hospital will celebrate 100 years of service to the community
The letter that launched St. Vincent's
Here is a copy of the original correspondence that preceded the Daughters of Charity founding St. Vincent’s Hospital. All the original letters in our files are in script. This is the earliest one we have in our collection, dated 1910.
Church of the Immaculate Conception
December 14, 1910
Rev. Mother Superior
Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
Dear Rev. Mother:
Dr. Gerry R. Holden, a prominent and highly esteemed physician of this city who is at present attending a meeting of medical men at Nashville, Tenn. will call upon you in the course of a few days for the purpose of seeking your co-operation and aid in establishing and conducting a Sisters’ Hospital in this city. We have for a long time wished to have a hospital here in charge of Sisters and now a most favorable opportunity presents itself. A few years ago some of the principal doctors of this city established a hospital – “The DeSoto Sanitorium”; under lay supervision it has not turned out satisfactory, and they are anxious now to turn it over to the Sisters – to rent, lease or buy on most favorable terms.
There is a splendid opening here for Sisters to engage in such work. This is a city of upwards of 70,000 inhabitants. There are only two hospitals – moderate in size and equipment and inadequate for the growing needs of this city. The DeSoto is the better of the two, it contains perhaps accommodations for 50 or 60 patients. It is situated in the most favorable location in the city in a residential section overlooking one of the parks. The doctors of the city are enthusiastic about the proposition and the Bishop of the Diocese will give his warmest approval.
I hope you will see your way to give consideration to the more detailed information Dr. Holden will give you, and that we will have the pleasure and privilege of your work amongst us here. There is no Catholic hospital in Florida, and if we can get the present buildings it will be the nucleus of a great institution. It is modest enough at present, but fortunately sufficient building space can be got I think readily and advantageously to develop it into an institutions which will be the means of advancing the church’s interest and influence here, of doing untold good for humanity, and of saving many a soul. I beg to remain, dear Rev. Mother.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Michael Maher, Pastor
Church of the Immaculate Conception
The letter upon the Daughters of Charity arrival
The Sisters arrived in May 1916. Here are letters from their correspondence.
July 3, 1916
My very dear Mother,
The grace of our Lord be with us forever! Well at last, the Master of the House is with us. We had the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the first time this morning in our dear little Chapel. I asked the pastor, Fr. Maher, to say the first Mass so he came over at 6:30 a.m. I invited Mr. Powers, his wife and sister-in-law, Mrs. O’Keefe and a Mrs. Clark, the latter has given us many things for our Chapel, and is very kind to us in various ways. She is a rich Catholic and does a great deal of charity. We also invited the Sister Superior of the Convent and companion, they have been so good to us, one of their sisters was the most part of two days here showing Sr. Louise how to line the tabernacle, they do it very neatly, they also gave us oil for our Sanctuary lamp, tapers etc., sent a box of flowers for the altar, as did also the Sisters at the Home. We had a Sister from each house sick here, the one from the Convent returned today. Sr. Stanislaus from the home will be here another week.
Oh, how I wish you could see the Chapel, Mother, we love it so, we are just beside ourselves with joy today, and our dear Lord was so good to us today, brought in some checks I was looking for, as I needed the money so badly to pay the insurance that was renewed May 1, 1916. I forgot to mention that our four Catholic nurses went to Mass also – we had eleven or twelve Communions.
Since May first we have received 97 patients and have between 22 and 25 in the house all the time; average four charity patients all the time.
We all made our retreat Sat., July 1 – now were we not all very good; and the heat sometimes is prostrating, one does not know what to do, you feel like you were just on fire, and the perspiration just pours out, but the nights are cool and we have lots of rain, so God takes pity on us.
I wish Sister Chlotilde had some nice sweet pineapples like we get down here, $1.50 for a crate of them – thirty in a crate; lots of watermelon now for about 15 cents a piece; cantaloupes are cheap and plentiful too; potatoes high and poor in quality.
As I want this to go tonight, I shall close and will try to write again this week. Love to all.
Yours in our All,
Sister M. Rose
Life in 1917
The Bishop’s House
St. Augustine, Florida
December 21, 1917
Dear Sister Margaret,
I visited St. Vincent’s in Jacksonville a few days ago and was pleased to find everything going on splendidly. I believe that in a few years it will be the hospital of Florida, and the work will call for new and enlarged buildings. As you recall the Sisters came to us in the middle of summer heat and at a time when bigotry was rampant and the very air was filled with rivalings against the Church and all its agencies. Yet, in spite of all that six hundred and twenty-two patients were treated during the first year, and now promises are cheering.
The four Sisters have worked like Trojans and I am afraid they are overworked. I am writing to ask you to give them, if at all possible, an additional Sister or two. Knowing the many demands made on you, I am asking the above favor with reluctance. We shall be satisfied with whatever you do. The little hospital is a blessing and I am proud of it.
Happy Christmas and God’s blessing to all the good Sisters of Charity.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Michael J. Curley,
Bishop of St. Aug.