“In 1844, a Franciscan priest named Fr. Christopher Bernsmeyer, OFM, founded an order of religious women, the Sisters of Charity” (Our History). The primary goal of this charity was to care for and help those in need in their homes. Around 1875, “three sisters embarked on a 28-day journey from their Motherhouse in Muenster, Germany to begin a health care mission in Belleville” (Our History). With little resources and very few assistants, the Sisters managed to stay and work for those in need. They stayed in the hospital for five years to focus on treating those that were sick and to better their nursing skills, for the future. After a few years went by, the small hospital had grown into large numbers of patients and could no longer account for in the original structure of the hospital. Therefore, the Sisters, built a larger hospital, one that could fit double the number of the first one. This new foundation came to be the long-standing ground where St. Elizabeth is today.
Belleville and the surrounding area of Illinois were prone to severe epidemic such as, “scarlet fever to polio,” (Our History) which housed patients at St. Elizabeth. Even though the hospital at first started off with little to almost no resources, the growth, and progress made in technological advances, medical buildings, better facilities in Southern Illinois allowed a more dependable source. Addition to new advancements, new partnerships have also allowed the increase to enhance fame and betterment of the entire mission of St. Elizabeth. Thirty-six years later, the name of the organization changed to Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. Although the hospital went through many changes, the mission never changed. The mission was and still is to “provide care for the sick and needy with a spirit of respect, care, competence, and joy” (Our History).
The Sisters Take on AIDS
The Sisters Carol Baltosiewich and Mary Rombach were part “of the Franciscan Third Order of hospital sisters from St. Elizabeth Hospital” (In The News). Both Sisters eventually left Belleville and went to the lower west side of Manhattan, NY. To go at a time where the epidemic of AIDS was causing fear in everyone that was living, illustrated true selflessness and courage. These Sisters found peace in helping those that were unable to gain access to treatments. Like the Franciscan Third Order, they could not sit back and watch those affected live in pain. Their ideology was to expand the oath she had committed to while being a Sister at Saint Francis Hospital. She was disgusted at other peoples to view on the disease and was heartbroken when she heard people say how AIDS was a punishment for homosexual behaviors. Thinking to herself, she wondered where God would be at a time of need, her answer was, right beside those in need. Since then Sister Mary Rombach’s goal was to help victims with AIDS which is why she “went to New York City to gain experience and knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS”( Share Our Story). Her perspective on life was through God and how it was up to Him to decide who lives and who does not.
Upon her arrival to Belleville, Sister Mary Ellen Rombach and Sister Carol Baltosiewich opened Bethany’s Place in 1988 “on 301 W. Lincoln St.” (Rectenwald, Miranda). Bethany is the biblical village where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived and where hospitality was offered to Jesus, which is the inspiration behind the name of the entire organization. The place began with means of communication, through hotlines, educational resources, and emotional support groups for families. However, just because Bethany’s Place was open does not mean that the public was eager to join. At first, many people were reluctant and afraid to seek help, but the Sisters started visiting patients and eventually the positive feedback spread. HIV/AIDS patients came in to gain new resources and get help. As years passed, the location of the organization changed, and the current location is at “821 West A Street Belleville, IL 62220” (Nay, Brittany).