The Spirit of St. Francis
A 140-Year-Old Tradition of Hospitality in Rochester

Franciscan hospitality was at the origin of Saint Marys Hospital and is an instilled value of Mayo Clinic. Following the devastating tornado that hit Rochester in August 1883, injured people were taken to various locations, including the Sisters of St. Francis convent. The next day an emergency hospital was created where the Sisters assisted doctors William Worrall (W. W.) Mayo and his sons, William and Charles, in caring for the injured. A few years later, Mother Mary Alfred suggested that the Sisters build a permanent hospital in Rochester, if W. W. Mayo and his sons would agree to be the resident physicians, with the Sisters of St. Francis serving as nurses.

Franciscan values

Through the succeeding decades, the Sisters of St. Francis continued serving as nurses, administrators and leadership at Saint Marys Hospital and Mayo Clinic. In addition, they have served as teachers, counselors and pastoral care ministers in Rochester, throughout Minnesota, across the U.S. and as far away as Bogatá, Colombia, and Cambodia.


Sister Christine Stanoch served the congregation’s elected leadership team (2012–2018) and on the Board for Clinical Pastoral Education at Mayo Clinic. She now serves as councilor to the Sisters of St. Francis Congregation in Rochester, works with the Mayo Hospice program visiting patients in a variety of settings and co-leads bereavement groups. Sister Christine explains, “Like St. Francis, his followers are challenged to live from the heart and to recognize that we are connected with each other but also the universe.” She certainly exemplifies the value of hospitality through her service.  

Sister Ramona Miller has also served as the congregational minister and president (2018–2022). Prior to that she was a teacher, and for over 25 years, she led pilgrimages to Assisi, Italy. She says, “Hospitality connotes a feel-good atmosphere.” Her belief is that “Franciscan hospitality characterizes the deeper truth that we believe that all persons are created to be brothers and sisters of one another.” Encouraging all of us by “opening ourselves to encounters with others expands our consciousness of the beauty of diversity.” 

Sister Christine Stanoch concurs, saying, “Franciscan hospitality is inclusive, open-hearted, expansive and respectful.” What a wonderful way to live with our fellow brothers and sisters on earth.

An oasis within the city

Driving up the curved roadway to the Motherhouse of Rochester Franciscan Sisters, you can see the well cared for grounds with beautiful vegetation. Wild turkeys and deer roam, bees produce honey from native plants and there is even an apple orchard. A statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology, with a lamb is placed in the center of the circular garden in front of the entrance to the chapel. The grandiose Assisi Heights, built in 1955, is a replica of the Basilica of Assisi Heights in Italy, with a center courtyard for prayer and communing with God and nature.

When you arrive at Assisi Heights, check in with the receptionist in the lobby to let them know the purpose of your visit. Tours of Assisi Heights are usually held on Mondays and Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. Preregistration is required. Classes and events are offered through the Spirituality Center. Search and register at rochesterfranciscan.org/spirituality-center. Masks are currently required when visiting Assisi Heights. :: 

Born as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone in Assisi Italy (1181), St. Francis of Assisi, lived a tumultuous lifestyle in his younger years until he heard the voice of God directing him to rebuild the Christian church and live a life of poverty. With his charisma, he drew thousands of followers who listened to his sermons. Those who joined his way of life became known as the friars. Founded in 1209 by Saint Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan orders include the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Saint Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis (of which the Rochester Franciscans are a part). 

About Author

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Jorrie works for the City of Rochester as a project manager. She had the privilege of serving on the Sisters of St. Francis' Communications Advisory Council for many years and got to know the Sisters of St. Francis, witnessing their genuine hospitality.

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