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The 2019 Clare Center Lecture Series

The 2019 Clare Center Lecture Series invited Dr. Amy Koehlinger to campus to share her research on Wednesday, October 2nd. This year served as the 26th installment of the series and every year since it’s conception, the goal of the event has been exposing the campus community to a unique aspect of the Franciscan tradition. This year’s lecture highlighted the Franciscan value of relational love within the history of the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Koehlinger, an assistant professor of history and religious studies at Oregon State University, focuses her research on the culture of American Catholicism, the intersections of social reform and religion, and gender roles within American religious traditions. For her visit to Siena, it was only fitting that she discussed the historical connections between the  Franciscans and the Mayo clinic. Siena works to implement the Fransican tradition into daily campus life and recently announced it’s new dual-nursing program with Maria College last month.

As Dr. Koehlinger explained in her lecture, the Mayo Clinic is a premier medical center located in Rochester, Minnesota. While today it is currently ranked as the number 1 overall best hospital in the United States by the U.S News and World Report and is home to one of the top medical schools in the nation, the clinic had very humble beginnings. After a tornado struck the small town of Rochester, many individuals were left in need of immediate medical care. As they both realized their community was in desperate need of aid, a partnership between a physician William Mayo and Catholic nun Mother Mary Moes was born.

Dr. Mayo and Mother Mary Moes  would go on to lay the foundation for  “one of the most unexpected and enduring institutional partnerships in the American medical profession” as Dr. Koehlinger referred to it. The duo recruited local physicians and the sisters from Mother Moes convent and got to work healing their community members. Years later, Mother Moes and Dr. Mayo would go on to open up St. Mary’s Hospital, a Cathloic facility fully staffed with Catholic sisters, but open to people from all religious backgrounds. 

“(The Franciscan sisters) worked back-to -back shifts and slept on the floor when the hospital was filled to capacity, as it almost always was” Dr. Koehlinger stated about the sisters that made of the entirety of the original nursing force of the hospital. The hospital introduced revolutionary practices into the healthcare field that had never been used before. Patients were never turned away, measures to insure conditions were sanitary were being implemented like never before, and most importantly, the staff treated the entire being of a patient, not just the part of their body that most obviously needed care. 

As the years passed and religious reforms manifested, the Mayo Clinic never lost its core Franciscan values, as Dr. Koehlinger expressed. While eventually the nursing staff would no longer only be made up of  Franciscan sisters and the  Franciscans would let go of legal and financial control of the hospital all together, the core values that started it all still live on in the organization to this day. Dr. Koehlinger concluded this year’s installment of the Clare Lecture Lecture Series by telling the audience that the original Franciscan values are still alive in the clinic as every new employee to asked to follow in the original sister’s footsteps by “treat(ing) every patient and every colleague with respect and dignity.” Today, the Mayo Clinic has a sponsorship board dedicated to making sure that Franciscan values are still embedded into every department as it remains the core of what drives the clinic to provide exceptional health care services.