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1923 investment reaps huge benefits for Sisters, city

5:16 PM, Oct. 18, 2013  |  Comments
The Holy Cross Convent originally occupied the Scott Mansion, beginning in 1923.
The Holy Cross Convent originally occupied the Scott Mansion, beginning in 1923.
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When officials and community leaders of the City of Merrill began talks in 1923 with Mother Aniceta Regli of the Holy Cross Sisters from Switzerland with hopes of the Sisters building a hospital in Merrill, little did they know what effect the outcome would have on the healthcare scene and for the economy well into the future.

In the summer of 1923, the city agreed to give the Holy Cross Sisters the Scott Mansion property, and in exchange the Sisters would build a new hospital for the community on property south of the mansion.

On Oct. 24, 1923, Mother Aniceta arrived in Merrill by train, accompanied by nine young women preparing to become Holy Cross Sisters. The young women ranged in age from 20 to 30 years old and were from Europe originally or the United States. In a letter to her congregation in Switzerland, Mother Aniceta gave details of the trip: "As morning was approaching, our curiosity grew, where the city of Merrill is? The nearer we came to the town, the more romantic the country appeared. We believed we were passing through a part of Switzerland. Then the questions arose, "Where is our home? In what direction should we look? To keep up the curiosity, I did not give them an answer. They were to discover for themselves where the house is located. They had already seen a picture of the building. Then suddenly the tower appeared amid the trees. Then a joyful word, "There it is! That surely is our home." And they were not disappointed."

The Scott Mansion became the first convent of the Holy Cross Sisters in the USA, and true to their agreement with the city of Merrill; the Sisters built a hospital for the community. It was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1926, and began accepting patients on Nov. 15.

In the years to follow, the Holy Cross Sisters added a wing to the hospital and built a chapel. They also built Our Lady of Holy Cross High School, today known as the Menard Center, and a new convent which today is known as Bell Tower Residence Assisted Living.

In 2006 the sisters completed a $6 million addition and remodeling of Bell Tower Residence which today employs more than 100 individuals. That same year a new building housing the headquarters of the U.S. office of the Holy Cross Sisters and a new sisters' residence and Clare Center meeting room were also completed.

The sisters will be marking their 90 years in Merrill by opening their doors to the public from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday during an Open House. Visitors will be able to tour the administrative office building, portions of Bell Tower Residence and the sisters' residence. The public will have the opportunity to see the restoration of the stained glass windows in Assisi Hall. Refreshments will be served.

Although many of the buildings have changed names and are operated by different organizations, that small investment by the city has reaped amazing benefits. The Holy Cross Sisters today continue to meet the needs of the time just as they did when they first arrived in the city in1923.

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