Hospital Sisters look to the future with changes in governance structure and leadership
Springfield, IL – The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis implemented a new governance structure and welcomed a new leadership team on July 15, 2023. Sister M. Margarete Ulager, OSF, General Superior of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, announced the establishment of the U.S. Canonical House, the new governance structure for the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Springfield. Sister Margarete also announced the leadership team who will serve a three-year term: Sister Maureen O’Connor, OSF, superior, and Sister Anna Phiri, OSF, and Sister Janice Schneider, OSF, assistant superiors. (Pictured left to right: Sisters Anna, Maureen, and Janice.)
Since 1903, the Springfield-based Hospital Sisters of St. Francis has been a province in their international community with a leadership team of a provincial superior who served with a small team of Sisters. Mindful of their decreasing membership and increasing age, and after evaluating their present and future needs, the Sisters recommended and received approval for this new structure from their leadership team in Muenster, Germany in 2023.
The recommendation for a new governance structure follows two decisions regarding the Sisters’ Springfield property and their healthcare ministry. In January 2022, the Sisters entered into an agreement with the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois in which the diocese assumed ownership and responsibility for St. Francis Convent at 4849 LaVerna Road, Springfield. The Sisters will continue to live on the property indefinitely through a long-term lease agreement. Second, on July 2, 2015, the Sisters received Vatican approval for Hospital Sisters Ministries to assume sponsorship of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) and its related organizations in Illinois and Wisconsin. Established under Church law as a public juridic person, Hospital Sisters Ministries is governed by a board accountable to the Church. This action follows a national movement in Catholic healthcare in which religious communities transition leadership to men and women who are formed in the highest governance of Catholic healthcare.
Sister Maureen O’Connor, OSF, is a native of Springfield, IL, and is a graduate of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Marillac College, a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Colorado Denver, and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She began her career as a registered nurse in HSHS hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin. From 1988 to 2007, she served as the provincial secretary and treasurer of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. From 2007-15, she served as provincial vicaress and from 2015-23 she served as provincial superior. She made her first profession of vows in 1968.
Sister Anna Phiri, OSF, is a native of Chipata, Zambia. She holds a diploma in religious studies from Regina Mundi, Rome, Italy, a master’s degree in religious sciences from Gregorian University, Rome, and a certificate in spiritual direction. She made her first profession of vows with the Teresian Sisters in 1973 and served for 10 years with her community’s leadership team in Malawi. She transferred to the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in 2003 and served as the membership invitation minister. Since 2008, she has volunteered at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital, Decatur, IL, in spiritual care and with other organizations in Decatur.
Sister Janice Schneider, OSF, is a native of Olney, IL, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield, a master’s degree in business administration from Lakeland College, and a master’s degree in health care mission from Aquinas Institute of Theology. Sister Janice began her career in accounting at HSHS hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin. From 2007-15, she served as the provincial secretary and treasurer of the Hospital Sisters and from 2015-23 she served as a provincial councilor and canonical treasurer. She made her first profession of vows in 1992.
The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is a congregation of Franciscan Sisters founded in Germany in 1844. Their Provinces include Germany, Poland, Japan, and India, and a Canonical House in America. In 1875, Sisters from Germany arrived in America and began a healthcare ministry. The Sisters provided healthcare services in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Indiana, along with China, Japan, Taiwan, Tanzania, and Haiti. It is the Founding Institute of Hospital Sisters Ministries which is the public juridic sponsor of HSHS – a multi-institutional healthcare system in 14 communities in Illinois and Wisconsin with 15 hospitals, health centers, and clinics, nearly 2,300 physician partners, and more than 13,000 colleagues. In addition, the Sisters founded St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, now St. John’s College, in 1886 and it is the first Catholic nursing school in the United States. In 2002, the Sisters founded Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach which collects medical supplies and equipment from hospitals across the Midwest and makes them available to healthcare facilities in low-resource areas around the world. The Sisters also founded the Franciscan Apostolic Center (1974-92) and Chiara Center (2007-21) which served as retreat and conference centers for people of all faith traditions. For more information, visit hospitalsisters.org.