Marshfield, July 1901: Laying the cornerstone
The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother celebrate construction of a new chapel at Saint Joseph’s Hospital
By Kris Leonhardt
By 1901 Saint Joseph’s Hospital had already became known as one of the premiere facilities in the state. As the head institution of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in the United States, the facility was responsible for welcoming all pledging entry to the sisterhood.
After requesting entry, members would experience a trial period at the facility where they would be tested on a moral and behavioral level. The trial period was difficult, but if accepted, the pledging member would be allowed to stay on another year for training. From there the newly inducted sister would be transferred to another facility for permanent residence.
At any given time, the facility was home to a total of 30 sisters: 20 in residence and 10 in training. The sisters were well known for their abilities in gardening and kept a large, impressive garden on the grounds. In early 1901 the sisters added a barn to the grounds, which housed their horse and four cows.
By July the sisters were announcing plans to add a chapel to the east of the main hospital building. The structure would be a grandiose building made of stone and brick with an added structure to connect the main building to the chapel. The structure between the two would house four additional rooms.
The current chapel was housed in the main structure, taking up several rooms. With the transition the freed rooms would allow space for an office and a large reception area.
A contractor from Appleton was awarded the job and promised a Dec. 1 completion date. Work on the grounds began in early July.
When the cornerstone was laid a few weeks later, the event generated much excitement. Mass was held on the grounds that summer day, delivered in both English and German by local priests. The sisters held a social, celebrating with cake, ice cream, and lemonade. All Catholic societies were on hand to partake in the glorious event.
As building progressed that fall, the addition doubled the size of the facilities. When the chapel rose above the landscape, the majestic building, already elevated by the terrain, loomed large over its surroundings.
Work on the chapel would progress slower than anticipated, and the chapel would not be completed until early in 1902. Dedication of the chapel was pushed back to May of that year, when the Catholic bishop came to Marshfield to usher in hundreds of young people seeking confirmation at Saint John the Baptist Church, one of the largest parishes in the state.