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Marian Regional Medical Center Reflects on Its History in Celebrating 75th Anniversary

Several nuns from the religious order that founded the Santa Maria hospital attend the ceremony, which included recognition of employees with service awards

Sister Pius shares about the history of Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria during the hospital’s 75th anniversary ceremony on Wednesday.
Sister Pius shares about the history of Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria during the hospital’s 75th anniversary ceremony on Wednesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Seventy-five years after a group of nuns opened a hospital to serve the 8,000 residents of Santa Maria, the Marian Regional Medical Center Emergency Department treated approximately that many people last month.

That’s just one of many changes for the Santa Maria Valley’s only hospital, which marked its 75th anniversary with a ceremony Wednesday afternoon in the Ferini-Ardantz Healing Garden on the campus. The event also included recognition of several employees.

“We are celebrating 75 years of fulfilling our promise to our community here at Marian Regional Medical Center to provide compassionate, quality health care to all,” said Kerin Mase, chief operating officer.

A group of Roman Catholic nuns started the hospital, and much like sisters celebrate milestones in their religious service, the hospital commemorated the important anniversary.

“This is, in effect, our shared jubilee,” said Kathleen Sullivan, a vice president of post acute care services.

Originally called Our Lady of Perpetual Help Hospital, the facility was started by the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Charity and opened on May 20, 1940. In its first year, Sisters Hospital, as it was dubbed by locals, treated 1,030 patients and delivered 106 babies.

Locally, the facility was dubbed Sisters Hospital and housed in a building on six acres of land on College Drive. The cost of that first hospital? A whopping $130,000, not including equipment or furnishings.

Several nuns from the religious order that founded the hospital attended Wednesday’s ceremony. 

Marian hospital
Kerin Mase, chief operating officer for Marian Regional Medical Center, welcomes visitors to the 75th anniversary ceremony Wednesday for the hospital. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The first administrator was Mother Noella Dieringer, one of two nuns who were instrumental in creating the valley’s health care today.

“She was a woman of quite of bit of authority and also ingenuity,” Sister Pius Fahlstrom said.

With early patients often paying for their care in vegetables and meat, cash flow became a problem for the new hospital. The sisters called in an accountant who diagnosed the facility as being bankrupt.

Using her strong voice, Mother Noella told the accountant, “This hospital is God’s work and God is never bankrupt,” Fahlstrom said Wednesday. “She firmly believed in the motto that God would provide.”

A growing community soon forced the sisters to seek land for a bigger hospital, a project led by Sister Marilyn Ingram., a former nurse turned administrator.

Thanks to a 10-acre donation of land from Capt. G. Allan Hancock and his wife, Marian Mullin Hancock, the hospital found a new home on East Church Street. 

More than 40 years later, another new building, this one near the previous structure, opened as the name of the 191-bed hospital became Marian Regional Medical Center, which is operated by Dignity Health.

“This celebration is a reminder of 75 years of love being committed to our community, 75 years of the sisters committing to the common good because love is their motivating factor,” said Matt Kronberg, spiritual care director. “And that commitment to love, that commitment to human kindness, continues today.”

As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, officials also recognized several employees with extraordinary service awards. 

The recipients were Heidi Summers, Mission Integration and Education, Sister Noella Leadership Award; Jenni Davis, oncology, Sister Marilyn Achievement Award; Anthony Taylor, environmental services, Franciscan Ecology Award; Sandy Underwood, community education, Franciscan Community Service Award; and Christine Sewell, emergency services, Values in Action Award.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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