One has to wonder what the healthcare scene in Merrill would be today if the city fathers hadn’t invited the Holy Cross Sisters to build a hospital. The City of Merrill began talks in 1923 with Mother Aniceta Regli of the Holy Cross Sisters, whose international headquarters are in Switzerland.
In the summer of 1923, the city agreed to give the Holy Cross Sisters the Scott Mansion property in exchange for the Sisters building 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 over 100 individuals. That same year a new building housing the office headquarters of the United States Holy Cross Sisters and a new Sisters’ residence and Clare Center meeting room were also completed. The sisters also ministered at St. Robert Bellarmine School and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Merrill.
The sisters will be marking their 90 years in Merrill by opening their doors to the public on Sunday, Oct. 27, during an Open House from 2-3:30 p.m. Visitors will be able to tour the administrative office building, portions of Bell Tower Residence and the Sisters’ residence. The public will also have the opportunity to see the restoration of the stained glass windows in Assisi Hall. Refreshments will be served.
The Holy Cross Sisters today continue to meet the needs of the time just as those first Sisters did when they first arrived in the city in 1923. Visit www.holycrosssisters.org for more information.