On Monday, June 30, Ministry Health Care was delighted to be a part of the opening of a time capsule originally placed at Sacred Heart Hospital in Tomahawk in 1937. The time capsule was discovered thanks to the efforts of Marc Lietha and Meka Pennington, who purchased the building about 10 years ago and found it behind a cornerstone.
“We are grateful for all they have done to preserve this important artifact and thank them for allowing us to share the opening of the time capsule for the first time in 77 years with our associates, community members, volunteers and media,” said Matt Thompson, Ministry Health Care Public Relations and Communications Manager. “Marc’s careful attention to detail and his desire to help preserve the history of Tomahawk and the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother brought everyone together for this special celebration and opening.”
What they found after removing the metal cover unearthed a great amount of religious artifacts from the era. Items in the 77-year-old time capsule included a well-preserved Catholic Daily Tribune newspaper from May 25, 1937, a list of hospital representatives including the names of 22 Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother on Sacred Heart Hospital letterhead, a Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother 50th anniversary pin which included the dates 1883-1933, a pamphlet, miniature statues, a pendant, and a hand-written letter which was left folded to ensure the integrity of the paper. Other items included medallions, old pictures, and inside the cover of the time capsule was an unidentified autograph. While many items survived the box, some had disintegrated over the 77 years.
Once the contents were revealed to a crowd of approximately 50 people, Mr. Lietha announced he and Ms. Pennington were generously donating the time capsule and contents to the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and Sister Lois Bush who was in attendance and assisted in revealing the items. The items will be stored and displayed in the Sisters’ archives in Oshkosh.
“It was very admirable of Marc and Meka to donate the time capsule to the Sisters,” said Sister Lois Bush. “Their generosity will allow us to learn more about those who helped build the foundation for healthcare in the Tomahawk and surrounding communities. It is fitting that we opened the time capsule now, near the 30th anniversary of Ministry Health Care. Ministry was established to preserve healthcare in our communities such as Tomahawk where there is such a close relationship between the community and the hospital and clinic.”
The tradition of Sacred Heart Hospital dates back to 1893 when the Rev. Charles Hoogstoel, pastor at St. Mary’s parish, learned that the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother were planning a hospital in Rhinelander. He pleaded that they begin one in Tomahawk as well. The higher superiors of the Community of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother were pleased with the prospect and permission was granted from Bishop Messmer and Mother Frances Streitel.
Fr. Joseph Joch arrived in Tomahawk from Marshfield on Oct. 19, 1893, along with Sisters M. Anna Niegel, superior, M. Alexia Bauer, cook, M. Gabriela Ortlieb, portress, M. Clementia Baes, and later M. Dionysia Griebel, nurses. They started the hospital in an abandoned saloon and had their first patient the same day they arrived. The old saloon was poorly suited for a hospital and after a few months the sisters rented a home and 12 patients were admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital between Dec. 2, 1893 and Jan. 12, 1894.
Donated land led to a new hospital at 216 N. 7th St. that was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on July 20, 1894. There were two wards and two private rooms on each floor with a bed capacity of 25.
In 1928, a third story was added to provide better accommodations for the Sisters. Less than a decade later, a three-story addition on Washington Street provided 18 additional beds. At the same time, remodeling of the existing building resulted in new surgical and maternity departments and sun parlors. A new chapel was also built at this time. The chapel and addition were dedicated on Dec. 14, 1937 and the time capsule was place there.
In 1957, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother commissioned architects to design a new Sacred Heart Hospital. A blessing and laying of the cornerstone took place July 23, 1961. In October, 1962, patients were moved from the old building into the new facility. Consolidation of services between Sacred Heart and Saint Mary’s Hospital, Rhinelander, occurred in 1981. The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother believed incorporation would enhance the long-term survival and growth of both hospitals.
In 2001 Sacred Heart Hospital and Ministry Medical Group announced plans to build a new facility on West Mohawk Drive, and the current hospital was completed in 2003. During the move to the new facility, a ceremony was held to remove the time capsules from the old hospital. While the time capsule behind the 1961 cornerstone was removed, construction crews were unable to find the one set in 1937.