History of Mercy in St. Louis

History & Heritage

Mercy Hospital St. Louis


The chug of the train engine slowly gave way to the spray of water as a riverboat called Reindeer sliced through the waters of the Mississippi carrying Mother Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Bentley and five other Sisters of Mercy. On June 27, 1856, the boat docked at Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis and the Sisters were greeted by Father Arnold Damen who, along with Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick of St. Louis, had requested they make the perilous journey.

Their mission was simple – help and educate the poor. But the Sisters often met with hardship - hunger, poverty and lack of basic necessities seemed to meet them at every turn. But the Sisters pressed on and within five days of arriving, they began to visit the poor and sick in their homes. Within six months they had opened a free shelter for unemployed girls, a Sunday school for African American women and children and an industrial school for poor children.


In 1871, the health care needs of the city required more help, so the Sister’s turned their school building into a 25-bed hospital for women and children known as St. John’s Hospital. By 1874, the facility became a general hospital with wards for the poor and private rooms for men, women and children. Under the leadership of Mother Magdalen de Pazzi Bentley, the hospital reached out to the community by affiliating with local universities, established a school of nursing and offered the first prepaid health insurance in the county to United Railways Company employees.


Ca. 1873 St. John’s infirmary. When St. John’s first opened, the number of patients far exceeded what the Sisters anticipated. One day, while the Superior (the leader of the Sisters) was walking the halls, she noticed pillows and bedding laying on the floor. When she asked the Sisters about what their bedding was doing on the floors, they admitted they had given up their beds, so that the sick poor could be more comfortable. The Superior was amazed at their sacrifice and wanted to give up her bed as well. 


St. John’s Hospital on Euclid Ave dedicated.


The new St. John’s Mercy Hospital opened in west St Louis county. (current location)

By the late 1950s it was clear that there was no longer any room for expansion for St. John’s Hospital (on Euclid). It was clear to the Sisters that the population of St. Louis was expanding westward, and that the property on the corner of Ballas and Conway would be the perfect location to build their next hospital. They were heavily criticized for moving so far into rural west county, but their intuition proved correct.


Today, St. John’s Mercy Medical Center is an 859-bed, fully accredited teaching hospital. It also includes a heart and vascular hospital, cancer center, children's hospital, surgery center and skilled nursing center.

Mercy Hospital in South St. Louis County


St. Anthony's long tradition of faith-based, Catholic service to the St. Louis area began in 1873 when the Franciscan Sisters of Germany opened St. Boniface Hospital in south St. Louis. It was succeeded by Pius Hospital in north St. Louis and “little St. Anthony’s” in south St. Louis.


Sisters open St. Anthony’s Hospital at Grand Boulevard and Chippewa Street in south St. Louis


St. Anthony’s Hospital becomes the Midwest’s primary treatment center for polio


Sisters transfer ownership and control of the hospital to a lay board


New hospital, called St. Anthony’s Medical Center, opens at current location in south St. Louis County


Hyland Behavioral Health opens


de Greeff Hospice House opens


Heart & Vascular Center opens


On June 1, 2017, St. Anthony’s Medical Center aligned with Mercy.


St. Anthony’s renamed Mercy Hospital South - becomign Mercy’s fifth acute care hospital in the St. Louis metro area and the third largest hospital in the Mercy health care system. The partnership between St. Anthony’s and Mercy reflects their shared mission, values and cultures as Catholic health care providers serving the St. Louis region, and their common commitment to their patients and communities.