Our History

Learn About Our Hospitals in Tucson

Carondelet has a long and rich history that spans decades. Founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the congregation was originally established in France. The Sisters came to the United States in 1836 to serve the diocese in Carondelet, Missouri.

In 1870, seven Sisters of St. Joseph traveled from San Diego to Tucson to open a school. In 1880, the Sisters opened St. Mary’s Hospital, Arizona’s first hospital. In 1961, they opened St. Joseph’s Hospital to provide services for Tucson’s growing east side. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet began managing Holy Cross in 1981 and assumed ownership in 1987.


  • Seven Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet travel from Missouri to open Tucson's first school. Sisters Emerentia Bonnefoy, Monica Corrigan, Euphrasia Suchet, Hyacinth Blanc, Martha Peters, Ambrosia Arnichaud and Maxime Croissat endure the month-long trek by train, ship and covered wagon. They arrive in the “Old Pueblo” on Ascension Thursday, May 26, 1870, to an enthusiastic welcome with fireworks.
  • Over the next decade, the Sisters open an Indian school at San Xavier, a school in Yuma and a hospital for injured miners in Prescott.
  • A secondary school, St. Joseph's Academy, and an elementary school, St. Augustine's, are opened, in addition to a novitiate for young women interested in entering the religious life.
  • By the end of the 1870s, the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad approach Tucson. Railroad executives appeal to Bishop Jean Baptiste Salpointe, the Vicar Apostolic of Arizona, for a hospital, reasoning that Tucson is a natural midway stop for trains heading toward the West Coast. The Bishop's work to open an Indian trade school is postponed to build the hospital.


  • The Southern Pacific Railroad arrives in Tucson a month before the dedication of the 12-bed St. Mary's Hospital on April 24, 1880. The first 11 patients arrive a week later. Assigned to St. Mary's are Sisters Basil Morris, St. Martin Dunn, Julia Ford and Mary John Noli. Physician John C. Handy, M.D., is joined by his brother-in-law, William Holbrook, M.D., to serve the hospital.
  • In 1882, Bishop Salpointe sells St. Mary's to the Sisters for $20,000 and the promise that it retain its name and remain a hospital for 99 years. During that year a second story is added, doubling the capacity of the hospital. Construction of another addition is begun on the north side of the faculty.
  • By 1884, the hospital accommodates 50 patients. The medical staff adds Drs. Michael Spencer, Hiram Fenner, Henri Matas and Pierre Guiot.
  • In 1891, George Goodfellow, M.D., a pioneer in treating gunshot wounds and abdominal surgery, moves from Tombstone to Tucson. A room is set aside at St. Mary's specifically for surgical operations. During the mid-1880s, the Sisters build a 24-bed isolation cottage. The cottage receives the growing number of tubercular patients seeking the benefits of Tucson's sunshine.


  • In 1893, Sister Fidelia McMahon is named superintendent of St. Mary's, a position she will hold for 27 years. That same year, the Sisters open their first convent on hospital grounds. The two-story structure includes a chapel and parlor on the first floor and dormitories and washrooms on the second. The Sisters convert their old adobe convent into an orphanage.


  • In 1900, to care for the growing numbers of tubercular patients, Dr. Hiram W. Fenner designs and oversees the construction of a two-story circular sanatorium at St. Mary's Hospital. Known as the “Round Building,” the sanatorium is designed so that each room opens onto a shaded porch, allowing patients easy access to the therapeutic climate.
  • In 1903, a surgical suite is created on St. Mary's first floor containing operating, sterilizing and preparation rooms and a large emergency room.
  • In 1907, St. Mary's Hospital and Convent receive electricity. The first month's bill is $19.40.
  • St. Mary's opens the Nursing School in 1914 with classrooms, dorms and a two-and-a-half-year-long curriculum. Sisters Francis de Sales Fuller and Mary Evangelista Weyand prepare the curriculum and organize the teaching faculty.
  • St. Mary's medical staff is officially organized on February 16, 1917. Dr. Arthur W. Olcott presides over the meeting with Dr. Edward J. Gotthelf Jr. who serves as secretary.
  • The United States enters World War I in 1917. The Sisters offer the hospital as a place to care for wounded soldiers.
  • In 1918, Tucsonans find themselves caught in the grip of a global influenza epidemic. Barbara Pateh, a recent nursing school graduate, recounts, "strong young men died from it and there was nothing we could do. We fed them hot broth and cared for their needs."
  • The X-ray department opens in a little room off the lobby of the hospital's north wing in 1918.


In 1921, three doctors at St. Mary's are certified as Fellows of the American College of Surgeons: Drs. Meade Clyne, Joel I. Butler and George E. Dodge. These are the first certified doctors at the hospital.

  • The Fifth Arizona Legislature on June 9, 1921, passes an act empowering the governor to appoint a State Board of Nursing Examiners. Sister Evangelista is named to the board and is honored by the state when they license her as "R.N. No. 1" of the State of Arizona.
  • St. Mary's Nursing School is formally accredited in 1922.The sacrifices made by the Sisters to care for the sick are dramatically revealed to Tucsonans on Sunday, March 15, 1925, when a fire in the convent chapel exposes their humble living conditions.
  • A $25,000 fundraising campaign led by businessman Herbert Drachman, author Harold Bell Wright and Bishop Daniel Gercke is completed by 1927. A new convent and chapel is designed by Merritt H. Starkweather and built by A. C. Jacobson. The convent is dedicated January 30, 1927.The chapel is named St. Catherine's to honor the mother of Thomas E. Murray, Jr., a benefactor of the Sisters. It is dedicated December 7, 1928.
  • In 1928, St. Mary's is accredited by the American College of Surgeons, the first national group to set hospital standards. That year, 1,971 patients are cared for, 1,139 operations are performed and 80 births are recorded at the hospital.


  • Precious hospital income is lost in 1930 when the Southern Pacific Railroad opens its own facility on Congress Street and closes its St. Mary's clinic.
  • In 1931, Chester Reynolds, M.D., is St. Mary's first intern. In spite of looming financial problems, two stories are added to the North Wing, increasing the hospital's capacity to 185 beds and 20 bassinets. The American Medical Association (AMA) approves St. Mary's medical residency program after the hospital opens a medical library in 1933 with an adjoining large conference room, morgue and autopsy room. During 1935, 3,036 patients are admitted, 1,688 operations are performed and 169 babies are born. Hospital rates range from $15 a day for a suite to $3 a day for a bed in the ward. Private duty nurses now work a 12-hour shift instead of a 20-hour shift.
  • In October 1936, Sisters at the hospital may wear white habits and veils instead of full-length, heavy black serge habits and starched coverall aprons.
  • St. Mary's School of Nursing gains national recognition in May 1936, when Helen Clark Doyle is selected by United Airlines out of 3,000 candidates as the American Nurses Association's "Perfect Nurse.” The dedication ceremony for the four-story South Wing is broadcast in 1939 over Tucson's radio station, KTUC. Designed by Roy Place, the wing adds 50 beds, 11 for the first pediatric unit. In May, the nursing school graduates Arizona's first two male registered nurses. St. Mary's is the only general hospital in Tucson to survive the Great Depression.


  • In 1940, Clark & Company Heating and Cooling installed the first cabinet air conditioners in the hospital's surgical suites and nursery. The operating rooms begin a blood transfusion program.
  • By 1942, with the U.S. entering World War II, more than half of St. Mary's doctors and nurses enlist for military duty. The Federal Government organizes the Cadet Nursing Corps and students' tuition and expenses are paid — a first for the hospital.
  • St. Mary's nine-story Central Services Building opens in 1951, bringing the hospital bed total to 375. The Nursery Department adds 18 incubators to assist premature infants.


  • The polio epidemic sweeps the U.S. between 1942 and 1956. In 1952, St. Mary's is designated as a national diagnostic and treatment facility. That year, more than 330 polio patients are treated.
  • In 1953, St. Mary's reports 2,500 live births with no maternal deaths.
  • The first use of nuclear medicine in Arizona is performed when St. Mary's doctors use a radioactive isotope to diagnose and treat a thyroid disorder.
  • In 1954, 22 women organize St. Mary's Auxiliary.
  • In 1956, St. Mary's Hospital is annexed into the City of Tucson.
  • In 1959, St. Mary's acquires a heart-lung machine and surgeons perform Arizona's first open heart surgery on an 8-year-old girl. Tucson's first artificial kidney machine is set up at the hospital.
  • From 1950 to 1960, Tucson's population grows from 88,700 to more than 210,000. Facing an acute hospital bed shortage, Tucson Medical Center and St. Mary's share a fundraising campaign and set funds aside for a new eastside hospital.


  • Sponsored by the Eliot Spalding Foundation, the hospital's Cardiovascular Center opens in 1960, the same year Tucson's first pacemaker is implanted in a female patient at St. Mary's.
  • The Sisters dedicate the 124-bed St. Joseph's Hospital May 1, 1961 on Tucson's east side.
  • In 1962, the hospital opens the Critical Care Unit and trains its first cardiac arrest team who respond to the summons of "Emergency, Dr. Stillheart!"
  • With little need for a tuberculosis sanatorium, the "Round Building" at St. Mary's is torn down in 1965. St. Mary's School of Nursing's last class graduates in May 1966, joining the ranks of nearly 900 alumnae. Medicare funding begins in 1966, revolutionizing hospital care and complicating billing procedures. St. Mary's acquires its first computer to assist patient accounting.
  • The Centurions, a fundraising group of business and civic leaders, is organized in December 1968 to support St. Mary's.
  • With the support of the Tucson firefighters, St. Mary's opens a three-bed patient unit in 1969 as southern Arizona's first facility dedicated to burn care.


  • St. Mary's Rehabilitation Services are formally organized in 1971 by Stuart Holtzman, M.D., who will serve as medical director for nearly 20 years.
  • In 1971, St. Mary's community mental health facility opens. The hospital's four-story North Wing opens. Arizona's Paramedic Training Program is created by St. Mary's and Pima Community College in 1974. Fourteen students graduate in the first class.
  • In the spring of 1977, the old nursing school and St. Mary's South Annex are torn down. In 1978, the old convent is demolished to make room for additional hospital expansion. A new convent is opened near Tumamoc Hill.
  • On October 1, 1978, St. Mary's Obstetrics unit closes due to the declining birth rate. An average of 72 babies a year are born over the last four years of operation.
  • In 1979, St. Mary's huge West Wing opens and almost all patient care is moved to the new facility. On September 4, a special unit dedicated to outpatient surgery opens in response to this new trend in hospital care.


  • In December 1980, St. Mary's is one of the first hospitals in the United States to open a hospice unit. In 1981, the Sisters are asked by the Diocese of Tucson to run what, at the time, was called St. Joseph's Hospital in Nogales, Arizona, on behalf of the Minim Sisters.
  • St. Mary's is honored by the American Academy of Nursing in 1982 as one of the nation's 14 “Magnet” hospitals for excellence. The Sisters' hospitals in southern Arizona join with others across the U.S. to form the Health Care Corp. of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
  • In 1983, St. Mary's and St. Joseph's hospitals in Tucson merge, sharing their management services and supplies. St. Mary's develops its Nurse Case Management Program and Home Health Services in 1984.
  • In 1987, the Sisters purchase the Nogales hospital and name it Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital. Carondelet Holy Family Center opens near St. Mary's for adults who need skilled nursing care.

1990 And Beyond

  • The hospital's first Community Health Center opens at Pio Decimo in 1990. Today nearly 20 are located throughout Pima and Santa Cruz counties.
  • In 1992, Casita Maria, an intergenerational child care center, opens for children of St. Mary's staff. The Carondelet Medical Mall in Green Valley opens.
  • In 1993, on the site of the old South Wing, a $17.8 million addition and renovation of the hospital's operating rooms and diagnostic suites are completed. A new patient admitting area is also opened. A new chapel is built using religious relics, ceiling beams, bells and doors from St. Catherine's Chapel. A three-story comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation center with medical offices and parking garage is added.
  • In 1994, The Healthy Seniors Program, a $5 million nationally funded Medicare research project, is launched through Carondelet's Community Nursing Organization for residents in Pima and Santa Cruz counties. The statue of the Virgin Mary and Infant Christ is commissioned from Italy to grace the new main entrance of the hospital. Carondelet Home Health expands its array of services and opens a new office and medical equipment showroom.
  • After a 17-year break in services, obstetrics returns to St. Mary's in 1995 with the opening of a 19-bed, 22-bassinet Maternal/Newborn Unit. The 125th anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to Tucson is celebrated. In its 26th year of operation, a major renovation of the hospital's Burn Unit is launched to enhance inpatient and outpatient services.
  • Carondelet Neurological Institute: Based at Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Institute is designed for the delivery of a full-range of diagnostic and treatment services for most neurological conditions.

Today, Carondelet Health Network is committed to providing Southern Arizona with a full spectrum of high-quality, cost-effective care and improving the health of patients. That commitment continues across our network comprised of St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital, Marana Hospital, Carondelet Neurological Institute, Carondelet Heart and Vascular Institute, as well as St. Raphael physician offices throughout the Tucson, Green Valley and Nogales areas.

Our network is recognized for a wide array of services that include neurological, cardiac, orthopedic, women’s health, bariatrics and rehab care. Carondelet is recognized as Southern Arizona’s only Catholic hospital system. Our care and compassion extends from our associates, to our patients, their families and our entire community.