Our History

Providence Hospital - 1855
Providence Hospital - 1902
Providence Hospital - 1952
Providence Hospital - 1987

Providence Hospital traces its roots to 17th-century France, where in 1633 a parish priest, Vincent de Paul, and an aristocratic widow, Louise de Marillac, founded a new religious order dedicated to serving the poor. Unlike other Catholic sisters, the Daughters of Charity were not cloistered. Instead, they took their ministry to the people most in need.

Nearly one hundred and eighty years later, a young widow and mother of five children felt called to establish a similar religious community in the United States. Elizabeth Ann Seton, later named the first American-born saint in the Catholic Church, founded the Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1809.

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul

Born: April 24, 1581
Died: Sept 27, 1660
St. Vincent was born of poor parents in the village of Pouy in Gascony, France, about 1580. He enjoyed his first schooling under the Franciscan Fathers at Acqs. Such had been his progress in four years that a gentleman chose him as subpreceptor to his children, and he was thus enabled to continue his studies without being a burden to his parents. In 1596, he went to the University of Toulouse for theological studies, and there he was ordained priest in 1600.
In 1605, on a voyage by sea from Marseilles to Narbonne, he fell into the hands of African pirates and was carried as a slave to Tunis. His captivity lasted about two years, until Divine Providence enabled him to effect his escape. After a brief visit to Rome he returned to France, where he became preceptor in the family of Emmanuel de Gondy, Count of Goigny, and General of the galleys of France. In 1617, he began to preach missions, and in 1625, he lay the foundations of a congregation which afterward became the Congregation of the Mission or Lazarists, so named on account of the Prioryof St. Lazarus, which the Fathers began to occupy in 1633.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the works of this servant of God. Charity was his predominant virtue. It extended to all classes of persons, from forsaken childhood to old age. The Sisters of Charity also owe the foundation of their congregation to St. Vincent. In the midst of the most distracting occupations his soul was always intimately united with God. Though honored by the great ones of the world, he remained deeply rooted in humility. The Apostle of Charity, the immortal Vincent de Paul, breathed his last in Paris at the age of eighty. His feast day is September 27th. He is the patron of charitable societies.

St. Louise de Marillac

St. Louise de Marillac

Born: Aug 12, 1591
Died: March 15, 1660
Louise de Marillac was born probably at Ferrieres-en-Brie near Meux, France, on August 12, 1591. She was educated by the Dominican nuns at Poissy. She desired to become a nun but on the advice of her confessor, she married Antony LeGras, an official in the Queen’s service, in 1613. After Antony’s death in 1625, she met St. Vincent de Paul, who became her spiritual adviser. She devoted the rest of her life to working with him. She helped direct his Ladies of Charity in their work of caring for the sick, the poor, and the neglected. In 1633 she set up a training center, of which she was Directress in her own home, for candidates seeking to help in her work. This was the beginning of the Sisters (or Daughters, as Vincent preferred) of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (though it was not formally approved until 1655). She took her vows in 1634 and attracted great numbers of candidates. She wrote a rule for the community, and in 1642, Vincent allowed four of the members to take vows. Formal approval placed the community under Vincent and his Congregation of the Missions, with Louise as Superior. She traveled all over France establishing her Sisters in hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions. By the time of her death in Paris on March 15, the Congregation had more than forty houses in France. Since then they have spread all over the world. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934, and was declared Patroness of Social Workers by Pope John XXIII in 1960. Her feast day is March 15th.

Persistent bouts of yellow fever plagued Mobile throughout the 1800s, and in 1841, Mobile’s first bishop, Michael Portier, asked the Sisters to come to Mobile to care for children who lost their parents to this devastating disease. Four Sisters from Emmitsburg arrived that year to work at the Catholic Orphans’ Asylum (the facility we now know as St. Mary’s Home). In 1852, the Daughters of Charity, as they were by then known, began work in Mobile’s City Hospital. Within just two years, however, these tireless servants were asked to leave the City Hospital, victims of anti-Catholic bias.

Concerned citizens immediately began making plans to build the Daughters their own hospital. On August 15, 1854, a board for this new organization was formed, consisting of Father James McGarahan, vicar general of the diocese; C. W. Dorrance, an auctioneer and trader; and Patrick Pepper, a local merchant. The group purchased a plot of land at the corners of Broad and St. Anthony Streets at what was then the western edge of town and began construction of a two and one-half story, 60-bed hospital, which was opened the next year.

An article in the Mobile Daily Register from April 27, 1857 stated “Nothing can be devised more conductive to the restoration of health than this building; unless indeed, it be the increasing attentions of its gentle inmates – ministers of mercy – at a time when kindness comes nearest to its divine origin. The first floor is devoted to male patients, the second to females, and servants are accommodated in the spacious airy attic. From front to rear, and from the East end, the public wards, a spacious passage admits the free circulation of air from every quarter. . . In the rear, and on each side, are large grounds and gardens for exercise and unlimited ventilation. Cleanliness in every place and of everything, is more marked than in the neatest dwelling.”

By the turn of the century, Mobile’s population had increased and shifted west. The Daughters of Charity did the same, moving the hospital to 1504 Springhill Avenue. This second hospital, a Mediterranean-inspired stucco building, opened its doors in 1902 and, according to reports at the time, it was “modern in every respect and the pride of South Alabamians.” Providence would begin a series of “firsts” in 1904 when it established a school of nursing, the first in Mobile and only the second in the state of Alabama.

In 1908 an east wing was added to the building, which remained largely unchanged until 1950. That year the population of Mobile was 230,000, and Providence Hospital, even with the additional wing, contained only 100 beds. It was time to build again.

The third Providence Hospital was planned to provide the finest diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive care to the sick and injured. In late February 1949 ground was broken on land in front of the second facility on Springhill Avenue. Three years later the Daughters of Charity moved into this $4 million modern marvel with their first patients.

The Mobile Register reported in October 1952 that “With 250 beds, a battery of a dozen operating rooms, all the latest facilities for the care and comfort of sick people, this hospital is a great new health asset for Mobile and the adjacent Gulf Coast area. Planned for maximum efficiency, the building is impressive in appearance.”

It seems a bit quaint today, but two of the hospital’s features that created headlines at the time were the fact that it was completely air-conditioned and had fluorescent lighting. Several additions were made to this building over the years, and Providence continued its series of “firsts,” including kidney dialysis, neurangiography, magnetic resonance imaging, health and wellness services, pastoral care and family-centered maternity care.

Population shifts and limited space at Springhill Avenue caused the Daughters of Charity to make the very difficult decision to relocate Providence Hospital from its 11-acre site to a 250-acre campus west of town.

The quickly changing world of treatment and diagnostic technology required either a complete renovation of the existing facility or the building of a new one.

In 1982 the Daughters chose to move and designed a hospital that even today is futuristic. The $60-million facility accepted its first patients on July 15, 1987.

Nearly thirty years later, Providence continues to be Mobile’s most advanced healthcare facility, with a patient-centered design unique in the area.

However, the hospital has not lost sight of the calling that inspired St. Vincent, St. Louise, St. Elizabeth Ann, as well as its local founders. Our physicians and associates continue to be inspired by the words of St. Vincent de Paul,”It is God who has called you here because you are going to do good work.”