SCL History

They walked boldly into smoky saloons to solicit handouts from miners and cowboys. They carried heavy rocks from the riverbanks to build hospital foundations. SCL Health’s founding Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth did whatever they could, with whatever they had, to fulfill their calling from God to bring his healing ministry to the Western frontier.


Today, this determined spirit and visionary thinking lives on. At SCL Health, you can now see a doctor from a smartphone in the comfort of your living room. We have partnered with patients and physicians to create accountability that’s improving health — not only for individuals but for entire communities.

In a changing healthcare landscape, we’re inspired by our founding sisters, who taught us what’s truly possible when you simply decide to make something so.

cartandbuggy nursinghistory

The original Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth

The Sisters trace their origin as a religious community to the 1600s in France where Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac established the Daughters of Charity. These religious women were dedicated to serving the sick and poor, and their motto was "the love of Christ impels us."

An early reputation for strength

Before there was health insurance or federal programs such as Medicare, much of the financing of our hospitals was done by the begging of the sisters, the good will of benefactors, fundraising events and loans. The archives reflect stories such as when a sister gave her last 30 cents away to someone in need, only to have a donor replenish the funds.

Their reputation prompted local officials to seek their leadership in establishing and operating hospitals. When a doctor in Billings, Montana, requested that the sisters establish a hospital, he said, "I know your strength; you do not recoil from hardship." From 1864 to 1952, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth established or assumed responsibility for 18 hospitals from Kansas to California.


The ’60s and ’70s

In the 1960s, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth did an in-depth examination that led to a renewed commitment to healthcare a new delegation of authority, and ultimately to the formation of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health Services Corporation (SCL/HSC), now known as SCL Health. In 1972, they adopted a resolution to establish a corporation for the direction and management of hospitals in the healthcare apostolate, and the Articles of Incorporation were filed in Kansas.

The elected officers of the SCL religious community were the corporate members and Board of Directors of the Health Services Corporation and corporate members of each hospital. The day-to-day leadership of the hospital corporation was delegated to the Health Services Corporation. The hospitals were encouraged to develop their own governing Boards of Directors, but 51 percent of each board was required to be Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.

Transfer of sponsorship still in place today

With the increasing complexities of healthcare delivery, Health Services Corporation needed a board structure change. SCL/HSC made changes to create a shared governance of the system by laypersons, including representatives of other healthcare systems, along with members of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.

The first combined lay and religious Health Services Corporation Board was appointed in 1994. In 2000, the Corporation changed its name to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System.

In 2011, the sisters transferred sponsorship of SCL Health to Leaven Ministries, a new entity (public juridic person) recognized by the Catholic Church. As they are available, the sisters remain involved on Boards of Directors and on staffs of the hospitals, clinics and system services.

Our organization’s rich heritage and enduring legacy serve as the foundation for our health ministry today, and our mission, vision and values serve as the framework for our success.

Sign up for our e-newsletter!

Get tips to help you manage your family's health, options to boost your fitness and advice to live your best life.