A Milestone Week ahead for new Peoria hospital facility

Photo Caption: The new Children’s Hospital of Illinois and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria will be blessed and dedicated July 16 as part of a series of grand opening events for the “Milestone Project.”

By: By Tom Dermody

“Just look what God has done with and through and for all of us and for generations to come!”

The enthusiasm and gratitude in the voice of Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF, is echoed by all who are readying the largest privately funded building project in Peoria’s history for public viewing this week — and service to the region’s healthcare needs far into the future.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will preside at a blessing and dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 16, for the new Children’s Hospital of Illinois and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

The ceremony takes place on Founder’s Day for the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, the religious community that began the hospital in 1878 and of which Sister Judith Ann is major superior. U.S. Transportation Secretary and Peoria native Ray LaHood will be keynote speaker.

While the dedication is an invitation-only event, the public is invited to “look what God has done” at open houses from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, and Sunday, July 18. In fact, a series of grand opening events are planned for July 10-18.

The eight story, 440,000-square foot building brings the various services of the Children’s Hospital of Illinois into one building and proves an updated and expanded emergency department, more intensive care beds for both children and adults, and expanded surgery and cardiac care facilities. It also houses the Jim and Trudy Maloof St. Jude Midwest Affiliate.

The $280 million project was years in the planning and fundraising stages before its three years of construction, said Sister Judith Ann, noting the sisters have a reputation for proceding with caution.

“Hundreds have made this possible,” she told The Catholic Post this week.
The facility will not open for patients until next month, and the building will be fully occupied by September.

“I think it’s historic. It definitely is exciting,” said Msgr. Michael Bliss, director of pastoral care at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, of the new facility that has been added to the existing campus near downtown Peoria.

“One hundred years from now they’ll be looking at pictures of this and talking about it,” he said.

Both Msgr. Bliss and Sister Judith Ann spoke of how the building’s design and new religious art reflect the Catholic and Franciscan heritage.

A small chapel that will contain the reserved Blessed Sacrament is located near the first floor entrance. The large St. Francis Chapel, which has been the heart of the medical center for a century, will continue to be the main area of worship and prayer.

But the devotional chapel brings Christ’s real presence closer and easier to access for patients and families in the new building.

“In the midst of all the activity it’s important to have space set aside for prayer and to be with the Lord,” said Msgr. Bliss.

A new St. Francis statue will be located near the front entrance, as is a “beautiful crucifix,” and a large mural of St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun” will be unveiled at the dedication ceremony.

As impressive as the new building is, it is the medical center’s talented, caring staff that will “ultimately make this a place of healing, love and charity,” said Msgr. Bliss.

Sister Judith Ann recalled being in the board room when the building decision was made. The vote was unanimous, and as the project progressed even through an economic downturn “God brushed aside every challenge.”

“I can’t imagine this coming anywhere but from God,” she said.

Editor’s note: For more information on the facility and the opening week schedules, visit www.osfshines.com.

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