The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul made health care history when they came to St. Louis from Baltimore, Maryland, in 1828. They were renamed the Daughters of Charity in 1850. The hospital they founded in St. Louis was the first Catholic healthcare institution in the country, the first hospital west of the Mississippi, and the first hospital to be run by women. Since the time it was founded, DePaul Health Center served the sick and injured regardless of their ability to pay. Changes in healthcare during the 1980s and 1990s made operating hospitals challenging. One change was the advent of managed healthcare plans, designed to improve efficiencies and increase competition as a way to curb costs. Another was the rise of alternate sites of care, including physician-owned sites. Such changes threatened the long term viability of independent hospitals like DePaul Health Center. Consequently, the Daughters of Charity, a member of the Daughters of Charity National Health System – West Central- (DCNHS-WC) sold DePaul to the SSM Healthcare system.
Beginning in the 1990’s, DCNHS-WC began establishing several foundations with funds received from the divestiture of acute care facilities in its geographic area. Deciding that it would continue its ministry in St. Louis, the organization’s Board established one of those foundations in St. Louis with funds received during the sale of DePaul Hospital. The Foundation began operations in 1995.
The next big organizational change was in 1999, when DCNHS-WC joined Ascension Health. Ascension is a Catholic corporation whose sponsorship structure includes other Catholic Health Systems as participating entities.
The Daughters of Charity Foundation, known as Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, is a legacy of the charitable works of the Daughters of Charity, now part of Ascension Healthcare. Today, the Foundation supports a broad range of initiatives to serve the poor and vulnerable, focusing on Older Adults Living Independently, Immigrants & Refugees, Veterans, Human Trafficking Prevention, Advocacy & Coalition-Building, and Capacity Building for grantee organizations. Its reach extends to the entire metropolitan statistical area of St. Louis—a total of 16 counties in Missouri and Illinois.
In 2019, the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis (DCFSL) changed its name to better reflect the Foundation’s legacy and ongoing belief in the intrinsic value and dignity of all persons, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis is now Marillac (pronounced Mary-yac) Mission Fund. (See announcement)