Eleven days after they arrived into Tucson, the sisters began teaching in the simple adobe school the Bishop Salpointe had prepared for them. This became the future St. Joseph’s Academy, the first secondary school in Arizona. Later, the congregation established a Provincialate and Novitiate.
In 1880, the Bishop asked the sisters to open a much needed hospital. They were happy to respond and on May 1, 1880, the 12 bed Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital, the first of its kind established in Southern Arizona, opened its doors. Carondelet St. Joseph Hospital was built in 1961 and Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales, joined the system in 1983. Carondelet Health System, AZ became an important ministry in the city where caring for the poor and the marginalized became a vital part of the mission. Several sisters served as CEO of the hospitals and many others ministered in various departments. Although in May, 2015, the ownership of the hospitals was transferred to Tenet Healthcare, they continue to remain Catholic under the sponsorship of the Diocese.
For many years, the sisters have administered and taught at orphanages on several Native American reservations. They also established elementary and secondary schools; SJs were on the first faculty at Salpointe Catholic High School. The sisters also ministered at Merilac lodge, Manzo Neighborhood Center (which provided services to the undocumented in the 70s), St. Elizabeth Health Care Center, the Desert House of Prayer and prison ministry in collaboration with the Tucson Ecumenical Council. In 1974, a sister of St. Joseph became one of the first sisters to be elected to public office in the country. She served in the Arizona House of Representatives until her untimely death in 1981.
In the 80s, the sisters provided home health care to the rural areas and ministered in Parish Ministry at Sacred Heart, St. Joseph’s, St. Cyril’s, St. Odelia’s, St. Rita’s, St. Frances Cabrini and St. Michael’s in Casa Grande, which specifically served the farm workers. Sisters have also served on, and continue to serve on, several diocesan boards and committees.
The diocese of Tucson is, and always has been, an important part of our CSJ history in the West. We are proud of and humbled by the opportunities to serve in a way that heals and reconcile.