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Honoring Our Heritage Through Villa Maria’s New Primary Care Practice

Jun 1 2022

Our ministry’s heritage is rooted in the healing ministry of Jesus as well as the good works of our founders.

The health care ministry of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary began shortly after 1864 when Bishop Amadeus Rappe of Cleveland invited the Sisters to the United States to serve French immigrants in his diocese. With no money, the 11 Sisters along with four orphans made the journey to America, leaving their homeland behind.

Early in their years at Villa Maria, the Sisters’ home located in Pennsylvania started their health care ministry by opening a small hospital to care for railroad workers and sick neighbors. Over time, the Sisters expanded this healing ministry by sponsoring and administering hospitals throughout Ohio. This work ultimately led to the Sisters’ sponsorship of our ministry as it stands today.  

To honor this heritage and serve our Founding Sisters who have given so much to this ministry, Mercy Health – Youngstown has opened a primary care practice at Villa Maria Community Center. This is the location of the Motherhouse and home to 40 Sisters of the Humility of Mary. The Villa Maria practice enables us to care for our founding congregation and provide the Sisters with more convenient access to health care. It is also our first location in Pennsylvania.

Opening this practice at Villa Maria helps keep us connected to the Sisters,” Cindy Kravec, MD, a physician at Villa Maria, shares.

Dr. Kravec (pictured in copy, right) continues, “as we’ve gone through various iterations of what is now our ministry, it can be easy to lose sight of where we came from. This is one way to keep us connected to our history and the women who made this ministry possible.”

The Sisters have called Villa Maria (pictured above both today and in the past) home since their arrival in 1864. Initially, they created a viable, productive farm on the land. They grew crops, raised livestock and developed a strong connection to the land that remains to this day. As the Sisters became integrated into the community, they cared for neighbors in their own homes and continued to take orphans in. They recognized and sought to meet the great need for health care in the area.

Since founding Mercy Health – St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, the Sisters have served as nurses, pharmacists, educators, administrators, social workers, leaders and more throughout the years, growing Mercy Health into what it is today.

When the opportunity to serve our foundresses presented itself, our leadership in Youngstown started working to make the Villa Maria practice a reality. This way our ministry could serve our Founding Sisters in the same way they have served those in the community for more than a century.

In fact Dr. Kravec, who also works at Mercy Health — St. Elizabeth Internal Medicine, was already seeing many of the Sisters through this practice. She was a natural fit to lead the practice at Villa Maria.

“For me, it’s just an honor to take care of them,” Dr. Kravec shares.  “When I look at these women, they continue to give back and serve well beyond what most do. Even those who are retired never truly stop serving and working for others. Each one of them is unique and special in their own way. They’re such an example to me and the wider community.”

The practice is located right on the Villa Maria’s grounds so Sisters can simply walk down the hall to receive the care they need.

It includes an intake room and an exam room. Overall, the practice has been strategically developed to accommodate any primary care needs the Sisters have, now and into the future.

“We Sisters of the Humility of Mary are deeply grateful to welcome Dr. Cindy Kravec here to the Villa to serve and support our Sisters, many of whom are already her patients,” Sr. Carol Anne Smith, HM, pastoral leader of the congregation (pictured in copy, left), shares. “The very generous offer of Dr. John Luellen, Mercy Health – Youngstown’s president to open a physician office at Villa Maria reflects the long relationship between Mercy Health – Youngstown and its founding sponsor, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. Dr. Kravec’s beautiful spirit and comforting presence support our Sisters right here at home, a blessing for which we are all deeply grateful.”

Learn more about our history as well as the primary care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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