Category: St. Ann hospital

Thanks for a great day!

We want to thank all of you for your part in the day of prayer and celebration! Whether you came out and prayed for an hour or two (or 8, as a couple of our friends did), brought out food, came out for the 11 PM celebration and story-time, prayed from afar, or even if you have no idea who we are and were confused as to why you were even invited, we praise God for you and celebrate the unique ways that God has led you to this point in your life.

Pay attention to the ways that God is moving around you, and join in. Meet someone who is different from you. Talk to someone who is a stranger (or someone who is strange to you), and listen to their stories. Search for the image of Christ in everyone around you.

Again, we as a community are blessed by all of you. Thank you for being a part of our life. We pray that we can all share in the family of God together, in this life or in the life to come.

The St. Ann Community

Janet Mendenhall, chef of all that is wonderful.

Interestingly, this is completely candid for Lily.

Our buddy Michael (Fish) is happy to be cold!


St. Ann Celebration!

It has been a year now since we were called to follow God as a community to the College Heights area of Abilene. We want to invite you to join us for a day of prayer and celebration, thanking God for the guidance of the past year, and asking that God lead us and all of Abilene closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.

From 12 AM Saturday morning (midnight) until 12 AM Sunday morning (midnight), we want you to join us in the courtyard at what was once St. Ann hospital for 24 hours of prayer and peace. The times on the schedule below are intended to be larger group fellowship times, so feel welcome to join for meals and especially for the celebration time at 11 PM. And while some of you may not be able to join us physically, your prayers would still be appreciated as we celebrate what God has done and continues to do. We want the entire day to be filled with prayer…if you would like to join us for an hour, two hours, or even longer at any point during the day or night, please call Rosten at 361.652.7792 or John at 713.305.5876, let us know in the comments below, or just show up at 1350 Cypress. That address is where you will find the parking lot, and we will be tucked into the small courtyard behind the parking lot. We look forward to seeing you there!

12:00 AM – Opening prayer
7:30 AM – Breakfast (provided by Lynn and Steve Holt)
6:30 PM – Dinner (provided by Janet and Doug Mendenhall)
11:00 PM – Time of Celebration, Song, Story, and Communion

As another ethnographic assignment, Josh and I went to interview Virginia Connally, the first female doctor in Abilene, who worked at St. Ann for most of her career. Josh had been connected up with Virginia as if by a miracle in the first few days after our discovery of the hospital building. You’ll hear more about that in our complete narrative, hopefully sometime soon!

Our goal in this interview was to get a sense of Virginia’s life story, especially as it related to her experience as a woman doctor and her time at St. Ann. Unfortunately, the audio recording we made of the interview was lost, so Josh and I sat down together as soon as we could to try to reconstruct the interview. The questions and answers recorded below give a general sense of how it went.


When and where were you born?

  • December 4, 1912 in Temple, Texas

Tell us about your family.

  • 2 younger sisters
  • an older brother who died from pneumonia when he was 3 (Virginia was 1)

How did you end up in Abilene?

  • went to Temple Junior College in 1929
  • moved to Abilene when she was 18 (in 1930) to attend Hardin Simmons University
  • graduated from HSU in 1933
  • married during her time at HSU

Why did you decide to become a doctor, and how did you go about doing that?

  • her uncle (a lawyer) continually stressed the importance of higher education for all the kids in her family, encouraging them (and it seems, expecting them) to pursue degrees that would allow for careers in law, medicine, etc.; this inspired her
  • went to med school at LSU from 1933-1937
  • finished residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1940

How did you end up back in Abilene, working at St. Ann?

  • moved back to Abilene with her husband
  • when WWII rolled around, many of the male doctors were called to serve, and this opened up positions for doctors locally

Tell us about life at St. Ann.

  • nearly all of the doctors were welcoming to her
  • she only recounted one incident in which a doctor was rude towards her, and it might have been because of his prior relationship with the patient in question
  • the attitudes of the male doctors did not change noticeably when the men came back from the war; they were all still courteous
  • the sisters at St. Ann were very kind and made life enjoyable (as well as making amazing pecan brittle)

Is there any memory in particular that stands out to you from your time at St. Ann?

  • on Christmas day during WWII (1943 or 1944), she spent the entire day with a small boy who was a patient of hers, along with his mother; the child was very sick and was dying because there were no antibiotics back then to give to him

What was the neighborhood around St. Ann like back then?

  • Hendrick [another hospital just a few blocks away] was already there
  • she didn’t really spend much of any time in the neighborhood itself and can’t recall what it was like
  • she did do a few house calls (though not very often)
    • one time, when she arrived at the house, the family of the patient turned her away when they realized that it was a woman doctor who had come; she left, thinking that they could fend for themselves if they really were that unwilling to let her help
    • another time, she drove to the other side of town for a house call; when she arrived, the front door was open, but the house was dark and no one responded to her; she left without going in, and to this day, she still wonders what was going on

As a Baptist yourself, what was your relationship to the Catholic nuns at the hospital like? Was there any tension, or did the religious differences not come into play at all?

  • the relationship was always good
  • she was raised in a Catholic school herself, so she was familiar with the differences in practice and belief
  • overall, it’s just very important to listen to each other (which led us into long tangents about listening to people, about prayer, about religious/political differences and similarities overall…)

So, you’ve heard some of our story about how we came across St. Ann and what we think we’d like to do there. What do you think about this dream?

  • she affirmed us as individuals and as a group specifically
  • she affirmed our dream in a more general manner
  • she expressed general niceties to show her support
  • when we mentioned it, she agreed that she’d like to come see St. Ann again with us sometime

St. Ann Beginnings

On April 1, we at the St. Ann Community were pleased to take some fellow ministry students from ACU on a tour of the outside of the St. Ann hospital building, showing them around the place that had so quickly become important to us as a part of our God-given dream. Later that afternoon, we were also able to take a second look at the inside of the building. You’ll be hearing some from the current owner/realtor James (in the black baseball cap) as he shows us around, a little from our friends Kent (with the bushy beard and glasses) and Roger (in the blue shirt) as they take a look, and you’ll hear some of our initial observations about the condition of the building. As you’ll be able to see from the videos below, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, both on the inside and the outside. Still, though, we can imagine a time in the future when this building has been restored through by and for the people of the College Heights neighborhood.

As part of our Contexts of Ministry class (which you’ll hear mentioned quite a bit here, I’m sure!), Josh and Ben and I were required to do some basic ethnographic exercises related to our ministry location. If you’re combing your brain, trying to come up with a working definition of ethnography, look no further than Wikipedia.

What you see below are some of my field notes from the day the three of us initially discovered the St. Ann hospital building. Of course, since it’s an attempt at an objective report, you won’t be able to grasp the depth of our initial excitement, confusion, and amazement about what the St. Ann hospital building might mean for us as a community.


Neighborhood Field Notes

March 25, 2010

Josh and I drove up to Grace Fellowship [a church in the College Heights neighborhood] at about 2:15, and Ben met us there. Getting out of our cars, we set out down the street to walk around a bit and see what we could see. We discussed whether or not certain terms like “well-kept” and “putrid” were value-neutral terms which could be included in our objective narratives, but we never came to any definite conclusions. Over the next hour or so, the three of us wandered around the streets of the neighborhood to the north and west of Grace Fellowship. One thing that was noticeable from the beginning was that there were not many people around. Other than two or three people sitting on their front porches and a few people passing through in cars, we didn’t see much of anyone. I noticed also that there were not many cars parked in front of the houses, unlike most of the neighborhoods I am used to in Abilene. Granted, it was during the middle of the day, so perhaps the majority of the residents of the neighborhood and any cars they might have were at work or at school. I wondered if that was the case or if fewer people owned cars. Some of the houses seemed well-kept by their residents, some with elaborate lawn decorations. We noted more than one religious symbol: a menorah in a window, a picture of Jesus on a front door, accompanied by a statue of Mary. Many of the houses had trash and various objects strewn about the porches and the yards, and some houses were falling apart. I noticed a higher number of empty lots than I was accustomed to seeing in most neighborhoods. As we walked, we came across an old and abandoned building complex. We looked around it a bit to see if we could determine what it had been used for in the past, but we could not tell if it had been a church, a school, or something else. Turning a corner, we were passed by two people in the car. Josh said something about smiling at them and them not smiling back. We noted a couple of houses which were vacant, some of them listed as being for rent or sale. Coming to the front side of the unidentifiable building complex we’d seen earlier, we saw that it too was for sale. We began discussing the possibility of buying it and living in it, so I called the realtor listed on the sign and learned more about the property. Apparently it was once St. Ann’s Hospital, was subsequently used as the Marbridge House to serve cognitively-challenged adults, and has been vacant for the past eight to ten years. The 25,000 square foot facility is on the market for $120,000. After finding out the information we needed, Josh and Ben and I kept walking. We turned down one street to walk towards a building that stood out from the rest of the neighborhood because it looked newer and much more expensive. It turned out to be some sort of a doctor’s office or a clinic or something. We had noticed earlier in our walk how close we were to Hendrick Medical Center, which was just a few blocks away. We walked through an alleyway. I noticed a small house or shed in the alley that had had its outside walls covered in shingles to protect it from the weather. No brick or wood or siding. Just shingles. We noticed another newer building that had a sign in front noting that it was the Women’s and Children’s Alliance center. I was curious about what that might be, so we went inside and asked questions of the women we met at the front desk. They informed us about the purpose and activities of the organization (once the YWCA). Back outside, the three of us continued walking. At one point, I saw a young girl walking towards us. I did a double take. I knew her. She was Bekah, a girl from Hope, where I go to church. I called out her name and waved her over, and she came to give me a hug. She explained that she was walking to meet her mother, Corina, who was just a few blocks behind us. I turned and waved to Corina, thinking about how the people who lived in this neighborhood were probably in many ways very much like Bekah and Corina, who are very dear to me. I began to think about the relationships I would be able to form with these new neighbors of mine whom I would meet. As we walked, we came across some more abandoned houses and an abandoned health center that looked like someone might have been using it to live in. We tried to open some doors but were unable to get in. We realized we’d come back around to the abandoned St. Anne’s building, so we explored around it a bit more. It looked as though someone had torn down part of an outer wall to make a way to get in. We didn’t enter, but we did find a few broken windows we could look through to see in. The hallways inside were extremely dark. Finishing out our walk, we stopped by the house owned by Grace Fellowship to see if the guy who lives there was home, but there was no answer to our knock. I noticed the beginnings of a community garden nearby, with a tall chain-link fence put up and piles of dirt nearby. The three of us walked back over to our cars and headed to Monks [a local coffee shop] to discuss what we’d seen.