by Sister Marianne Farina, CSC
The Saint Agnes Medical Center community celebrated the legacy of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Fresno, California, with the dedication a new fountain on August 18, 2021. Placed at the medical center’s main entrance, the three-tiered fountain sits between the Christ the Healer statue and the Prayer Labyrinth.
Those in attendance—administration, staff, donors, and the fountain’s designer, Mr. Jose Herrera of the Rare Art Limited Group—concurred that the creation of the fountain was a project guided by the Spirit. It stands as a symbol of God’s grace and overflowing love embodied by the Sisters of the Holy Cross throughout the years. Fittingly, the inscription around the base of the fountain reads, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 1:8) In blessing the fountain, Father Alfred Amos prayed, “As, Jesus has invited us, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink’” (John 7:37).
Nancy Hollingsworth, president and CEO of Saint Agnes Medical Center, spoke to the fountain’s refreshing, life-giving water as the perfect symbol of the sisters’ 128 years of life-giving service to the area. The sisters, she noted, focused on and emphasized the educational, health care, and pastoral needs of the people of Fresno throughout those years.
Indeed, from the 1893 opening of St. Augustine’s Academy, followed by St. Alphonsus School, St. John’s School, and the founding of Saint Agnes Hospital in 1929, the sisters networked closely with the laity and communities of various cultures and religions. Together they found ways to bring healing and hope to the people of Fresno. Examples of this collaboration abound in the written history of the sisters’.
New programs grew out of the sister’s initial ministry commitments, and they often served as the directors. For example, Saint Agnes Hospital initiated hospice services, an adult day care center, Holy Cross Health Clinic, home health care services and the Holy Cross Center for Women, along with additional programs that developed over the years under the guidance of Holy Cross Sisters Mary Clennon and M. Francis Christine (Alvarez).
Similarly, the Holy Cross sisters also sponsored projects in education and pastoral outreach. In these ministries—that include teaching with the Brothers of the Christian Schools in San Joaquin Memorial High School and, more recently, Holy Cross Sister Joanne Bauer’s leadership in family life and campus ministry programs—the sisters collaborated with other religious congregations serving the Diocese of Fresno. More than 250 sisters have served in Fresno’s semi-desert climate, where the legacy of the Congregation is a wellspring that continues. In their remarks at the dedication and blessing, Holy Cross Sisters M. Emily (Demuth)—who served in several capacities at Saint Agnes, including 20 years as chaplain—and Francis Christine extended the invitation to carry on the mission: “Today as we bless this healing fountain, we invite all, as Jesus did, to ‘Come to the water.’”