Collection: Mother Bernard Sheridan

ARTIST: Julie Lonneman


Mother Mary Bernard Sheridan was an Irish immigrant who joined the Sisters of St. Joseph in Eire Pennsylvania in 1877. After her profession, she taught school, cared for orphans, and received nurse’s training at St. Vincent Hospital. Mother Sheridan was the first formally trained nurse anesthesthetist in the United States. In 1885, she volunteered to serve in southeast Kansas, where her congregation staffed the parochial schools of the diocese of Wichita. There, under Mother Sheridan’s leadership, the Sisters became involved in healthcare. In 1903 she established Mt. Carmel Hospital in Pittsburg, Kansas, to serve impoverished immigrants who worked in the coal mines nearby. Her contributions in the field of healthcare continue to this day in the ministries of the Congregation of St. Joseph.

“Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the ways you can, and just as long as you can.”
—Mother Bernard Sheridan, CSJ

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While a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Erie congregation, Mother Bernard taught school, cared for orphans at the Erie motherhouse, and studied anesthesia at St. Vincent Hospital. In 1885, she volunteered to go to Kansas and in 1886 she joined the Concordia community and went on to become the first General Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita, Kan. The majority of early nurse-anesthetists were religious sisters recruited and trained by surgeons anxious to improve the survival rates of their patients.


Mother Bernard was a woman of faith: faith in God, faith in the cause to which she committed herself, faith in her little congregation and faith in herself. In many respects, she was always a pilgrim, always in search of an illusive place she could call home. In response to diocesan authorities, she had three homes in twelve years--Abilene, Parsons and St. Paul, Kansas--before coming to Wichita in 1900.


—Excerpts from “The Nation's First Formally Trained Nurse Anesthesthetist," Sisters of Saint Joseph.