LA CROSSE, Wis. ― The tradition of embedding crucifixes in the cement pillars of Mayo Clinic buildings is a little-known fact. Beginning in 1967 with the construction of the Alfred and Marian Hall buildings in Rochester, Minnesota, workers have respectfully placed crucifixes in the concrete pourings supporting new buildings.
Now that tradition continues in Southwest Wisconsin with the construction of the new hospital in La Crosse. During construction, several crucifixes have been placed in the concrete foundation of the building. These crucifixes are intended to symbolize faith and healing across all religions.
“While the crucifixes are encased in concrete and not visible, their presence symbolizes a trust placed in God,” says Sister Susan Ernster, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. “They are not meant to symbolize a particular religious tradition, but rather to recognize all faiths supporting efforts to heal the sick.”
“Including the crucifixes in the foundation of the new building is one of the many ways we recognize the diverse beliefs of our patients,” says Paul Mueller, M.D., regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System in Southwest Wisconsin. “While this gesture seems small, it inspires hope and nurtures the well-being of the whole person in mind, body and spirit.”
Building on a foundation of respect
In addition to recognizing faith and healing across all religions, placing crucifixes in the foundation of the building ensures the proper disposition of crucifixes once they are worn or damaged.
Traditionally, crucifixes were displayed in patient care rooms across Mayo Clinic to bring comfort and healing to patients. Over time, these crucifixes became damaged or worn and needed to be replaced. The proper disposal of blessed items presented a dilemma. What was to be done with these items?
After removal from patient rooms, the damaged and worn crosses were placed in a secure area to be stored until they could be properly disposed by burial. At the suggestion of Sister Mary Brigh in 1967, when the Alfred and Marian Hall buildings were being constructed, workers placed crucifixes in the concrete pourings that supported the buildings.
Since then, the tradition has continued in Rochester with construction of the Mary Brigh Building in 1980, the Generose Building in 1993, the Gonda Building in 2000, the Mary Brigh courtyard project and the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) and the new hospital that is being constructed in La Crosse.
The tradition also aligns with many of the Mayo Clinic values, including stewardship and respect.
“By reusing the crucifixes in this manner, we practice good stewardship of our material resources while respecting the proper disposition of religious items,” says Dr. Mueller. “Continuing this tradition in La Crosse is one of the many ways to demonstrate that we remain grounded in our Franciscan heritage and Mayo Clinic values as we look to the future.”
Construction is ongoing
Construction of the new Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in La Crosse remains on schedule. Concrete continues to be poured into the foundation with great success. The new hospital is expected to open in the fall of 2024. The new facility will include:
- A surgical and procedural floor adjacent to, and integrated with, the current operating rooms. This floor will house presurgical and postsurgical recovery rooms.
- Endoscopy suites.
- Cardiac catheterization labs and interventional radiology.
- Medical-surgical units.
- A flexible ICU and progressive care unit.
- A new Family Birth Center.
- Space for future growth.
The community can continue watching the progress of the construction by going to the La Crosse hospital construction web page on the Mayo Clinic Health System website and checking out the live webcam. Answers to frequently asked questions about the project are also posted on the web page.
About Mayo Clinic Health System
Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality physical and virtual health care close to home.
About Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse
In 2022, Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse is the only health care facility in Southwest Wisconsin that has received the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s 5-Star Quality Rating and Leapfrog Grade A for Safety. It was also named one of Newsweek’s Best Hospitals in the U.S. and high-performing in five medical conditions and specialties by U.S. News & World Report.
- Rick Thiesse, Mayo Clinic Health System Communications Department, 608-392-9435,
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