In the summer of 1947, three FMDM Sisters left England for China. They had been commissioned to work with the Irish Friars Minor in their Franciscan Missionary outreach. However, with the advancement of the Communist troops in China, the Sisters were ordered to abandon their mission and go to Hong Kong instead. At that time they heard that Bishop Olçomendy of Malacca was looking for Sisters to care for tuberculosis patients in Singapore.
On 7 March 1949, Sister Angela McBrien arrived in Singapore from Hong Kong, followed by Sisters Mary Camillus Walsh and Mary Baptista Hennessy. They took over the tuberculosis wards at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which eventually became known as Mandalay Road Hospital. They also served the “Lepers Camp”, a community of lepers housed in Trafalgar Home at Woodbridge. Both centres were managed as self-contained units as isolation was deemed the best treatment for the contagious disease at that time.
In 1952, the Sisters were given an opportunity to start a private hospital to bring nursing care and services to the population. Thus the FMDM Sisters began canvassing for donations. In addition to pooling their savings and salaries, many generous individuals and companies responded to the call to donate.
On 4 March 1961, the hospital was officially opened with 60 beds.
The Sisters were professionally trained as nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, radiographers, laboratory technicians and other support services and staffed the hospital.
The hospital takes its name from La Verna, a mountain in Italy, where St Francis of Assisi was believed to have received the Stigmata (an imprint of the five wounds of Christ). He led a life of radical simplicity and joy, sharing God’s love for all people and all creation by loving and honouring each and every person he met, from lepers to sultans and popes to the ordinary townspeople.
Mount Alvernia Hospital today reflects the wisdom and inspiration of our founding FMDM Sisters and those who contributed to our organisation. The hospital remains wholly owned by the FMDM congregation. The leadership team in the United Kingdom ensures that our hospital is compliant with governance guidelines and exercises responsible stewardship.