Compassionate saint inspired St. Elizabeth Health Care

The legacy of St. Elizabeth continues not only on her anniversary, but every day in each community where Saint Elizabeth Health Care serves
By Linda Crane and Stephen Weir

A 13th century saint, recognized for her humanity and selflessness, is at the very heart of today's Saint Elizabeth Health Care.  Named after St. Elizabeth of Hungary who died on November 17, 1231, the innovative, not-for-profit, charitable organization continues to recognize the anniversary of its namesake by ensuring that the compassion and care she was known for continues in the homes and communities where its health care professionals serve.

The Story of Saint Elizabeth

Born in 1207, Elizabeth of Hungary was the daughter of Andrew II, King of Hungary.  After the deaths of her mother and her betrothed, Elizabeth turned her back on the opulence of the court at her family's castle in Warburg, in the state of Thuringia (Germany)- choosing instead a pious, selfless and austere life.  Ostracized by the court for refusing her social status, she stood up to her detractors and quietly devoted her life to helping the poor and the sick.

Like celebrities Angelina Jolie, Bono, Matt Damon, George Clooney and others who have used their influential status to try to change the world for the sick or downtrodden --  Elizabeth of Hungary was a celebrity in her time, turning her compassion into action.  Following the death of her husband, King Ludwig IV, she joined the Third Order of Franciscans and had a 28-bed hospital[i] built so she could personally tend to the sick. Her health care concept was centuries ahead of its time.

According to legend, one day Elizabeth was returning home from administering to the poor with a bundle of leftover loaves of bread under her cloak when she encountered her husband. He asked her what she was carrying and when she opened her cloak, the loaves of bread had been transformed into masses of red roses.  The incident is known as one of several instances of the "Miracle of the Roses", and is portrayed in many religious relics and icons.  For centuries people have made pilgrimages to the site of her home in Thuringia.  One of the most famous statues of her is in front of a Budapest church dedicated to St. Elizabeth at Roses' Square (Rózsák tere).

Noreen Taylor, Chairman of the Board of Saint Elizabeth Health Care has visited Thuringia and explains, "Seeing the ruins of the hospital St. Elizabeth built, and recognizing what an amazing feat it was at the time to actually build a special place devoted to health care was an awakening for me.  St. Elizabeth exuded a rare sense of purpose and suffered for it.  She had an astonishing compassion for those not as fortunate as her and she acted with courage because she knew it was the right thing to do. This is the lesson we all can take from St. Elizabeth. "

“I am proud of how St. Elizabeth’s legend has always anchored our organization,” says Shirlee Sharkey, President and CEO of Saint Elizabeth. “We have never lost sight of her as a guide to the care we provide and to how the organization evolves as a social enterprise.  At her core, St. Elizabeth respected all people, and this is central to our modern day vision to honor the human face of health care.”

The legacy of St. Elizabeth continues not only on her anniversary, but every day in each community where Saint Elizabeth Health Care serves. 

About Saint Elizabeth Health Care

Saint Elizabeth Health Care has been a trusted name in Canadian health care for more than a century and is a leader in responding to client, family and system needs.  The award-winning not-for-profit and charitable organization is recognized for its track record of social innovation and breakthrough clinical practices.  Their team of more than 6,500 nurses, rehab therapists, personal support workers and crisis intervention staff deliver over five million health care visits annually.

For more information about Saint Elizabeth Health Care visit:


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