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Sisters of the Holy Cross

Here in Fresno, the legacy of the Sisters of the Holy Cross began in 1894, with the opening of a boarding and day school for girls. In 1929, at the request of the local bishop, eight Holy Cross Sisters established the original Saint Agnes Hospital on Fruit and Floradora avenues in downtown Fresno. More than 80 years later, the legacy of the Sisters of the Holy Cross is still very much alive, as evidenced by the four sisters presently serving at Saint Agnes Medical Center. 

(l-r) Sister Emily Demuth, CSC;
Sister Joan Allem, CSC;
Sister Francis Christine Alvarez, CSC;
Sister Mary Clennon, CSC

Sister Joan Allem, CSC
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the oldest of seven children, Sister Joan took notice of her mother's giving spirit. Inspired by her mother and with the encouragement of others, Sister Joan decided at a young age that she wanted to pursue a life of mission work. Over the years, she's served in a number of educator and administrator roles in schools throughout California and Utah. After making the decision to transition into health care, Sister Joan came to Saint Agnes in 2001. She currently works at the West Wing Information Desk.

Sister Francis Christine Alvarez, CSC
She was waiting with her mother at a bus stop on Fresno Street at age 3 when a nun walked by wearing a beautiful silver heart around her neck, the emblem of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Seeing how much she admired the necklace, the Sister smiled at her, saying "Someday, you will have your very own." Perhaps it was at that moment, Sister Francis explains, that God implanted in her the desire to become a Sister. More than a decade later, after graduating from San Joaquin Memorial High School at age 16, she left her mother, father and six siblings to join the Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Cross. Sister Francis spent the majority of her career working as a teacher and school administrator in Idaho, Utah, Arizona and northern and southern California. Since 1992, Sister Francis has run The Gathering Place, a free daycare facility at the Holy Cross Center for Women in downtown Fresno (sponsored by Saint Agnes Medical Center).

Sister Mary Clennon, CSC
Sister Mary knew at an early age that she wanted to live her life in service to others. Following in the footsteps of her older sister, she left her Northern Illinois home in 1954 to join the convent. Sister Mary's career at Saint Agnes began in the early '70s, working first as a nurse clinical specialist and then as Director of Home Health. In 1979, she joined the Catholic Relief Services to care for Cambodian refugees in Thailand. Sister Mary eventually returned to healthcare administration as Director of Nursing for a long-term care facility in Louisiana. It was here that she got the call from Sister Ruth Marie Nickerson, asking her to come back to Fresno to oversee Holy Cross Clinic at Poverello. She happily accepted and one year later also took on responsibility for Holy Cross Center for Women.

Sister Emily Demuth, CSC
A first grade teacher inspired Sister Emily to become a Religious, to give her life to serving others, particularly the suffering. Sister Emily joined the Sisters of the Holy Cross because of Founder Basil Anthony Moreau's charisma: to respond to the signs of the times, to show everyone the Hospitality of Christ, and to always be aware that "through the cross is hope." Sister Emily sees this thread woven into her ministry at Saint Agnes. From 1966-78, she served as staff nurse, and later became a clinical specialist. She helped implement the Code Blue concept and organize the first Critical Care Unit, Respiratory Unit and Pastoral Care Department. She left Saint Agnes in 1978 to pursue a master's degree in pastoral ministry and became a certified chaplain, a way for her to work with the critically ill and dying patients. In 2001 Sister Emily returned to Saint Agnes where she presently serves as a chaplain in the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit and Transitional Care Units. 

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Saint Agnes Medical Center | 1303 E. Herndon Ave. Fresno, CA 93720 | 559-450-3000