St. Barnabas Celebrates Visionary Founder

With a history dating back 113 years, St. Barnabas Health System takes time to remember its selfless and visionary founder, Gouverneur Provoost Hance, who would have celebrated his 132nd birthday on March 28, 2013. Each year the Hance Award, St. Barnabas’ highest honor, is presented to a person of national acclaim who exemplifies Hance’s ideals of benevolence, patriotism and service to others. As the first United States Secretary of Homeland Security, 43rd Pennsylvania Governor and a Vietnam veteran, the Honorable Thomas J. Ridge will share his firsthand accounts of the heroism surrounding the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and his perspective of America’s undeniable resilience as the featured speaker and Hance Award recipient during St. Barnabas Charities Founder’s Day celebration on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

From an early age Hance knew he “wanted to do something for God.” The New Jersey native, born in 1871, spent his early life praying and volunteering at rescue missions. His compassion for others prompted him to join the Church Amy in 1897, an organization similar to the Salvation Army, which led him to relocate to Pittsburgh. There, Hance discovered his life’s mission while reading the book “Have Faith in God,” which describes a doctor’s accounts of establishing a home in Boston for women and children suffering from Tuberculosis. Hance realized he wanted to do something along the same lines and in 1900 opened the St. Barnabas Free Home for convalescent men and boys in downtown Pittsburgh. With three rooms and no more than four beds, a table and some chairs the groundwork was laid for the future multimillion dollar health care system.

During these early years Hance began his Brotherhood with the Episcopal Church gaining the title of “Brother Founder.”  Even with Hance’s extremely devout lifestyle St. Barnabas was open to any sick and destitute man regardless of his beliefs or backgrounds and it the care was completely free. To gain the necessary supplies for providing free care Hance begged for food, clothing and volunteers. “Faith and Work” magazine, which is still in print today, was established in 1903 to report “the news and needs” of St. Barnabas. When all else failed Hance turned to prayer. Combined, these methods led to extraordinary results. Quickly the St. Barnabas Free Home outgrew the small space and throughout the next two decades it moved locations more than a half dozen times, often doubling in capacity with each move.

Hance was appointed manager of the St. Barnabas Free Home for life in 1908, the same year St. Barnabas was incorporated with a board of trustee comprised of Pittsburgh businessmen. With the purchase of 31 acres of land in Gibsonia, St. Barnabas relocated one final time to its current location. The newly constructed three-story brick structure, now known as St. Barnabas Nursing Home, officially opened on June 11, 1919 with a capacity to house 100 men. Throughout the years Hance continued to help St. Barnabas thrive at its permanent location. After a lifetime of service Hance passed away at the age of 82 in 1954.

Among the past Hance Award recipients are entertainer Debbie Reynolds, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, first lady Barbara Bush, astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin and President Gerald Ford. Festivities for St. Barnabas Charities’ Founder’s Day will begin Thursday, May 2 with a 10 a.m. Welcoming Ceremony at St. Barnabas Nursing Home, 5827 Meridian Road. Ridge will be greeted by William V. Day, president of St. Barnabas Health System, who will present him with a key to the St. Barnabas campus followed by a tour. During the ceremony the a local high school student chosen through the St. Barnabas Charities Founder’s Day Essay Contest will read his or her winning essay on the topic of Homeland Security and Veterans to Ridge and an audience of United States Veterans living at St. Barnabas’ retirement communities, living assistance and nursing facilities.

That evening, Ridge will be the featured speaker at a fundraising dinner at the Marriott Pittsburgh North in Cranberry Twp.  The evening begins with a cocktail reception and silent auction at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 724-443-0700 ext. 5258 or by visiting  Proceeds benefit the St. Barnabas Free Care Fund, which in 2012 alone provided more than $4.5 million in free care to poor and low-income patients at St. Barnabas Nursing Home, Valencia Woods at St. Barnabas and The Arbors at St. Barnabas.

St. Barnabas Health System is the largest health care concern of its kind in Pennsylvania and offers service apart from the ordinary in a faith-based, non-denominational setting.  Tracing its heritage back to 1900, the system serves approximately 900 inpatients and residents, plus 43,500 outpatients and home care clients.  The health system is composed of the

St. Barnabas Communities, a continuing care retirement community including The Village at St. Barnabas, The Washington Place at St. Barnabas, The Woodlands at St. Barnabas and White Tail Ridge; St. Barnabas Clinical Services, including St. Barnabas Nursing Home, St. Barnabas Medical Center, Valencia Woods at St. Barnabas and The Arbors at St. Barnabas; and St. Barnabas Charities, the fund-raising arm, which includes the Kean Theatre and Rudolph Auto Repair.


  1. Marie Indovina Funaro

    My father was born 1901 to Maria Tantilla, who died after giving birth to him. My father tried in vain to find anything about her. He could not even find her grave. My father was born in Pittsburgh. His name was James Vincent Indovina. His father took him back to Scically to be raised by relatives. He returned to Pittsburgh at age 13. He lived with his father Philip in the Hill District with other immigrant men and worked for the railroad and steel mill. I found among his possession an old black pouch containing a silver cross with the words on back “St Barnabas Free Home”. I wonder if he was born there, if his mother was a client, or if my father had used your services. Thank you for any information.

  2. Robert Warrender

    I am in possession of the original gong that was used as the dinner bell at the Saint Barnabas home on Route 5 along Lake Erie. I was raised Episcopalian St.Christopher’s Hermitage PA. After a merger with a Farrell PA Episcopal Church the name was changed to the Church of the Redeemer. Making a long story short the gong that I’m referring to ended up in the basement of the Redeemer and ended up into my father’s hands cherished it in this home for a number of years. My father passed in 2008 Charles warrender of 665 North Darby Road Hermitage PA. I cherish it as well I would like to know the history of the gong its origination where it was manufactured and how it came to the Barnabas home. An old friend of mine dr. wheeler G Clements Said when he was a boy he used to bring the gong the call the monks for breakfast lunch and supper. Dr. Clements is since past And if anybody has any history on this phone I would greatly appreciate it.

  3. Tracy Carpenter

    I have just found the death certificate for my great great grandfather, one Joseph Smith Dawson, which showed he died at the St. Barnabas Free Home in 1913. The man who gave the information for his death certificate was Mr. Hanse himself. Clearly he was caring for him at the time of his death by stroke in 1913. I am deeply moved to have learned this.

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