CHICAGO — St. Louis-based Ascension Health Alliance has signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire Oklahoma-based Marian Health System, the parent of three regional not-for-profit health care organizations in the mid and central states.

Ascension, a Roman Catholic system that is the largest not-for-profit health care provider in the nation, said a final agreement could be reached late this year or early in 2013, following a due diligence period.

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