CHICAGO — The nation’s largest nonprofit health care provider has extended its reach into the Chicago-area market with the acquisition of a suburban hospital chain.

St. Louis-based Ascension Health announced Wednesday it has closed a deal to merge with Alexian Brothers Health System, located outside Chicago in Arlington Heights, Ill. The merger will become official Sunday.

The announcement comes the same week that another large Catholic health care system, Trinity Health, advanced its deal to acquire Chicago’s Mercy Health System.

Ascension and Alexian first announced in April a letter of intent to merge, and signed a definitive agreement in September. The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approved the agreement in early December and it was signed last week. Terms of the deal are confidential.

It is Ascension’s first merger since it created a separate unit devoted entirely to acquisitions earlier this year, according to a hospital analyst.

The Alexian Brothers system, founded in 1866, operates two Chicago-area hospitals and senior-living and other health care facilities in Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin that together generate $1 billion in annual revenue. It has about $450 million of debt rated in the single-A category.

Ascension is both the nation’s largest nonprofit and its largest Catholic health care system. It operates in 20 states and the District of Columbia and runs 70 hospitals. The system generates $15 billion in annual revenue, has more than $4 billion of outstanding debt that carries high double-A ratings, and is known for its sophisticated debt management.

“Our ministries have complementary areas of expertise and share a commitment to Catholic health care and the mission of serving all, with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable,” Ascension president Anthony Tersigni said in a statement.

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