It is All Saints Day, 1944, the closing months of World War II, the Bishop of Leavenworth, Bishop Paul C Schulte proclaims, “Our first project is to replace our 70 year old orphanage and our second project must be an Old Folks home.”
Thus began a building program requiring contributions, “War Bonds will be acceptable,” totaling “$500,000.”
The people’s inspiring support for this campaign brought it to fruition in less than 120 days! On February 23, 1945 Bishop Shulte announced the purchase of the existing “Grandview Sanitarium” at 26th and Ridge in Kansas City, Kansas.
Installed as its first Superior, Sister Mary Hypatia Coughlin of the Sisters of Charity announced that Sisters Mary Jane Wilson, Mary Adolph Schuele and Ann Vincent Roth would support her in opening and acheiving the Homes Mission.
With 45 rooms, newly staffed, renovated and christened “Mount St. Joseph” its first patient was accepted on July 1, 1946. With over 300 diocesan faithful having a need for the facility a waiting list was initiated just days later.
Mount St. Joseph’s Mission, in the words of Bishop Schulte, was to provide, “a home for the aged where those with meager resources might spend their declining days in frugal comfort under religious auspices.
Shortly after opening, Sister Mary Hypatia Coughlin’s prayers were answered when Mr. George Bennett of Kansas City, Kansas funded an elevator and its installation. This gift allowed patients to freely move about within the entire 3-story structure.
Serving approximately 45 guests with a Library, television, game rooms and music, Mount St. Joseph’s served the people of the Kansas City in Kansas Diocese until July 1, 1977. During this time a Grotto similar to Lourdes, a Little Flower Shrine and a Shrine to Our Lady of Fatima were also consecrated. In moderate weather guests could leisurely stroll the cool and treed grounds.
On opening, guests were charged no more than $100.00 per month. By 1967 this had increased to $270.00 per month, by 1971 $360.00 per month. A real bargain in those days.
On July 1, 1954, a “First” occurred. The first chapter of Gray ladies of The American Red Cross to ever service a home for the aged began assisting at Mount St. Joseph.
In March 1977 the Sisters of Charity announced that they would no longer serve at Mount St. Joseph. Catholic Housing Service, Inc. assumed their responsibility and at the same time announced that the 26th and Ridge location of Mount St. Joseph would be closed and reopened at 759 Vermont in the former St. Margaret’s Hospital.
On July 1, 1977, 31 years after Mount St. Joseph’s accepted its first guest, it moved its current residents to their new facility and began accepting additional patients for its newly renovated 205 rooms, now known as the, “St. Joseph Care Center.”
In the ensuing years, St. Joseph Care Center continued to serve the needs of an inner-city people, that not only had a need for their elderly but also a need for local jobs. By 1994 the St. Joseph Care Center was the largest not-for-profit nursing facility in the state of Kansas.
In its first 50 years, St. Joseph Care Center was fulfilling Pope John Paul II’s proclamation, “When the sick, the aged or the dying are abandoned in loneliness, we will stand up and proclaim that they are worthy of love, care and respect.”
This love, care and respect was offered and rendered without regard to creed, color or ability to pay.
So in 1995 St. Joseph Care Center paused for a few hours to be thankful and to celebrate 50 years of outstanding service to the community. As the old saying goes, “success is in doing the little things and doing them extremely well.” Three Sisters of Charity, which had served the Center with distinction by doing the little things extremely well, were honored during the 50th anniversary celebration.
Sister Mary Adolph Schuele, a registered Nurse began her service when the care center opened in 1945. Sister Mary Adolph enthusiastically assumed responsibility for mending and caring for clothing; however, in reality she did it all!
Sister Mary Brost, for 39 years an educator, filled the position of Pastoral Care Leader. Her activities were directed to residents’ care and needs. She truly knew all the residents and their special needs.
When you called St. Joseph Care Center, Sister Mary Kenneth Messina, answered the phone. Sister Mary Kenneth was the VOICE, the FACE and the SPARKLE of St. Joseph Care Center.
These three Sisters through their dedicated service stood up and confirmed their conviction that the elderly are “worthy of love, care and respect.”
But this is not the end of the story. To quote Alfred Lord Tennyson:
“The Old Order Changeth, yielding place to new
And God fulfills Himself in many ways”
1998 brought change to St. Joseph Care Center. Confronted with extensive building renovations due to age and physical constraints, St. Joseph Care Center moved to Olathe Kansas in May of 1998. This move, to avoid confusion with an existing St. Joseph facility, brought with it a new name, “Villa St. Francis.”
The then Mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, whose mother was in residence, expressed sadness that the center was moving and at the same time an understanding that excellent care for the residents is St. Joseph’s Care Center primary mission.
Today, Villa St. Francis, continues the tradition of quality care to the citizens of Northeast Kansas without regard to race, creed or ability to pay. With a lengthy lease and an option to purchase the property, the many people of Villa St. Francis are eagerly planning the next 60 years.
In the words of Martin Luther King, “I have a dream.” Or to quote Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Villa St. Francis has that dream and that vision of Christ-Like love, care and respect for the elderly!
With measured input from residents, employees, and management, a Visionary Board and the love of our Savior, “The Villa” will face the next 60 years with strength in character and dedication to the physical and spiritual care of its’ residents.