Camillians in the USA

History of the Camillians in the USA (pdf)

In September of 1919, the Superior of the German Province of The Order of St. Camillus received a letter from the Rev. James Durward of the diocese of St. Paul, Minnesota. Father Durward offered to donate to The Order a beautiful spot of scenic splendor called Durward’s Glen, near Baraboo, Wisconsin. With the offer came the condition that a hospital be built on the site.

Br. Hohn, Br. Knopps, Fr. Mansfeld, Fr. Kramer, Fr. Langenkamp

Cam2The German Province sent Father Michael Mueller to America in the Fall of 1921 to look into the matter.

If God’s Province had not taken things in hand, there may still be no Camillian facility in the United States. For on the voyage to America, Father Michael Mueller met the Most Rev. Sebastian Messmer Archbishop of Milwaukee, who invited Fr. Mueller to visit Milwaukee if the project in Durward’s Glen proved to be impractical.

Impractical it was. Fr. Mueller found the Durward’s Glen site to be too remote for a hospital, and he instead returned to Milwaukee where he accepted the pastorate of Fussville temporarily owing to the illness of the pastor.

It was not parish work for which the Camillian had come to America, but you cannot go to a foreign country on Monday and build a hospital on Tuesday — not even in America.

First Community House in Milwaukee

Cam1On February 12, 1923, however, Fr. Mueller initiated his plan by purchasing a house on the south side of Milwaukee on 21st Avenue. He had only $850 to his name and Miss Merkalback was asking $8,000 for the house.

But God does seem to provide. City clergy, religious institutions and Catholic lay people came to the rescue, and Fr. Mueller was able to purchase the house for use as a monastery. He then purchased a second adjacent house which he and other German Camillians opened as a small hospital for the old and incurable.

The early community was beset with financial problems. One day after having paid the interest and other urgent bills, the treasury was exhausted to the extent that not one penny remained. In the afternoon, a lady brought twenty-five dollars, the proceeds of a card party, and the house resounded with shouts of joy as if they had inherited a million.

The request for rooms in the small hospital became so numerous that the community decided to build a new and more modern hospital. In 1925, they purchased some seven acres of land in the suburb of Wauwatosa.

L-R: Fr. Kramer, Fr. Mansfeld, Fr. Poetter, Layman, Br. Dietenberger, Mr. Bruce, Br. Knopps

Cam3On June 20, 1931 ground was broken; on August 16, the cornerstone was laid; and on May 29, 1932 Archbishop Samuel Stritch dedicated the new hospital, which offered accommodations to sixty-five patients, irrespective of race, color or creed.

The German founders of the American Community realized that in order to survive and flourish in America, they would have to recruit and train native Americans to take over and continue the work the German Camillians had begun. This would mean establishing and operating an American novitiate.

The search for a site on which to build the Novitiate brought them back to Durward’s Glen and to Mary Thekla, Fr. James Durward’s only sister. In the years after Fr. Mueller’s first visit, many different religious communities had approached Mary and offered to buy the Glen, but the wishes her parents had expressed regarding the donation of the property to an Order involved with the care of the sick remained sacred to her.

Mary donated the entire estate to the Camillians. The Novitiate was opened in 1935 and received its first American novices.

1st Row L-R: Fr. Reintges, Br. McAllister, McCann, Fr. Mansfeld, Br. Garrity, Br. Vogel, Br. Kulas, Fr. Kramer; 2nd Row L-R: Fr. Gilles, Fr. Mingen, Fr. Hipper (Diocesan), Fr. Poetter, Fr. Konieczny

Cam4In 1936 the Camillians of the United States became independent from their Mother Province in Germany and formed the North American Commissariate of the Order. Rev. Charles Mansfeld, one of the original German Camillians to come to America to lead the construction of the hospital, became the Commissary Provincial and Superior at the Glen.

In 1940, a new wing was added to the hospital in Milwaukee, and the number of rooms increased to 84.

By 1941, ten American Brothers had taken their vows and all the nursing in the hospital was carried out by Brothers of the Order. Still, the major concern of the American community in 1942 was attracting vocations and training men to carry out the Camillian ministry.

There was a need for a facility in which Americans could be trained for the ordained ministry, so the Order acquired property comprising 64 acres of land with 1025 feet of lake frontage just north of Racine, Wisconsin. This became the Immaculate Conception Scholasticate, a place where men would study and train to become Camillian priests.

On April 28, 1946, the North American Province of the Order of the Servants of the Sick was established and Fr. Charles Mansfeld was elected the first Provincial Superior.

Rev. Charles Mansfeld, O.S. Cam.

Cam5The following May, Fr. Mansfeld was elected General Superior of the Order in the world. He was succeeded as Provincial by the Rev. Matthias Gilles.

Federal and state nursing regulations were becoming more strict as the government began to subsidize the care of the needy. It was now necessary for the nursing Brothers to become certified as either licensed practical nurses or registered nurses. Not an easy task because, in 1947, many of the training programs excluded male students.

In 1948, the General Consulta in Rome granted permission to the North American Province to establish an official house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which the Brothers could be properly trained as nurses in programs open to men. This house became known as the House of St. Camillus, a hospital for the aged, the chronically ill and incurable.

L-R: Fr. Charles Mansfeld, Provincial 1946-1947; Fr. Matthias Gilles, Provincial 1947-1956 & 1962-1965

Cam6The late 1950s saw Fr. John Mingen as Provincial, and the early 1960s saw additions to the novitiate, the completion of a new monastery in Milwaukee, and the third addition to the hospital under the guidance of Fr. Gilles who was both administrator of St. Camillus and the Provincial.

House of St. Camillus in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cam7The property in Cambridge was sold in 1962 when the community refocused and built a hospital in Whitinsville, Massachusetts. The formation of candidates that formerly took place in Cambridge and Racine was also moved at this time to Whitinsville, Massachusetts.

Fr. Gilles was followed in office in 1965 by the first American-born Provincial Fr. Richard Korzinek, who served three terms.

In 1974, Fr. Richard O’Donnell, assumed the leadership of the Province for three years. It was during this period of continued renovation of St. Camillus in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin that the Associate Program for newly admitted candidates to the Order was strengthened with admissions of delayed vocations.

In 1977, Fr. Richard Korzinek again assumed the position of Provincial and continued the work of his predecessor in renovating St. Camillus in Wauwatosa (a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin), which was begun by Fr. Gilles as administrator of St. Camillus.

In 1980, Fr. Robert Heath was appointed Provincial. It was during his second term that several building projects began to be developed, namely, Camillus Court, an inter-mediate care facility for the elderly and San Camillo, a retirement facility for the independent elderly, with 200 apartments adjacent to the existing St. Camillus Health Center in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

St. Camillus Court (left) and St. Camillus Health Center (right) 1967

Cam8In 1985 Durward’s Glen Retreat, Inc. came into existence through the efforts of a group of dedicated Christian lay people. This group offered to turn the Glen into a center for growth and healing based on physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. The Order accepted the offer and moved the novitiate to Milwaukee. In 1986, Fr. Richard O’Donnell returned for a second term as Provincial.

In 1988, the hospital in Whitinsville was converted from a 68-bed chronic disease hospital into a nursing home with permission to expand to 123 beds.

Approval was given by the Provincial Chapter and General Consulta in 1988 to build a new Health Center adjacent to the present one in Wauwatosa, with the old building being converted into apartments or some other suitable use. A new residence for the religious community was completed in 1989, and the remainder of the former community house was converted into additional rooms for Camillus Court, a community based retirement facility for the elderly.

Provincial Chapter, late 1980s

Cam9In 1991, Phase II of San Camillo opened with 97 additional apartments and a Chapel. A 188 bed nursing home opened in 1992.

In 1993, the old Health Center converted to 69 Assisted Living Apartments which was known as Camillus Court East. Also, the Jesuit Community leased the 4th floor of Court East. The Archdiocese leased 12 apartments on the 3rd floor of Court East. The Formation Community was also moved from Wauwatosa to 3661 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in St. Francis, Wisconsin.

In 1995, 24 beds were purchased from a Nursing Home in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Additionally, a 20 bed Subacute Unit opened on 5NW of Froedtert Memorial Hospital.

Fr. Richard O’Donnell, Provincial of the North American Province, is elected Vicar General of the Order in 1995.

A dedication of a new building at St. Camillus Health Center in Whitinsville, MA. was held in 1995.

In 1997, the Subacute Unit needed to close due to reimbursement changes. Also, the Pharmacy, located on the first floor of Court East, was sold in order to renovate the area for an AIDS wing. The Pewaukee lake property was also sold for this purpose. Later that year, the AIDS Wing, a 9 Bed Unit, was opened. Additional property was purchased on 4255 West 27th Street for AIDS housing.

15 acres in Whitinsville, Massachusetts was sold to Northbridge Development Corporation in 1999.

In 2000, 37 acres at Durward’s Glen was sold to Donald and Debrah Lawyer. The AIDS program, unfortunately, had to close due to financial difficulties. Additionally, the property on 4255 West 27th Street was sold.

In 2001, the Community House was leased to Kathy’s House Inc., a hospital hospitality nonprofit agency.

In 2002, ownership of the Whitinsville properties, including the Health Center and Turci Manor, were transferred to a local corporation in Massachusetts.

In 2004, the New Site at Durward’s Glen was sold to Cindy and David Nelson. Ground was also broken at St. Camillus in Wauwatosa for 75 additional Assisted Living apartments and the renovation to downsize the Nursing Home to 67 beds. The foundation of the Lay Camillian Family with Very Rev. Frank Monks, Superior General, and Fr. Richard O’Donnell, Provincial also took place at this time.

In 2005, the Formation/Provincial House moved from Kinnickinnick Ave. to South 10th Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 2006, the renovation of the Health Center and the addition of new Assisted Living Suites was completed.

In 2007, Durward’s Glen in Baraboo, Wisconsin is sold. A blessing of a new geriatric clinic run by the Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group is held in 2008.

In 2009, the St. Camillus Home Hospice is established. Additionally, 2009 saw the beginning of St. Camillus at Home services.

In 2010, the North American Province became known as the USA Delegation. The decree of suppression of the North America Province became official on May 1st, 2010 — Then the USA Delegation was held for one year under the jurisdiction of the General and the Consulters.

In 2011: On July 14, 2011 San Camillo (Phase I) Independent Living at St. Camillus Campus celebrate 25th anniversary of foundation.

In 2012: USA Delegation Officially became a Delegation of the Brazilian Province on April 24, 2011.

For a printable History of the USA Delegation, view this PDF.