Spiritual Reflections

Saint Joseph’s Center: Rooted in the core values of care, concern, compassion and commitment

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

Saint Joseph’s is living proof that there is truth to this famous quote by Margaret Mead. On November 20, 1888, a small group of women formed the Saint Joseph’s Society. The group was initially convened by Mother M. Francis Henry, IHM, with concern for the needs of children whose parents were unable to care for them adequately. 

As this volunteer group established private homes to provide nurturing care for local children, the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary received approval from Bishop William O’Hara to undertake this ministry. Decades later, the relationship between the IHM Congregation with the ministry of Saint Joseph’s would be understood as sponsorship. Uniquely, Saint Joseph’s was developed by volunteers in 1888 and became a formal IHM ministry in 1890. 

In its earliest years Saint Joseph’s services included small residences for children, a downtown day care for the children of working mothers, an orphanage and adoption services. In the 1950s, the Commonwealth of PA requested that Saint Joseph’s provide nursing care in a residential setting for children born with intellectual disabilities. Around this same time, foster care was replacing the traditional orphanage for the care of children without parents. 

Today, the services provided by Saint Joseph’s Center are influenced by its history and growth. Maternity and Family Services assists mothers in residential settings with an emphasis on parenting, housing and employment. Adoption services are an extraordinary expression of the mission as the parents and child are blessed to form a family. A Baby and Children’s pantry helps families to fulfill everyday needs with the generous support of the community. There is great joy in helping to create and sustain loving, nurturing families. 

Services for those with intellectual disabilities are varied just as the people supported are diverse. Depending on the individual’s needs, services might be provided occasionally such as Early Intervention, Outpatient Therapy, Community Support Services, or daily support like Adult Day Services and Trinity Child Care Services. Others might manage best with 24-hour residential services such as the Intermediate Care Facilities or Community Living. Operational support from other areas such as housekeeping, foundation, volunteers, laundry/central supply, finance, maintenance, pastoral care and IT fosters teamwork with a focus on the people supported. Services are developed with a desire to help each person reach for their God-given potential and enhance their abilities, so each will live the best life possible. 

It’s always an honor to speak or write about Saint Joseph’s. It’s also challenging to contain all that is part of this very special ministry marking 135 years since its foundation. Descriptions of the foundation often refer to the “humble beginnings,” but humility remains an important aspect of our story today.

The people supported are the center of why we exist and what we do. Each day, there are valuable life lessons to be learned about acceptance, perseverance, humility, joy and unconditional love. 

Changing with the times and responding to new needs have enabled the ministry to grow in meaningful ways. To balance change, there have been many constants associated with Saint Joseph’s evolution over 135 years. Saint Joseph has always been the patron of this ministry. Saint Joseph is an example of humility, courage, nurturance and unconditional love. Across the years, Saint Joseph’s has been blessed with the generous support of others as donors and volunteers. From door-to-door campaigns to initiate the building fund in 1893 to this summer’s lemonade stands, along with Auxiliary fundraising, individual bequests, and charitable giving, each gift affirms the important work of this mission. The dedication of professional, loving staff is a Saint Joseph’s hallmark and enables each person to be met with care, concern, compassion and commitment. 

The Auxiliary of Saint Joseph’s which traces its origins to 1888 engages hundreds of volunteers to increase awareness of services and raise funds throughout the year. Funds raised ensure the continuation of the maternity residential locations, program enhancements, facility renovation, equipment replacement and so much more. The impact of this dedicated group continues to inspire generosity and goodwill within the community. 

As the sponsor of Saint Joseph’s Center, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have cherished this ministry, fulfilling different roles and working in collaboration with so many to uphold the mission as a witness of God’s unconditional love for all. 

Reflecting the words of Margaret Mead—the impact made by this thoughtful, committed, group for the past 135 years, has enabled Saint Joseph’s Center to indeed change the world. 

Sister Maryalice serves as President and CEO of Saint Joseph’s Center in Scranton, PA.

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