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St. Joseph Nursing Home celebrates 50 years

LACON — St. Joseph Nursing Home of Lacon is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014. To celebrate this special occasion, various events will be held throughout the year. The home invites the public to celebrate with them. Watch for time and date of the special events planned. A 50-year memory book with stories and photos will be available later in the year. Following is the first in a series of articles on the history of the nursing home.

Congregation of the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi

St. Joseph Nursing Home was the first Roman Catholic nursing home in Central Illinois and is currently the only one in the Peoria Diocese. In the early 1960s, the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi, following their charism and mission to care for the sick, poor and abandoned, wanted to establish a service project in the Lacon area within the Peoria Diocese. The Sisters’ congregation and mission began in Hungary before expanding to the United States.

The congregation of the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi was founded by Mother Anna Brunner in 1894 in Budapest, Hungary. Its members gave public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and bound themselves to imitate Christ by St. Francis’ rule based on a loving union with God, poverty and humility and to the Constitutions approved by the Holy See. The particular aim is the service of Christ in His poor, sick and abandoned brothers and sisters in hospitals, nursing homes, social work and youth apostolate.

During World War II, the Sisters worked in hospitals. Father Kassovic in LaSalle sent a letter to the Provincial Superior in Slovakia asking for 25 sisters to come to the United States, as soon as possible. The first group of Sisters landed in New York on Sept. 16, 1946, and their journey ended in the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Bede in Peru. The second group of Sisters arrived in New York on Oct. 1, 1946.

The Benedictine St. Bede Abbey and Academy became the Sisters’ workplace and home. They took care of 400 students and 50 friars and strived to learn English, culture and customs of the new country. By letter on Oct. 25, 1946, Mother Bernadett Wagner officially announced to Bishop Joseph Schlarman the establishment “of the new house of the Congregation in the territory of the Diocese of Peoria,” and Bishop Schlarman accepted and supported them.

After the Sisters moved to Lacon, there were plans to build a hospital, but they found out the more urgent need was to provide care for the elderly and poor. A decision was made to build a nursing home.

The blueprint for the nursing home was completed and construction was ready to begin. However, there was a major problem on how and where to get the necessary finances needed for the construction. The Sisters approached Slovak parishes in Chicago asking the parish priests to donate their Sunday collections. In Lacon, the Convent grounds were used for annual pilgrimages to Our Lady of Fatima Statue every third Sunday in July. Ladies from the different parishes organized the buses to come. They brought the entire meal to sell plates to the pilgrims, and the proceeds were donated for a nursing home building.

The grotto for the Our Lady of Fatima pilgrim statue was labored by O.D. Kanive, Donald Breen, William Laernard, Kenneth Koch, James Rock and Mrs. William Frank and others gave their time and funds to build the grotto. The owners of the local businesses in the city of Lacon helped to support the construction of a nursing home by their donations.

Source: Information in the article chronicled by Greg Stanmar, 2013.

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