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The history of St. Joseph Home of Chicago is, in essence, the history of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago which was founded by Mother M, Theresa Dudzik, O.S.F., on December 8, 1894.

Mother M. Theresa, the former Josephine Dudzik, who emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1881, was truly a great herald of vision, courage, and profound dedication. She made her home in the celebrated St. Stanislaus Kostka parish on Chicago's densely-populated Near Northwest Side where she began her humanitarian service to the aged, crippled, and abandoned of the area. Moved by the plight of the distressed, she was inspired to befriend and shelter many of them in the small flat which she shared with her widowed mother at 11 Chapin Street near Noble Street.

In 1893, during the labor unrest and severe economic depression which added to the existing miseries already affecting the burgeoning city of Chicago, Josephine Dudzik turned with greater attention and devotion to the distressed of the St. Stanislaus Kostka district whose afflictions she yearned to relieve in a more practical manner. Aided by her loyal friend and associate, Rosalie Wisinski, (Mother M. Anna, O.S.F.), she urged her companions of the Third Order of St. Francis, a religious fraternity at St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, to join her in a common life of prayer, labor, and service. Although Josephine and her companions had no plans to establish a religious congregation, the Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR., the dynamic and gifted pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and Josephine's spiritual advisor, encouraged the young women to adopt the structure of a formal religious community to insure the permanence of heir initial zealous dedication. The women supported themselves and the aged and crippled whom they sheltered in Josephine's small flat by sewing at home, taking in washing, soliciting food and alms, and doing domestic work at the large St. Stanislaus Kostka rectory.

For the first two years of the small Community's existence, the Sisters and several aged and handicapped people continued to reside on Chapin Street. When the growing number of Sisters and their charges could no longer be properly accommodated, they moved to larger quarters at 1368 Ingraham Street, which is now called Evergreen Street. They occupied apartments on the first and second floors in the rear of the large, threestory, multi-family dwelling. The house, which is still standing, is located directly across the street from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. In 1897, aware of the dire need for even larger accommodations, Josephine DudA, now called Sister M. Theresa, initiated construction of a mediumsized, three-story, brick structure on Hamlin and Schubert avenues in a new district called Avondale. The Sisters named the institution St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled.

The cornerstone for St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled had been blessed in the middle of October by Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR., the infant Community's spiritual director, in a private ceremony. On March 23, 1898, the Sisters, the aged, handicapped, and homeless moved into their new shelter. Mass was celebrated for the first time on May I, 1898, by the Father Barzynski, who also blessed and dedicated the home.

In 1899, the Sisters were asked by the Resurrectionist Fathers to undertake the care of orphans. In order to house them adequately, St. Vincent Orphanage was built to the right of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled. When, in 1911, the children were transferred to the newly constructed St. Hedwig's Orphanage in Niles, Illinois, St. Vincent Orphanage was converted into added living quarters for the Sisters and their aged and poor residents. By 1903, the continued lack of adequate space and facilities at St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled necessitated the purchase of five small cottages on Ridgeway and Schubert avenues to accommodate the aged and infirm who sought shelter, By 1904, another separate building, the novitiate house, was built adjacent to the left of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled to accommodate the many novices and postulants of the growing Community. In 1911, another addition, containing a spacious chapel, large kitchen, refectory, and sewing room, was made to St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled. Faced with the critical needs of the aged, handicapped, and poor and the needs of the Sisters themselves, the young Community was often destitute. In order to maintain themselves financially, the Sisters issued a modest magazine called The Orphan in conlunction with the Resurrectionist Fathers in 1900. Six year later, in 1906, a greenhouse was opened in the large garden area of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled where the Sisters grew flowers and sold them to supplement their meagre income. In 1909, they opened the very successful church vestment workshop in the motherhouse. As always, the Sisters also depended on solicited funds and the good-will offerings of benefactors. In 1917, the Ladies' Aid Society of St. Joseph Home was organized to offer financial and material assistance. In 1925, the Men's Benevolent Society of St. Joseph Home was founded. Both societies joined in 1935 to become the Friends of St. Joseph Home and continue their charitable assistance to the institution today.

As the years passed, the necessity of a new home for the aged became an urgent issue. The Polish pastors of several local churches in Chicago had always maintained a benevolent interest in St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled and in the dedication of the Franciscan Sisters. In April, 1920, therefore, the Rev. Casimir Stuczko, C.S.C., pastor of Hoh Trinity Church, and Rev. Louis Grudzinski, pastor of St. John of God Church, were chosen by the Polish pastors of the local parish churches as their representatives to meet with Mother NI. Aloysia Ho)ysz, O.S.F., and the general council to discuss the matter of the enlargement and linprovement of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled. The pastors presented several proposals including a suggestion to build a new St Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled in an entirely new location ci to allow the present home to become the property of the Archdiocese ol Chicago in an effort to alleviate financial strain. The Sisters objected vehemently to any proposal to divest them of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled, the site of which Mother M. Theresa had once referred to as "chosen by God Himself." They also rejected any proposal to abandon the ministry to which both she and the founding Sisters had so devotedly dedicated their lives. Eventually, the Sisters agreed only to accept needed financial aid and material assistance from the Polish pastors. At the same time, the Sisters adamantly voiced their decision to the Polish pastors to maintain the policy of keeping St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled open to the aged, poor, and disabled of all ethnic backgrounds. In 1921, Mother M. Aloysia Holysz, O.S.F., the superio general, turned to the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago for added financial help and assistance. Its director, Rev. Moses Kiley, came to the aid of St. Joseph Home in an advisory and consultative, as well as financial, capacity.

In 1927, Sister M. Martha Bywalec, O.S.F., the indefatigable administrator-superior of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled, outlined to Mother M. Vincent Czyzewski, O.S.F., the superior general, the absolute urgency of building an entirely new home for the aged to meet the pressing needs of the ninety residents whom the Sisters now sheltered. To defray the costs of the building venture, the Sisters secured a loan from the Holy See at Rome. The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Friends of St. Joseph Home Society also came to their aid. Planned by architects Slupkowski and Piontek, construction began in September, 1918, on the southwest corner of Ridgeway and Schubert avenues, the site of the five small cottages which had been razed. On September 12, 1928, Rev, Francis Gordon, C.R., pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church, blessed the ground for the new structure and delivered a sermon for the occasion. The Mass and Benediction, which preceded the blessing, were celebrated by Rev. John Kasprzycki, C.R., superior general of the Congregation of the Resurrection.

The work of laying the foundation went so quickly that on Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1928, the setting of the cornerstone took place. The ceremonial blessing was administered by the Rt. Rev. Thomas Bona, pastor of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church. The cornerstone bore an inscription from Ecciesiasticus: "Deposit generosity in your hearts, and it will release you from every misfortune." Rev. John Obyrtan, CR., pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church, read the document which had been placed in the cornerstone to the assembled spectators.

By 1929, the new St. Joseph Home for the Aged, as it was now called, was completed. The result was a modern, four-story structure of brick, and reinforced concrete on the quiet, residential, tree-lined Ridgeway Avenue. The new, spacious St. Joseph Home for the Aged contained an infirmary, auditorium, a dining room, library, kitchen, laundry, several parlors, sun porches, lounge areas and sleeping quarters. With a resident capacity of 200, it offered sheltered care and limited nursing facilities. Much of the success of the entire project was due to the organizational skills of Sister M. Chester Dziarnowski, O.S.F., the administrator superior of the home. The blessing of the new St. Joseph Home for the Aged was scheduled for October 20, 1929. Cardinal Mundelein suggested that the Sisters delay the blessing of the home until the spring of 1930 at which time August Cardinal illond, the Primate of Poland, was scheduled to visit Chicago. Unfortunately, Cardinal Hlond never came to America and the home was never publicly blessed. It had been blessed, however, in a private ceremony on November 29, 1929, by Rev. Joseph Tarasiuk, C.R., the resident chaplain of St. Joseph Home for the Aged. The original St. Joseph Home was converted into offices for the superior general and the general council. Because of the large number of Sisters at he motherhouse, accommodations for the Sisters were located on the third floor of the new St. Joseph Home for the Aged. Records indicate that of the nearly 200 residents, approximately 20074 provided for themselves; the rest of the residents were dependent upon the home for their support.

In the years that followed, St. Joseph Home for the Aged had a bed capacity of 163 and maintained full occupancy at all times. It provided full-time housing, nursing care, and medical attention. Extensive repairs and renovations were undertaken in 1956 and again in 1964 when the needs of the home warranted them. However, an event occurred in 1959, which altered the history of St. Joseph Home for the Aged. Shortly after she tragic fire of Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago which claimed so many lives, the Chicago Fire Department ruled that the original St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled, and St. Vincent Orphanage adjoining it were no longer safe, Because of this ruling, the buildings were razed, and a new motherhouse was built in Lemont, Illinois. To provide the necessary sleeping quarters for the Sister personnel at St. Joseph Home for the Aged, an addition was erected over the garages and storage rooms facing Hamlin Avenue. The addition was blessed at a special ceremony on May 30, 1970, by the Most Rev. Alfred L. Abramowicz, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago.

In 1976, a one million dollar massive renovation of the interior of St Joseph Home of Chicago, as it is now called, was initiated in order to meet the licensure requirements concerning nursing home status. After careful and lengthy consideration of the residents of and applicants to the home, it was determined that they were generally in need of inter mediate care. Since only the 22-bed infirmary was so licensed, St. Joseph Home of Chicago underwent renovation to meet the needs of cIt residents and to satisfy local, state, and federal standards. The interior reconstruction of the sturdy structure began on February 9, 1976. Most private rooms gave way to double rooms; new plumbing, sprinklers, wit 4 ing, and smoke detectors were installed; ceilings were lowered and doors widened. A year later, a virtually new facility emerged from the old. St. Joseph Home of Chicago was licensed as an intermediate care home for the aged and met all stringent requirements and regulations. The deli cation of the renovated St. Joseph Home of Chicago took place on March 19, 1977, with Cardinal Cody as the principal celebrant of a Mass of Thanksgiving and Blessing.

The history of St. Joseph Home of Chicago contains the names of the dedicated women who have served as administrator-superiors. One of these was Sister M. Agnes Zywiec, O.S.F,, who guided the home during its turbulent renovation. Appointed in 1960, Sister M. Agnes served as administrator-superior for sixteen years. A well-deserved tribute was accorded her in October, 1968, when she was presented with the St. Bridget Award for outstanding service to humanity through her work with the aged for almost all of her Religious life. Sister M. Agnes was the first American woman to receive the award presented to her by Col. Frank Chesrow, a Papal Chamberlain, at the Executive House in Chicago.

Today, St. Joseph Home of Chicago, under the administration of Sister Kathleen Melia, O.S.F., provides intermediate care to 174 residents. The home is staffed by 15 Franciscan Sisters and approximately 140 full and part-time employees. Dr. Alvin Bates is the home's medical director. The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago provides consultants in the areas of dietetics, occupational therapy, and maintenance. A full-time social worker conducts the social services program and helps direct the various departments towards attaining total patient care. An activity director brings to the elderly the fundamentals of remotivation and social rehabilitation. Nearby high schools, including students from the Congregation's Madonna High School, provide volunteer aides. A newspaper for and about the residents and staff is published monthly. Begun in 1961, it is presently called the St. Joseph Journal. The non-resident chaplain, Rev. John Miles, C.R., ministers to the spiritual needs of the aged, a service which the Congregation of the Resurrection has provided for St. Joseph Home of Chicago since 1909. St. Joseph Home of Chicago meets the standards of quality health care as prescribed and legislated by the Department of Public Health.

It is a member of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the American Association of Homes for the Aging, the Catholic Health Association, and the Illinois Association of Homes for the Aging.

For the past 83 years, St. Joseph Home of Chicago has been a true home to many elderly men and women. Attuned to the Gospel concept of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the home provides medical, spiritual, and protective care to the aged in the spirit and tradition of Mother M. Theresa Dudzik, O.S.F., the foundress of St. Joseph Home of Chicago and of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.

From "A History of the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1981

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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