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Our History

The story of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Saint Cloud flows out of the lived faith of the bishops, priests, religious women and men and the laity of Central Minnesota. Two “streams” of care can be followed since the diocese was formed in 1857: care of children and support for families and individuals. Care of Children Early records show the organized care of orphans by the Benedictine Sisters in 1875 in Saint Joseph. In 1900 the care of orphans was given to the Franciscan Sisters in Little Falls at the St Otto’s Orphanage. In 1924 a new facility, the Saint Cloud Orphanage was opened on the banks of the Mississippi River south of the city of St Cloud. Promoted by Bishop Joseph Busch the facility was considered “cutting edge” and advertised across the United States. For the next forty years the Franciscan Sisters raised money for and took care of orphans and children whose parent(s) could not care for them. Vegetable gardens, crop fields, a dairy operation and donations made the orphanage self-sustaining. By the 1960’s care for orphans in the United States had moved away from the orphanage model. The facility transitioned to providing residential care and counseling for children with mental health and behavioral issues. As the needs of children became more complex the Saint Cloud Children’s Home (its name since 1953) added therapeutic programing within a highly structured 24/7 environment. Professionally trained and credentialed staff were hired, public school districts began to meet the education needs of the students and an increased role for the laity resulted in a declining presence of the Franciscan Sisters. In 1980 the Saint Cloud Children’s Home merged into Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Saint Cloud. In 1989 we developed a program in Fergus Falls for the highest need children. In 2006 we designed and built our first Intensive Treatment Unit. Our second Intensive Treatment Unit will open in mid-2014 on the Saint Cloud Children’s Home property. In the 1980’s we also established several “day” programs, in schools and on the grounds of the Saint Cloud Children’s Home. These programs are built around a school day and environment, combining mental health with academic programing, with the children returning home each evening. 90 years after it opened its doors, the care of children continues on the same banks of the Mississippi River and in communities and schools across the Diocese. Much of that work occurs through other programs of Catholic Charities.