The First Camillian Community in the United States

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

On 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 home. But God does seem to provide.

City clergy, religious institutions, and Catholic laypeople came to the rescue and Fr. Mueller was able to purchase the house for use as a monastery. He then bought 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, when a lady brought twenty-five dollars, the proceeds of a card party, 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.

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