History of Saint John Vianney Center
The Saint John Vianney Center is the oldest program of its kind in the country. Established by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1946 as "Villa Saint John Vianney," the program ushered in a new era for the provision of mental health services for the clergy and religious. While specific programs under the auspices of religious congregations, psychiatric hospitals or congregational infirmaries had provided these services in the past, no other program had the specific mission or niche of providing these behavioral health programs prior to the establishment of Villa Saint John Vianney.
The original mission of Villa Saint John Vianney was to provide a safe environment, while helping patients meet their needs of daily living, and offer them spiritual activity and medical supervision.
In 1946, at the request of Monsignor William Kavanagh, Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, purchased the 175-acre McIlvanie Estate in Downingtown, PA. The main residence was converted from a family home to a private hospital, and the program was placed under the patronage of Saint John Vianney, the patron Saint of the parish priest. Vianney, known as the "Curé d'Ars," was a famous confessor in France. He was known for his special devotion to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and was an especially humble and forgiving priest.
The Sisters of Mercy moved on to the property in 1946 and were invited to administer the program. Under the original license, the census for the hospital was limited to eight patients. The original staff consisted of a rector, a superior, nurses, psychiatrists, dietary, housekeeping and maintenance personnel. By 1953, the census had reached five.
In 1954, the program was expanded to include women religious. This year marked the first time that the hospital license appeared under the name of "Villa Saint John Vianney Hospital."
By November 1959, the first addition to the main building was completed. That year, Villa Saint John Vianney Hospital was notified that the American Hospital Association had accepted it for listing. In 1964, the cornerstone of the newest building was laid. That year, twenty-seven patients were treated.
In 1987, a new treatment program was initiated and it included individual and group therapy with spirituality groups, music and art therapy and specialized classes such as computer skills, culinary arts, assertiveness training and ACOA process groups.
Villa Saint John Vianney Hospital received JCAHO accreditation (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) in November of 1989. This marked a significant achievement for a small treatment program. Villa Saint John Vianney Hospital has maintained Pennsylvania licensure since 1946.
Villa Saint John Vianney has changed its name several times since the early 1990s to more adequately reflect the size and scope of the services offered. Today, Saint John Vianney Center is a non-profit, faith-based provider of behavioral health programs geared specifically for Catholic priests, consecrated religious and the clergy from major Christian denominations. The 50-bed facility, located in rural Pennsylvania, is operated by Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.