What follows are a few of the milestones marking the
path of Saint Francis over the last 75 years:
Three years after founding Saint Francis’ Boys’ in Ellsworth, Fr. Bob opened another home near Salina, Kansas. Eventually, this second site would become Salina West, home of Saint Francis’ residential treatment facility. In 1959, Saint Francis purchased the former Dunbar School at 509 E. Elm Street in Salina, to serve as its corporate offices. The move came with a name change – Saint Francis Academy – to reflect the ministry’s increasing emphasis on learning and treatment programs. The site would remain the headquarters of Saint Francis for more than 60 years.
From 1965-1973, Saint Francis operated residential treatment centers for both boys and girls in New York state, while also establishing Passport for Adventure, a wilderness therapy program near Salina. Although none of these programs remain, former staff and youth who were served by them still speak fondly of their experiences in connection with them.
In 1974, Saint Francis Academy received accreditation from The Joint Commission and has retained that accreditation every year since. The ministry opened several programs in Mississippi in 1992, and in 1996-2000, Saint Francis became a family preservation and foster care/reintegration provider in Kansas. During this time, the ministry changed its name to Saint Francis Community Services to reflect its expanded role as a child and family social services provider. In 2008 and 2012, Saint Francis began providing those services in Oklahoma and Nebraska before moving into Texas and Arkansas in 2018-2019. With a significant portion of Saint Francis’ revenue now coming from state contracts, leadership determined that the ministry needed to diversify. In 2016, The Saint Francis Foundation was incorporated to re-engage with philanthropy and build relationships within the wider Episcopal Church.
Over the last several years, Saint Francis has worked to form partnerships, create new programs to serve new areas of need, and added to the ministry’s facilities.
In 2015, Saint Francis dedicated its new state-of-the-art residential treatment facility on the campus of Salina West, and in 2018, it partnered with the Roman Catholic Congregation of St. Joseph to renovate and lease Mount St. Mary’s, the order’s former convent. Serving at-risk children and families in Wichita and Sedgwick County, the building houses administrative offices, mental health services, and the new Saint Francis Migration Ministries, a refugee resettlement program affiliated with Episcopal Migration Ministries. In 2018, Saint Francis also established an office in Washington, D.C., to support its advocacy efforts, and in 2019 received a civil society organization designation by the United Nations.
In 2016, Saint Francis International Ministries began work in Central America, partnering with International Social Service USA and organizations in Honduras and El Salvador. In 2019, it launched the HOPES Project, a justice enterprise initiative to fund social programs in the Salvadoran community of San José Obrero.
What had begun 75 years ago as a ministry to boys has become a ministry proving programs and services to boys and girls, adults with intellectual disabilities, survivors of sex trafficking, refugees from oppression and violence, and at-risk families in six U.S. states and Central America. In 2018, Saint Francis realized a new name was needed to better reflect this new sense of mission and changed its name to Saint Francis Ministries.
In 2020, Saint Francis embarked on a new collaboration, merging with St. John’s Military School in Salina to house residential/outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, education and job training programs, and administrative offices on its 40-acre campus. After 60 years on East Elm Street, Saint Francis Ministries’ corporate headquarters are now located on the St. John’s campus.
The Very Rev. Robert N. Smith, current president, dean, and CEO, says growth is both natural and necessary for a ministry dedicated to the premise that every human person has dignity and worth. It’s what has led and continues to guide Saint Francis into new areas of service.
“We honor people’s dignity and from there, hope can grow from any circumstance,” he says. “It’s the ministry of showing up, the power of presence. I deeply believe that is what Fr. Bob Mize set out to do 75 years ago, and I think that is what we have been committing ourselves to ever since.”