Saint Francis Ministries began a new era of service in September when the ministry announced its collaboration with St. John’s Military School. Like Saint Francis, St. John’s has long represented an episcopal presence in Salina, Kansas. As part of the merger, Saint Francis will assume possession of the 40-acre St. John’s campus and establish future plans for the property’s use.

The Very Rev. Robert N. Smith, Saint Francis Dean, President, and CEO, said those plans will include creating a ministry that addresses important needs, while honoring the values of both organizations.

“We are pleased and grateful that St. John’s leaders selected Saint Francis as we live into a time of transformation for the campus, giving us the opportunity to build on such a deep tradition and heritage of service,” said Fr. Smith.

Founded in 1887 as a faith-based, private school committed to the development of young men, St. John’s will be renamed Saint John’s Ministries and School.

St. John’s President and CEO William J. Clark, has also joined the Saint Francis leadership team where he serves as Chief of Staff, managing support programs that include human resources, quality control, information technology, communications, marketing, facilities, transportation, and safety and security.

“The vision of St. John’s lives on in this new partnership, and we have been encouraged by Saint Francis’ commitment to continue our mission of serving youth and families,” said Clark. “The devotion of Saint Francis to youth and families is undeniable, so it’s the perfect partner with whom to move forward.”

One of the first steps will be to relocate all of Saint Francis’ Salina offices to the St. John’s campus, which is expected to be completed sometime this year.

“As we work on the future of the campus, all options align with the Saint Francis mission to provide healing and hope to children and families,” said Fr. Smith. “One area of passion for us is to find innovative solutions, such as a residential workforce program, to address the growing numbers of children aging out of foster care who need ongoing support and guidance.”

Such a program would provide training in soft skills needed to be successful in the job market, along with technical training to specifically meet the needs of area businesses. Participants in the program would also work towards earning their high school diploma or GED. Young people aging out of the foster care system face challenges that can make their entry into adulthood difficult, and Saint Francis has been considering for some time ways in which the ministry might better support that transition.

“Access to dignified work can be life transforming,” said Tom Blythe, Saint Francis President and COO. “We are fortunate in Salina to have support of civic, educational, business, and industry leaders who have expressed a strong desire to partner with us to move from visioning to reality.”

Other plans for the campus include a residential program that provides comprehensive substance use treatment and services for families and an expansion of Saint Francis outpatient services for substance use and behavioral health, that includes telehealth.

St. John’s Military School history and legacy will be honored on the school’s campus through the establishment of a historical museum in Linger Hall, in which historical uniforms and other memorabilia will be housed. For information about the St. John’s Military School Historical Museum, visit

This story first appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Hi-Lites. You can view past HiLites here.