Sr. Olga there from start of St. Joseph Nursing Home, Lacon

Photo Caption: Sister Olga Paluch, DSF, shares her memories of the establishment of St. Joseph Nursing Home 50 years ago.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of the 15 Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi who traveled from Slovakia to Illinois in 1946, three are still living. One of these pioneers is Sister Olga Poluch, DSF, who had been professed for only two years before she came to the United States to help establish the American Province of her community, which sponsors St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon.
After Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, celebrated Mass on June 21 for the nursing home’s 50th anniversary (related story here), Sister Olga gave a brief history of St. Joseph became the first Roman Catholic nursing home in central Illinois.

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I am here from the very beginning, when we came to Lacon. On the same property where we are standing now there was nothing — just plain grass and cows were running around.

Mrs. (Elisabeth) Specht gave us our first house to establish our convent, St. Joseph Convent. As the time went on, we got a few girls as postulants and novices. . . . We were thinking maybe we can build a hospital, since we are a nursing community, but there are so many hospitals around us. We don’t need a hospital in Lacon.

There were a few houses in Lacon. Two or three people live in one, two or three people here and there. There were so many accidents, so the state came and closed all these houses. There were people thinking, “What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?” We decided maybe we need a nursing home in Lacon.

We go to see Bishop (John) Franz. “Bishop Franz, we would like to have some kind of activity in Lacon. We are planning to build nursing home.” He said, “Sisters, you can go ahead, but this is a poor diocese for me. I have no money to give you.” How do we get money?

There were five parishes in Chicago. Priests gave us collections. Then Joliet, Streator and Lacon people, including all the businesses in Lacon, gave us the proceeds from their businesses. Slowly, slowly we accumulated the money we needed to build nursing home.

How was this supposed to look? We had no place to go to see. What did we do? We sat down and make plan ourselves. We said, “We need a chapel. We need offices. We need laundry. We need kitchen. We need nursing station.” We just made the plan ourselves. Slowly, slowly (company) came to build. So 1964 building was ready to open. There were so many people already waiting. . . .

(Friends of the community came and stood at the doors to welcome people and help the Sisters in the kitchen, in the dining room and kitchen.)

We got many, many, many residents. What to do? We came to the decision to expand St. Francis Wing. That way we had enough.

As we can see today, 50 years pass and I’m still here, seeing this special event that is taking place today. Fifty years existence of St. Joseph Nursing Home. Sister Olga, the pioneer, is still here to see what was going on in those days and what is going on now. We took care of many people, many residents who have been in our home for all these years. As Bishop said in his homily, love and care is what the Sisters are showing to all those people who come to our home.

I was here for 25 years as an activity director. Now I am out of the nursing home and living in the motherhouse and still helping with whatever they need me for. Younger people should go on and continue the work.

Today I am rejoicing and glad that for all these years we could serve the people and wish that we could go ahead for 50 more years. I thank the Lord for his blessing and St. Joseph for helping us to do all this. . . . God be blessed. May all who come for the future enjoy being our residents with our loving care.

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