The seed for Don Guanella Village, one of The Communities of Don Guanella, was planted with an invitation of John Cardinal O’Hara, in 1958, to Fr. Luigi Alippi, Superior General of the Servants of Charity who were founded by St. Luigi Guanella (Don Guanella). Cardinal O’Hara, aware of the Servants of Charity’s ministry to persons with intellectual disabilities in Italy and parts of South America, invited the Servants to open a school/residential program in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The invitation was accepted, and the fruit of the harvest was the building of Don Guanella School by the archdiocese, that opened in Springfield, PA on October 30, 1960, with the admission of its first boy. By the end of that year, 45 boys had been admitted. Three priests and one religious brother along with four sisters of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, founded also by Don Guanella, staffed this budding program. The program continued to blossom with the census growing to nearly 200 boys by the late 1960s. The boys lived within four “cottages” or dormitories in the southern wing of the two story building.
As a program for boys, the residents could only live at Don Guanella School until the age of 21, the mandatory graduation age for persons with disabilities in the state of Pennsylvania. The families, priests and staff began to advocate for a similar residential program for men and with the substantial fundraising efforts of the families, the patronage of John Cardinal Krol, and the support of the Catholic Charities Appeal, the Cardinal Krol Center for men with intellectual disabilities was built and opened on October 3, 1976. Twenty-seven residents were admitted and the capacity of 84 residents was reached shortly after opening. With this addition, what is now known as Don Guanella Village was able to offer residential programs for both boys and men.
The living arrangements for the boys residing in Don Guanella School were seen as outdated. In September of 1982, groundbreaking for four new cottages for future residents of Don Guanella School took place and the boys moved from the school to these cottages during 1984. With the death of Cardinal Krol in March of 1996, the CK Center was rededicated, by Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, and renamed the Cardinal Krol Center.
In the intervening years, two very active programs and residential settings were now in place with many activities on the campus being present. The Delaware County Intermediate Unit assumed administration of the school program welcoming both residents of Don Guanella School and community students; a Work Activity Center (WAC) as well as an aging program were located in the Cardinal Krol Center; portions of the former Don Guanella School cottages were adapted for a WAC and an Adult Training Facility (ATF) overseen by Divine Providence Village. Eventually, by 2012, the boys’ residential program was closed and the residential program at Don Guanella Village became entirely for adults. The Cardinal Krol Center program then reached a capacity of 131 residents living in the main building. The four cottages and Mary Hall (the former convent) opened in 1988.
In October of 2012, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the sale of the Don Guanella Village campus property. That announcement, along with the impetus from the Department of Human Services in Pennsylvania to downsize large congregate settings, led to the transitioning of the residents of Don Guanella Village into eleven community residential settings, a cluster of three homes adjacent to Cardinal O’Hara High School, and the move of sixteen men to a cottage on the Divine Providence Village campus. This transition was completed by December of 2015.
Don Guanella Village, as one of The Communities of Don Guanella, continues to carry on the legacy and spiritual heritage of Don Guanella and with this new “incarnation”, is continually Inspired by Divine Providence as we walk “in the footsteps of Don Guanella.”