Mount Saint John has a proud history and a strong legacy dating back to its founding in 1904. Opened as “St. John’s Industrial School” by the Xaverian Brothers as an agency of the Diocese of Hartford, it had its beginnings on land owned by the Sisters of Mercy in West Hartford, Connecticut. In 1907, seeking an environment more conducive to growth and development, the Industrial School was moved from Hartford to Deep River on rural property overlooking the Connecticut River. The foundation stone for the new building was blessed and laid by the Bishop of Hartford, and staff and residents moved in during the following year. A prominent local family, the Duggan’s of Deep River, had donated the property on which the residential school was built. A son of that family— a priest, Monsignor Thomas Duggan was a longtime friend and benefactor of this institution, as the plaque in the entrance foyer attests.
The Sisters of St. Joseph administered the home and school from 1919 to 1958.The provision of care established during this time integrated an all-inclusive approach. Treatment interventions were achieved by “spiritual motivation reduced in practice to everyday living; coordinating intellectual progress with moral, physical and social development; preventive and corrective health measures; supervised recreation and broad opportunities for cultural development and individualized training in the principles of social adjustment”.
During the late 1940s, psychiatry and social work began to develop a greater respect and influence, paving the way for the development of residential treatment programs. By the 1950’s these programs began to resemble the modernized version of Residential Treatment Centers. Keeping in line with national trends, Saint Johns School evolved from a “Home for Boys” into a Residential Treatment Center.
In 1953, the Diocese of Hartford (which at that time comprised the entire State of Connecticut) was divided into three dioceses, and Mount Saint John had come under the jurisdiction of the newly created Diocese of Norwich, as did all Catholic facilities in Middlesex, New London, Tolland, and Windham counties. The first Bishop of this new Diocese, Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan, undertook the substantial building and renovations at the institution. In 1958, following the opening of a large addition to the original building to house new dormitories, classrooms, and a gymnasium/auditorium, Bishop Flanagan appointed Father Kenneth Macdonald as Executive Director. Reverend Kenneth Macdonald served in this position for 35 years, retiring in 1990. Under his leadership, Father Macdonald sent staff to graduate school for their Masters degrees in Social Work and many became licensed Social Workers. Ultimately, therapeutic treatment was provided through a network of services that were established. From the late 1960s to June of 2013, Mount Saint John functioned as a Residential Treatment Center providing services to boys from all areas of Connecticut. In June of 2013, Mount Saint John re-established our school program as The Academy at Mount Saint John, a clinical day school serving adolescent boys and young men.
An article published in the Hartford Courant in July of 1991 speaks to the philosophy carried forward by Reverend Father Macdonald, stating “he distinguished himself as a priest, in serving the homeless and the downtrodden, in ministering to the alienated and by comforting the neediest of our brothers. He gave himself wholeheartedly to his responsibilities and inspired all who knew and served with him.”
Although the provision of services at Mount Saint John has progressed over the years,the guiding Christian principal found in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”, continues as a cornerstone to service delivery. Our mission to provide high quality clinical and educational experiences that empower individuals with the skills, confidence and fortitude to achieve their full potential is carried out by dedicated, compassionate and heart-felt employees.