Happy Birthday, Saint Francis Ministries

September 2022 · Forward in Hope, Ministry News

Saint Francis turns 77 years old today, which speaks to the extraordinary resilience and purpose of this ministry and the people who have dedicated themselves to the protection of children and families for more than seven decades.

Seventy-seven years is a long time, and over the years, SFM has experienced both highs and lows, challenges and triumphs. Yet, the work we perform on behalf of others runs like a plumb line straight and true throughout our history. Service formed us, and service sustains us.

That’s why is seems altogether proper today to recall our history, the roots from which we have sprung and continue to grow.

The Reverend Robert Mize Jr., mission priest and son of a bishop, started our story when he opened St. Francis Boys’ Home in the dilapidated former “Old People’s Home” in Ellsworth, Kansas. Virtually everyone thought he was making a mistake. Father Bob, however, believed in redemption. He believed that through daily prayer, accepting responsibility for one’s actions, unconditional love, and forgiveness – what he called Therapy in Christ — anyone could regain their self-worth.

Hundreds of Fr. Bob’s boys have attested to this truth by going on to live lives of purpose and wholeness after leaving Saint Francis. This ethos, that no one is beyond redemption and that everyone deserves healing and hope, has guided Saint Francis and its people since Fr. Bob’s departure in 1960. Much has changed. Some of its work resembles that of other agencies and nonprofit organizations. Yet, unlike them, Saint Francis has always been first and foremost a ministry. Each program and service throughout our history has been a response to an identified need in a certain time. and place. Saint Francis has always been good at that — seeing a need and then moving in to minister to those most at risk. Saint Francis serves wherever called by God.

Today, Fr. Bob lies buried in a humble church graveyard, nestled among the rolling hills of western Kansas. Yet, the ministry he founded 77 years ago as a home for boys has become an organization employing 1,600 passionate people and providing programs and services to 11,000 boys and girls and families in six states. That’s a legacy we can be proud of.

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