This arrived in our mail box last wonderful

The Academy at Mount Saint John
135 Kirtland Street
Deep River, CT 06417

                 December 13, 2013

The Academy at Mount Saint John provides youth and families with the skills, confidence and fortitude to achieve their full potential. We help young men find and share what they have to offer.  As a drummer boy, a caregiver to the elderly, a builder of caskets, a culinary chef, an achiever of academics, or a boy who has finally felt comfortable going to school……

The possibilities are endless. We embrace these possibilities and believe in the potential of each of our young men.  We believe we provide an important alternative to traditional education; we provide rigorous academics, therapeutic support and real vocational programs with certification and job placements.

During this holiday season, we remember those who help make these dreams possible. Simply and sincerely, we could not do this without your help.  Thank you for your support in the past. We encourage your support of transformed program during this critical year.

We are planning an Open House event in February to showcase the improvements we have made and we hope you can join us!

In the meantime, please enjoy your holidays and count us among your blessings!

All the best,

Kathy C. White, faculty and students

Posted by Steven Torrey

Photo by Steven Torrey

I first went to St. John’s School on December 8, 1958.  I lived there until June of 1963, graduation from Middle School.  I went there because the foster family I had lived with since age three and a half felt they could no longer care of me.  Once I left that foster family, I never had contact with them again till I visited them in about 1985, at which time they expressed regret they had given me up.
So essentially when I went to St. John’s School I had no family.  That first Christmas I spent with a family in Westbrook, Ct—on Wesley Rd.  He worked for Chesebrough Pond’s and was friends with another co-worker from Pond’s who also lived on Wesley Rd, just a few houses up.  I would visit this family for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  And then one holiday—I’m not sure which—they were unable to take me in because the whole family had been laid low with the flu.  So their friends up the road took me in.  And then the original family moved to Mahwah, New Jersey for his new job with Avon, Inc.   At one point, Betty asked if I wanted to be a brother or uncle.  I said, I preferred to be a brother.
So now became the responsibility of Betty and Bud.  They had two daughters; a third would be born in 1960.  I would stay with Betty and Bud for the holidays.  They were instrumental in having me attend Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I.  (Though now in retrospect, I suspect Father Macdonald had a large say in that as well.)  So Mt. St. Charles Academy became my new home. 
St. John’s School (and Mt. St. Charles) both offered a safe haven for me.  A protective environment.  A sheltered environment.  Had I lived with Betty and Bud—it would have been disaster, I’m sure.  I have since learned that people who have been raised in orphanages prefer institutional care because it makes less emotional demands upon them.  And I tend to think that is true.
December is the season of Advent in the Roman Catholic Church calendar.  In Chapel, we used to sing “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel…”  It is still one of my favorite hymns.  Being raised in a Catholic community saved my life.  I know many boys have a hard time being an orphan, or orphaned.  In 1958, St. John’s School was essentially an orphanage; I knew several boys who had lived there since they were practically infants.  To me the place was a blessing.  A benefit.  I found a family through them at about age 15—and now that I am aged 68—they are still my family.  And that family also belongs to my daughter’s family.  What they so generously gave to me, they gave with equal generosity to her.  And for that I am grateful.  There is a line from Hamlet that seems apropos to the life of the orphan:  “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will.”  I would hate to believe that people would think of St. John’s School as a worst case scenario—a page out of Dickens.  To me it was a blessing. St John’s School--Father Macdonald, Sister Chrysostom, Sister Vincentia, Sister Margaret, Kenny DeAngelus, Albert…  Other names I can’t think of—will always be a place of fondness.
St. John’s School is situated on 80 acres, on a steep hill overlooking the Ct. River.  The scene is absolutely gorgeous.  And I can’t help but wonder if that scene, that view, does not have redemptive power for so many orphaned boys.  I hate to think the School has fallen on derelict times…  It will always have a warm place in my heart.

Mount Saint John School to Close Residential Program

By Marianne Sullivan
 Shore Publishing
Published 03/13/2013 12:00 AM

DEEP RIVER - Mount Saint John School, in operation for more than 100 years as a residential treatment facility for at-risk boys and young men, will close its residential program effective June 21. The plan is for Mount Saint John to continue to provide educational, vocational, clinical, and life skills services to youth in need, Director Doug DeCerbo said in a statement.
The long-established residential treatment program provided a therapeutic environment, 24/7, to help young men between the ages of 13 and 18 develop the necessary skills to successfully return home to their school and community.
Budget constraints at the state level have severely reduced the number of referrals from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) to Mount Saint John. Fewer referrals from Superior Court Juvenile Matters have also contributed to a decline in the residential census. These budget-driven restrictions, along with the increasing cost of operation at the agency, have necessitated the closure of the residential program, DeCerbo's statement said.
The future of the remaining educational, vocational, clinical, and life skill programs is dependent on developing services that complement the evolving referral structure at the local Board of Education and state level. Discussions in this regard between the school and other funding and referral sources are ongoing.
DeCerbo added, "Mount Saint John remains committed to helping youth with family problems, substance abuse, neglect, and other challenges have a chance to build a better life."
On Feb. 1, faced with continuing declines in student numbers, the facility laid off 12 employees. At that time DeCerbo said he was in discussion with DCF to determine the status of the facility's residential program, but no determination had been made.
"Across the state, DCF has been looking to downsize residential programs. In that light, we decided to be proactive. We approached DCF to sit down with them and discuss our residential program, and other programs," DeCerbo explained in an interview last month.
On Feb. 1 the facility had 16 residential students and 62 staff members after the lay-offs. The future of those staff members is not known at this time.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz has been clear about the direction of the agency since her appointment by Governor Dannel Malloy. She has emphasized a community-based, family-centered approach to the delivery of services to at-risk youth. As a result, residential programs such as those offered at Mount Saint John have been seeing fewer and fewer referrals from DCF, social service agencies, and the courts. Those who are considered for residential programs are most often being referred to state-run facilities rather than private providers such as Mount Saint John.
Located off Kirtland Street, Mount Saint John sits on 80 acres along the Connecticut River. It was established in 1904 as an "industrial school" staffed by the Xaverian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order. In 1919 it became an orphanage under the Sisters of St. Joseph and later evolved into a Home and School for Boys.

Graduation 1961 with Father Macdonald


These photographs were taken by former MSJ student Joseph Stevens with a Brownie Instamatic camera between the Winter of 1961 to June of 1961. Th dog in the photo is named Upsie--short for Upsillon. The boys names are unknown but if you recognize them, please let us know.   


Spooky tales from a library in Connecticut

Halloween is just around the corner, and while your plans for October 31st might include a haunted house, or even a haunted bookshop, you may want to visit a haunted library for some encounters with spirits among the stacks.
According to American Libraries Magazine, Deep River Public Library in Connecticut has experienced paranormal activities since the 1950s. This includes “early morning noises and voices that ask question after question in 20-second intervals—What is your name? What year is it? What am I doing here?—sometimes followed by flashes of light.” The Harford Courant reported that Susan Oehl, the library’s assistant director was eating her lunch alone when she heard something in the next room.
“I heard distinctly a woman clearing her throat,” Oehl recently recalled. When she went to check, no one was there.
Originally the residence of Richard Pratt Spencer‘s family, who built the home in 1881, the library was donated to the Saybrook Library Association in 1932 by a descendent and subsequently named Deep River Public Library. Although a few changes have been made, most of the details of the original house, including stained-glass windows, wood moldings, and fireplaces are still intact.
Ann Paietta, who is now director there, said that she allowed a ghost hunter named John Zaffis to tour the building in 2004, and he “felt the presence of two female spirits,” one of them a teenager, and on in her 50s. Once word got out that the place was haunted, lots of paranormal investigators wanted to visit, and more than 30 investigations have taken place. Paietta notes that while some have recorded voices (listen here for recordings of the ghosts being questions like What kind of car do you drive? and Are you married?) and photos, “most groups have said they felt nothing evil.”

Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.