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Don Guanella School at Don Guanella Village


In the late 1950’s the Servants of Charity sought to open a residence for boys with mental retardation in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Archbishop O'Hara agreed to provide a suitable building located in suburban Philadelphia for the purpose of establishing a home for boys with mental retardation; the General Council of the Servants of Charity accepted his offer.

The 1959 Catholic Charities Appeal allocated $1 million for the construction of the school.  Ground was broken in May 1960 and the first residents arrived in October. Don Guanella School is a two story building with classrooms and four residential areas.  Over the ensuing years, the school population grew to some 200 students.

In the 1970s, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awarded teaching certificates to the Don Guanella School teachers and a nine-week summer program was begun.  Two United States Supreme Court rulings had far reaching impact on the Don Guanella School program: the Lemon v. Kurtzman decision [1971] disallowed reimbursement of teachers' salaries in nonpublic schools and the Roe v. Wade decision [1973] led to the abortion of ) 84% to 91% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome.  In 1976, the Cardinal Krol Center at Don Guanella Village opened.

In the 1980s, the Delaware County Intermediate Unit assumed responsibility for the educational program at Don Guanella School.  The school building is stripped of asbestos and refurbished.  The Servants of Charity House of Formation was constructed on the Don Guanella Village campus [1982] and four cottages were opened on the campus: two of these house Don Guanella School residents. The United States Supreme Court Pennhurst ruling [1984] began a "deinstitutionalization" process with a bias against congregate care settings.  The Daughters of St Mary of Providence leave Don Guanella Convent to reside at Divine Providence Village.

Divine Providence Village moves its Day Program into two of the former residential areas of Don Guanella School.  Catholic Social Services, Delaware County Family Service Center rented space in one of the former residential areas from 1990 until it relocated to the former library building at Holy Cross parish in Springfield, PA in May 2000.  The vacated space is then renovated for the administrative offices of the Community Programs of Divine Providence Village.

While our service delivery model is changing, our commitment to the men and mission of Don Guanella Village remains unchanged. The Don Guanella School boys are now served in the CSS Youth Division


Community is a very important part of the program at Don Guanella. The men are actively involved in the larger community through a variety of activities ranging from volunteer work, Special Olympics, Little League Challenger Division, cultural events, and relationships with volunteers who come to us to assist the men. The men live together in a caring, supportive cottage setting, where teamwork and getting along with others are important life skills that are emphasized in everyday family life in the residential program. Natural families are engaged, whenever possible, in working toward a goal of reunification. With the changing needs of the men in mind, Don Guanella Village is creating community-based residential services consisting of small group homes in the community, shared use of the Divine Providence Village campus and supporting medically fragile men in a “mini-campus” setting. This exciting future in the community means greater opportunities for the individuals we support.