San Damiano House & Farm, a new life-giving ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement dedicated to serving men in recovery from addictions, opened at Graymoor in Garrison, New York, on October 1, 2017.
Working towards long-term recovery.
This transitional living opportunity offers housing and vocational training, while allowing men who have completed a component of treatment at St. Christopher’s Inn, to remain on the Holy Mountain and continue working towards long-term recovery.
Named after San Damiano church located near Assisi, Italy, where St. Francis first received his miraculous calling in 1205, the origins of San Damiano House & Farm can be traced to 1916 when Servant of God Father Paul of Graymoor founded St. Anthony Farm on the site with the intention of making the Society of Atonement self-supporting so that more help could be offered to others. Men from the Inn worked on the farm from its beginning through at least World War II, when it also produced grain for the war effort. In 1949, Friar postulants began cultivating the land and, by 1963, raising sheep. From 1970 until it became the novitiate in 1985, the farm was the original home of New Hope Manor. This substance abuse treatment program for women—the first of its kind in the United States—originated at Graymoor under the guidance of Fr. Dan Egan, SA, who was affectionately known as the “Junkie Priest.” With this rich history, the Friars feel blessed that San Damiano House & Farm is continuing their mission of hope and healing.
There are three phases of participation for the men at St. Damiano House, a 24-bed residence. The first phase is more focused on continued growth in long-term recovery. The men may choose to participate in treatment at St. Christopher’s Inn for half the day, through individual and group therapy.
The remainder of the day the men spend volunteering at San Damiano Farm, which produces flowers, organic vegetables, herbs, and other plants. Here, the men gain experience in farming and retail—marketable, vocational skills that will help facilitate their long-term recovery and restore a sense of self-worth.
In the second phase of participation, the men begin to visit with family and friends for an overnight stay, as well as begin their job search. By the third phase, the men work to secure employment, permanent housing and move towards more community engagement.
There are additional volunteer opportunities for men living in the San Damiano House at Graymoor. Some of the men choose to run a weekend program at St. Christopher’s Inn, where they are partnered with men who are newly admitted to treatment. These volunteers show the newcomers around the Graymoor campus, encouraging and mentoring them as they begin their recovery journey.
Some men also volunteer to work at a farmer’s market on Wednesdays selling the plants and vegetables they harvest on the farm. Proceeds provide funds to purchase supplies for the next season’s planting.
For men in recovery, San Damiano House & Farm at Graymoor provides the opportunity of continuing outpatient treatment at St. Christopher’s Inn while offering new vocational programs amid surroundings filled with abundant spirituality. Sandra Iberger, Executive Director/CEO of St. Christopher’s Inn, shared, “San Damiano House & Farm is a supportive environment, and part of the continuum of care for Brothers Christopher who need a safe community living situation that supports their recovery after discharge.”
The program’s unique structure allows the men to stay for several months in order to become independent, firmly rooted in their recovery with well-developed self-esteem based upon the opportunity to share and give back to those who have helped them.