A Wise Man Seeks Contentment; Regardless of Life’s Circumstances

First, what really is “Contentment”:  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, being content “is having true peace of mind and it has absolutely nothing to do with any external pleasure or condition, but rather than your attitude”.  Stop for a moment and ask yourself: Are you content? Where would you rank your contentment today?

Oftentimes, we let our negative scripts play in the forefront, filled with worries and fears, anger or resentment, doubts and defensiveness.  As this becomes such a habit, we are subtly losing our grip and surrendering to the war of discontentment.  We may seek contentment, but our thoughts, feelings and our actions are spinning away from the curve. 

With all these negative scripts, we oftentimes find unhealthy ways of coping to deal with the emotional pain or try to avoid it all together.  These can include distracting ourselves with habits of over-eating, being detached or uninterested in others, drug or alcohol abuse, blaming others and being resentful, deliberating on our own misfortunes, increased irritability, or experiencing more pain due to feeling emotional pain. 

If we work very hard to be happy, and mind you, it takes very hard work to be happy in this world, we may feel right and good, and more content during our battles.

So, how do I get there?  Here are some ideas:

  • Become aware of your negative thoughts and how they are triggered.
  • Practice challenging your negative thoughts to determine if they are realistic or biased that unnecessarily support a continued negative mood
  • Rephrase your thoughts so that they are more realistic, or optimistic.  Fight the tigers of negative thinking.  Think, “This is just a bump in the road rather than this is a monstrous mountain that cannot be passed”.
  • Put yourself in control of your attitude
  • Set your goals on what is meaningful and with purpose
  • Focus on what is good and right.  Clarify your values and focus on the person you want to be like
  • Work on being more lighthearted, generous, creative, kind, encouraging and helpful
  • Remember in detail the good memories of yesterday
  • Meditate on the good characteristics of others.  We all have an angel and devil on our shoulders. Seek the angel – in you and in others.  The one, who gets the most attention, wins.
  • Realize that we all make mistakes, and the opportunity before us is learning from them
  • Pay attention to what is happening “now”.  Stop the racing or wandering thoughts.  Pay attention to what you are paying attention to.
  • Feel good about helping others be more content
  • Practice laughing
  • Realize that the years are short

Of course, contentment does not take the reality out of living.  We still go through many hardships.  Life is not easy and no one promised us a rose garden.  However, there are things we can be in charge of.  Being wise, seeks contentment.    It is an attitude.  It is a resolution. It is a decision.  It is a life-long pathway of living that we can take with us so that we are better equipped to deal with the rough spots on our bumpy road.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Did You Know? A History of St. William’s Living Center – Part 4

In 1960, Fr. Joseph Vogrin succeeded in his plan to turn a dilapidated old hospital into a rest home and care center. But getting the new home up and running was much easier said than done.

In Part 4 of our series about the history of St. William’s Living Center, we’ll take a look at just how close the home came to closing in those early years. And we’ll introduce you to a kind-hearted woman whose hard work and diligence saved the struggling facility.

The Lean Years

Times were tough during the early days of St. William’s Rest Home. Fr. Vogrin faced criticism from local Protestants, who, at the time, were the majority of residents in Parkers Prairie. They remembered the struggle that the Franciscan sisters had had just a few years earlier and they were hesitant to reserve rooms in the new facility that was owned by the Catholic Church.

To cut down on costs, Fr. Vogrin didn’t take a salary for many years. He served as the bookkeeper, maintenance man, and janitor. During the lean years, the home relied heavily on church volunteers to fill the staffing hours.

Fr. Vogrin Appeals to the County and the Protestants

Fr. Vogrin turned to Otter Tail County for help. He reached out to the state hospital in Fergus Falls for resident referrals.

He also took strides to improve the relationship between the rest home and the Protestant community. Fr. Vogrin developed friendships with local Protestant clergy members. Eventually, he asked them to visit the residents in the home and encouraged them to hold their own religious services in the chapel.

Because of his progressive moves, Fr. Vogrin was able to fill more beds and keep the home afloat during its early years.


Attracting nurses was almost impossible because of the meager pay that the rest home offered. In 1962, Fr. Vogrin entertained the idea of turning the home into a full-fledged nursing home. This meant that he needed to expand the home to hold more residents. If he could do this, he could afford to hire a full-time nursing staff.

Fr. Vogrin approached the Diocese about expanding the facility and his proposition was approved. Construction on the expansion project was completed in 1963 and the rest home name was officially changed to St. William’s Nursing Home.

Now that he had a larger nursing home to run, Fr. Vogrin needed some help. He knew that he needed to hire a nurse who would work minimal hours for very little pay. And his prayers were answered by someone just up the road in Millerville.

Cyrilla Bitzan

Cyrilla Bitzan was a farmer’s wife and mother to ten children, but she had always secretly dreamed of becoming a nurse. When a nursing program opened up at the technical college in Alexandria, she jumped at the opportunity.

After graduating first in her class, Cyrilla accepted a job with the Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria. Fr. Vogrin knew that Cyrilla had a full-time nursing job lined up and he was okay with that. He asked her to help run his nursing home in her free time. An amazingly giving woman, Cyrilla said yes.

Under Cyrilla’s watchful eye, the nursing home prospered. She insisted that the facility should look and smell inviting, not like a medical facility, but like a true home. Many nursing homes at the time would bar visitors during flu season, but Cyrilla would have none of that. Family and children were always welcome at St. William’s.

The Nursing Home Continues to Prosper

Next week, we’ll continue with our story and discuss how St. William’s Nursing Home continued to grow and prosper through the decades following its opening. You don’t want to miss it!

Are you looking for a new career? Consider becoming a certified nursing assistant! It’s a gratifying job with lots of opportunity for advancement. Visit our website to learn more about careers in this rewarding field.

Information for this post was taken from the book Beyond Measure, written by Fr. Jeff Ethen, copyright 2000 Central Minnesota Catholic Publishers

Will my Child be OK?

Most parents worry if their child will be ok, especially because they can’t protect them from all of the hardships their children face while growing up.  Parents only have so much control over what happens and although most of us do the best we can in our parenting at the time, we oftentimes look back and wished we had parented differently. 

Some children are hammered with obstacles while others sail through without much of a hitch.  Unfair, but the reality.  Although those most vulnerable tend to experience more frequent and severe obstacles; there are those that have a biological resistance to hardship and can fight off the difficulties without feeling vulnerable while others with a more susceptible biological makeup struggle with even the slightest bump in the road.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just is the way it is. 

What is needed for a child to be ok?  Research indicates that the single most common factor for children to help them be ok is their children’s involvement in a stable and committed relationship with a supported adult or caregiver. With this, children are more able to develop resilience.  Of course, this pressures parents to work through their parent/child struggles, yet it breathes a sigh of relief and hope for parents as they build this relationship and gain some influence over their child being ok. 

So, how can we predict if our child will be ok?  There are four factors that help children be more resilient to the difficulties they face.

  • Parents need to ensure that their child is hooked into a relationship with themselves and with other supportive adults.
  • Parents need to help their child/adolescent develop a belief about themselves so that they become drivers of their own lives, believing they have the power to contribute to their life’s destiny. 
  • Parent also need to provide opportunities for their child so that they can adapt to life’s ups and downs, learn how to regulate their own strengths and limitations, manage their emotions and utilize helpful coping strategies when facing difficulties.
  • Parents need to encourage their child to seek and find faith-based hope to help in their quest for a good life, with values, goals, traditions, and standards they incorporate into their inward being.

Is my child going to be ok?  At least with these suggestions, there is a very good chance your child will become resilient to the many obstacles they face until they are adult.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Did You Know? A History of St. William’s Living Center – Part 3

In the middle part of the 20th century, St. Raphael’s Hospital in Parkers Prairie became a local healthcare hub, serving the residents of Otter Tail County. Soon, a thriving Catholic parish was added to the community and Parkers Prairie residents no longer had to make the trek to Urbank for Sunday Mass. 

Fr. Joseph Vogrin came from St. Cloud to lead the new parish and oversee operations at the Franciscan hospital next door. 

In this installment of our series, we’ll take a closer look at how St. Raphael’s Hospital evolved to become a rest home and care center. 

Fr. Vogrin Comes to Parkers Prairie

Fr. Joseph Vogrin was ordained in Austria in 1944 during the height of World War II. It was a dangerous time for religious scholars and priests in Europe. Because they were educated, they represented a threat to the totalitarian regimes that ruled during the war. 

Seeking political sanctuary, Fr. Vogrin came to the US and was moved to the St. Cloud Diocese in 1949. Later, he ventured west, looking to become a pastor at St. Mary’s in Alexandria. The job didn’t work out for him and he was instead assigned to St. William’s in Parkers Prairie. 

He served his first Mass on August 19, 1951, just a few short weeks after construction of the brick church building began. The temporary position he took became a permanent stay after he became deeply involved in the construction project.

The Fate of the Hospital

By 1959, St. Raphael’s hospital was in dire need of a renovation. It received 18 deficiency citations from a state inspection that year. 

With a relicensing deadline looming, the Franciscans were running low on options. They lacked the funds to bring the hospital up to code. A city commission, made up of prominent businessmen in the community, came together to decide what to do with the ailing hospital.

They were unable to reach an agreement about the fate of the St. Raphael’s and the Franciscans allowed the hospital license to lapse. Fr. Vogrin saw an opportunity and purchased the building for $1,000 through St. William’s Parish. A new community hospital was later built in a new location in Parkers Prairie.

A Rest Home In Its Place

Community leaders in Parkers Prairie hoped to have a nursing home wing added on to the new hospital, but funding cuts made this impossible. Fr. Vogrin had a vision that the church’s building, old St. Raphael’s Hospital, could serve a new purpose. 

But the building needed plenty of work before it would be fit as a healthcare facility again. In 1960, Fr. Vogrin approached the Diocese about renovating the aging structure, which had been left as a shell by the Franciscans, into a 20-bed board and care facility. He received the necessary permission and funding to go forward with the construction. 

St. William’s Rest Home began operations in 1960 and incorporated three years later to become a separate entity from St. William’s Parish. Along with the incorporation came a new name – St. William’s Nursing Home.

The Nursing Home Becomes a Living Center

Join us next week! We’ll discuss how the original 20-bed rest home grew into a 5-star nursing facility and living center that’s consistently rated among the best in the country. You don’t want to miss it!

Visit the News section of our website to hear the latest news coming out of St. William’s Living Center and get some great advice for adjusting to nursing home life. 

Children and Mental Health

Oftentimes, we excuse our children from having mental health problems because we want to protect them from the stigma of being labelled.  Instead, we prefer to accept that they will simply “grow out of it”.  Unfortunately, 1 in 5 children have a mental health issue, and 2/3 of them don’t receive mental health treatment.  Those without treatment may indeed improve on their own, especially with good guidance and learning how to cope with the problems they are having.  However, oftentimes, these children develop further mental health problems as they grow into adulthood because their problems were never acknowledged and they didn’t receive ways to deal with their struggles.   

Oftentimes, children reveal their symptoms through their behaviors and is oftentimes seen in how they are functioning within the home, at school and/or in their social interactions.    Common behaviors include a decline in school performance or poor grades, repeated refusal to go to school or take part in normal activities, persistent disobedience, frequent temper outbursts and increased irritability, sleeping and eating problems, withdrawal from others, frequent tearfulness, increased worry or anxiety, being quite fidgety or hyperactive, and the list goes on.   Without treatment success, potential consequences include school failure, involvement in the criminal justice system or legal problems, social services involvement and possible placement, self-injurious behaviors, sexual promiscuity, or suicide.

There are various screenings that are helpful to identify if a child is reaching their full potential or if they are heading towards emotional, attentional or behavioral problems.  Kids have lots of stress in their lives.  They need adult help.  Let’s do what we do best – take care of our hurting children.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Losing the Potential of a Good Relationship Due to Our Own Lack of Awareness

Aren’t we supposed to put the needs of others first?  Isn’t there the belief that If we give to others, they will in turn reciprocate; especially in relationships?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way.  In fact, it has become increasingly noticeable in our close relationships that we teach people how to treat us.  Specifically, if a partner acts one way, the other tends to react to the contrary as a means to find a balance.   For example, if you are passive or your spouse is more controlling, your partner unintentionally plays out the opposite role.  Or, if you are exceedingly generous, you may be teaching your partner to be more self-centered, without either one of you being aware that your generosity has gradually grown into resentment and your partner has lost focus on a mutually nurturing relationship.    We seek a balance, and instead of being on the same team, we try to find an equilibrium by being contrary to one another.

Likewise, we oftentimes choose partners that corroborates with the “dance” we oftentimes mimic and are accustomed to while growing up and witnessing our parents’ relationship.    Despite efforts to “be different” from how our parents got along, we oftentimes find ourselves repeating what we tried hard to avoid.  

Despite good intentions, these patterns seem to sway us in directions we do not want to go.  Staying balanced without the extremes, and leading our own “dance” without generational influences can happen by being more aware of these patterns and communicating with each other about them.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Did You Know? A History of St. William’s Living Center – Part 2

In Part 1 of our series, we left off at the corner of McCornell Avenue and West Soo Street, where Dr. Herbert Leibold successfully built his vision of a hospital to serve the rural residents of Parkers Prairie. 

Financial difficulties plagued the hospital after Dr. Leibold retired and the city agreed to sell the facility to the Franciscans, who would keep the hospital running. The Catholic organization moved in and took over operations, but the growing Catholic community still had to make a long commute to receive Sunday Mass in Urbank. 

In this installment, we’ll talk about the arrival of the Catholic church in Parkers Prairie, and we’ll introduce you to a man who would become an integral part of St. William’s history. 

Dr. Leibold Makes a Plan

Now that the Franciscans were running St. Raphael’s hospital, they needed a priest to oversee operations. Dr. Leibold, who was partially retired but still active as a surgeon in the hospital, thought this was an excellent opportunity to commission the Bishop to form a parish in Parkers Prairie. After all, there would be little sense in having a priest on staff at the hospital without having a parish where he could be of greatest service to the community. 

A fundraising campaign was soon underway to bring a new Catholic parish to Parkers Prairie. Dr. Leibold led the charge with a $1,000 pledge of his own. It wasn’t long before the community had reached the $6,000 fundraising goal.

On November 21, 1950, Bishop Joseph Busch established The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady. This was later changed to St. William’s in honor of a particularly large donor named William Wissel. 

Sacred Ground

Now that Dr. Leibold had the parish officially recognized by the Bishop, he needed a place to build the church. He purchased the city lot next to his home, directly across the street from St. Raphael’s Hospital. 

The church accepted the donated lot from Dr. Leibold with the agreement that, after he and his wife passed away, the church would be given first priority to buy his home. This gave the church room to expand and a house to use as a rectory. 

Brick and Mortar

With the lot secured, the new parish was now on the lookout for a building. They originally wanted to purchase an old, wooden Protestant church and move it onto the lot. But Dr. Leibold had other ideas in mind. 

He petitioned the church to raise funds to construct a brick building, which they were able to do successfully. Construction began on July 4, 1951 with the laying of the cornerstone. On June 25, 1952, Bishop Bartholome blessed the altar and dedicated the new church. 

Fr. Joseph Vogrin

Born in Slovenia, Fr. Joseph Vogrin spoke only passable English. He came to the area to be an associate pastor at St. Mary’s in Alexandria. Because of his broken English, he was passed over for the job and took a temporary position at St. William’s in Parkers Prairie instead. 

That temporary position would turn into 37 years of dedicated service to the community, and would lead to the formation of St. William’s Living Center as we know it today. Join us for our next installment, where we reveal how St. Raphael’s Hospital became a nursing home facility. 

Did you know that St. William’s Living Center offers physical, occupational, and speech therapy? Visit our website to learn about the many services we offer to the Parkers Prairie community!

Information for this post was taken from the book Beyond Measure, written by Fr. Jeff Ethen, copyright 2000 Central Minnesota Catholic Publishers

Did You Know? A History of St. William’s Living Center – Part 1

On the corner of McCornell Avenue and West Soo Street in the sleepy country town of Parkers Prairie, Minnesota, sits the beautiful, sprawling campus of St. William’s Living Center. Across the street from the nursing home and assisted living facility is the church of the same name. If you drive by the campus on a Sunday morning, you’ll hear the cheerful jangle of the church bells calling the area Catholic community home for Mass.  

Many local residents consider the 5-star rated nursing home as an extension of the church, merging excellent healthcare with the strong, Christian beliefs that molded the surrounding community. But it might surprise you to learn that there was a healthcare center on the corner of McCornell and West Soo long before there was ever a Catholic church in Parkers Prairie. 

Join us for Part 1 of our series about the history of St. William’s Living Center. We begin this series at the turn of the 20th century, not with a Priest, but with a doctor.

Dr. Herbert Leibold

In the early 1900s, rural Minnesota communities received their medical care from the town doctor. These doctors would open up their own small clinics and make house calls when needed. When they moved on, they took their practices with them and made room for the next doctor to come to town.

In October of 1909, Dr. Herbert Leibold and his wife Amelia came to Parkers Prairie and he opened up a clinic in the Gagnagle building. During those early years, he made house calls by horseback. And when the snow piles grew too high for horses, he traveled by snowshoe to take care of his beloved patients. 

In 1915, Dr. Leibold built a small, square, two-story building on the corner of McCornell and West Soo. This first hospital held a clinic on the ground level and an operating room on the second floor where Dr. Leibold, who was a skilled surgeon, operated on patients. There was no elevator, so patients had to walk to the second floor on their own or be carried up using a gurney. 

Eventually, Dr. Leibold expanded the Leibold Hospital into a larger, more comfortable space and he ran the hospital until he retired in 1945. Another doctor took over the operations in 1945, but after only three years, he was forced to shut down the facility because of financial troubles. This was a huge blow to the residents of Parkers Prairie. They had come to see the hospital is an important landmark and a symbol of their prosperous small town. 

The City Votes

The city stepped in and proposed a bond referendum to save the iconic building and keep the hospital running. The bond received 166 votes in favor and 125 votes against. 

Although this was a majority vote, the bond did not pass because a state law dictated that there must be at least 62.5% in favor to approve. Supporters of the hospital were crushed at the defeat. 

The Church Steps In

On the evening of March 7, 1949, the city held its regular council meeting to discuss the failed bond vote. Mother Mary Ohmann, Reverend Mother of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, attended that meeting. The Franciscans were responsible for running several healthcare facilities in the area and she put forward a proposal to allow the nuns to run the hospital and keep it staffed. 

The prospect of having the church operate the hospital was a new one to the members of the city council. Although the Catholic population was growing at the time, the closest Catholic church was Sacred Heart in Urbank. It took some residents almost a full day of travel to get back and forth between Urbank and Parkers Prairie for Mass. 

But with few other options, the city agreed to the proposal, and on July 16, 1949, the contract was signed allowing the Franciscans to assemble a nursing staff and reopen Leipold Hospital with a new name – St. Raphael’s Hospital. 

Healthcare and Catholicism Grow In Parkers Prairie

In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at how St. Raphael’s became St. William’s and how the church grew up around this vital healthcare hub. 

St. William’s Living Center is the home with a heart in the heart of central Minnesota. Call us today to find out about the healthcare services we offer to the residents of Parkers Prairie!

Information for this post was taken from the book Beyond Measure, written by Fr. Jeff Ethen, copyright 2000 Central Minnesota Catholic Publishers


Why is it that mental health symptoms are generally worse for many people during the winter months?  Good question.  Much of it has to do with the lack of sunshine.  So, you may ask, what does sunlight exposure have to do with mental health?  Long story short, one of the main chemicals released in our bodies to improve our mood is Serotonin, and some of the effects of Serotonin are triggered by how much sunlight our eyes actually receive.  As the days are shorter and it is colder outside, most of us don’t get outdoors as much as we would otherwise do.  Thus, we receive less sunlight which results in less Serotonin which results in increased depression or anxiety, as well as other manifestations.  

An adjunct problem during winter time comprises of our reduced motivation to be physically healthy.  Truly, who wants to go outdoors to exercise?  It’s cold outside, and excusing ourselves with a good book, a warm drink and curling up with a warm blanket sound so much more delightful.  Unfortunately, not exercising doesn’t satisfy our overall well-being, and more we are vulnerable to emotional difficulties.  When we don’t continue our exercise regimen, we limit the release of endorphins which actually is used to relieve tension or stress and boost our physical and mental energy.  

During winter months, we also tend to eat more with added junk food and carbohydrates.  As we become more absorbed with food and feel the added weight, our self-esteem is usually affected.  Having a negative self-image also impacts how you look at yourself; causes intimacy difficulties and you are more prone to depression and anxiety.  Also, our sleep cycles change during the winter months., impacting our REM sleep which helps us regulate our mood and process emotional experiences.  Without REM sleep, we are more susceptible to increased emotional reactivity and emotional problems.  

In view of all this, it almost feels like things are stacked against us when we face winter.  Of course, that doesn’t take into consideration the delight of winter-time and all those not affected by mood changes; most of us are here because we have chosen to be here.  However, those that are struggling with increased emotional difficulties during the wintertime, here are some things you can do to make it through: 

  • Eat right
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get more sun; that means getting outside at least half hour each day, like it or not.  Also, people diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder benefit from a light box which simulates actual light.
  • Get sufficient sleep; be it going to bed early to get 8 hours in, developing a bedtime routine, or using supports like candles, meditation, reading, essential oils, massage, etc.
  • Get into projects or activities that you might like, even if you don’t feel like it
  • Socialize more with others
  • Work on your New Year’s resolutions or develop goals and plans to complete them

When the light isn’t shining, do what you can to still have a good winter.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW