Did You Know? A History of St. William’s Living Center – Part 5

Under the watchful eyes of Fr. Joseph Vogrin and Cyrilla Bitzan, St. William’s Nursing Home made it through the tough early years and continued to grow and expand. 

In the final installment of our series, we’ll discuss how the nursing home has changed over the last 40 years, and how it continues to serve Parkers Prairie and the surrounding community with excellent care.

More Space and a New Administration

Cyrilla Bitzan ran a tight ship at St. William’s Nursing Home after she was hired part-time by Fr. Joseph Vogrin in 1963. By 1970, Fr. Vogrin convinced Cyrilla to return to school and get her administrator’s license so she could take over full-time as the administrator. 

During their time in administration, Cyrilla and Fr. Vogrin oversaw three separate expansions in 1963, 1967, and 1976. The 1976 expansion was critical for the growth of the facility. It created room for 30 new beds and gave St. William’s enough occupants to afford a full-time nursing staff working in three different shifts for round-the-clock care. The facility was soon the largest employer in Parkers Prairie, surpassing the school district. 

Fr. Vogrin retired in 1987, after serving 37 years as pastor of St. William’s Church and Cyrilla Bitzan retired just two years later. She passed on her knowledge and an incredibly high standard of care to the then-Director of Nursing, Paul Baer. Paul would remain the administrator for another 26 years until 2013 when Tim Kelly, the current administrator, took over.

Beyond the Nursing Home

There was a great need in Otter Tail County for a place that could care for mentally-handicapped citizens as well as the elderly. In 1982, a 16-resident annex was built to provide community-based care for those suffering from mental illness. 

With this expansion, the facility got a name change to St. William’s Living Center to incorporate all the new aspects of care available. The annex operated until 2003 and in 2006, it was torn down to make room for another expansion to the property. 

St. William’s opened its first adult foster care home in 1989 and has since added two more foster homes. Foster care allows adults with mental disabilities the protection and assistance they need to handle the basic activities of daily living.

In June of 2001, McCornell Court Assisted Living was built. The assisted living wing holds fifteen senior living apartments that offer seniors a supported lifestyle with the autonomy of apartment living.  A chapel was also built during the 2001 addition to give residents a space to partake in religious services.

Vogrin Hall was added to the campus in 2007, giving residents a large, open event space they can use for family gatherings, regular activities, and town events.

May of 2019 brought another exciting chapter to the history of St. William’s when our newest addition opened to residents. This remodeling project added fourteen private rooms to the nursing facility as well as several new common areas and a fully equipped outpatient therapy clinic.

St. William’s Living Center: The Home With a Heart and 5 Stars!

From its early years as the Liebold Hospital to the most recent expansion and remodel, it’s been our pleasure to bring high-quality healthcare to the citizens of Parkers Prairie! 

Our facility consistently receives a 5-star rating in the Medicare Nursing Home Compare Program. Contact us to learn more about the many services we offer.

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 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

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. 

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

We’ve Remodeled! Join Us for a Grand Opening Event

We’ve Remodeled! Join Us for a Grand Opening Event

On May 20th, something very exciting happened at St. William’s Living Center. Our new addition was completed and residents officially moved in! 

This new addition has been in the works for several years now. And we couldn’t be more excited to give our residents a beautiful new facility to enjoy. And now we want to share it with you!

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about our upcoming grand opening event.

About the New Addition

The new addition to St. William’s started with a groundbreaking ceremony on April 27, 2018. Since then, we’ve been working hard to complete this new beautiful new space. 

The project included the construction of 14 private resident rooms, each with its own private bathroom and shower. Before the renovation began, there were 16 shared rooms at St. William’s. Now that the new addition is complete, there are only three shared rooms at our facility. 

This change has also increased the number of private bathrooms from nine before the renovation to 29 after. These new rooms and spacious bathrooms offer our residents a more modern feel with a greater sense of privacy. 

Not only do residents get to enjoy more private space, but they get additional common areas as well. There is a large new kitchen, a beautiful new lobby, and a spa room too. Plus, residents have access to a brand new handicap-accessible courtyard. The outdoor area offers a safe and peaceful environment for residents to enjoy our beautiful Minnesota summers.

Renovation Update

But it’s not only the new addition that we’re excited about! We’ve been working on renovations to our existing skilled nursing facility too. 

We’ve replaced our roof and added state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems. These changes will make our residents more comfortable by adding efficiency and humidity controls. There were also new electrical receptacles added in every existing room. 

We upgraded our security camera system to provide a safer environment for residents and staff. The fire alarm system got an update as well. And we renovated our tub room and spa. 

Our entrances are improved now too, with handicap accessibility on Jackson St, Soo St, and McCornell Ave. New sidewalks surround the entire facility. Plus, there was an additional parking lot added near the Jackson St entrance to accommodate outpatient therapy, residents, and their visitors. 

More Room and Expanded Services

All of this extra room means we can offer more services to our residents and to the community. The new addition features an outpatient therapy clinic that provides physical, occupational, and speech therapy. 

Therapy is so important in helping those recuperating from illness or injury to get back on their feet. The new addition houses a large gym with two private treatment rooms. It also includes an occupational therapy kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. 

And our therapy services aren’t only for residents. With this new facility, we can treat people of all ages in the surrounding communities. This includes physical therapy for student-athletes. 

We’ll See You at Our Grand Opening Event!

We are so excited to show you all these wonderful changes! Join us on Tuesday, August 20th from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm. When you visit, you’ll receive a map showing you around our new facility. There will be tours of all the new areas, including our exercise gym and therapy rooms, our new mental health office, and the new resident rooms. 

Therapy Gym

There will be finger foods and appetizers available throughout the building. And we’ll have live music in the south dining room from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Stop by our grand opening event for a great time!

St. William’s Living Center consistently receives 5-star ratings in the Medicare Nursing Home Compare program. Which means we are well above average among other nursing homes in the country. We’re proud to serve our residents and the Parkers Prairie community!

St. Williams Living Center

Larry Lahman Celebrates 25 Years!

Congratulations on your retirement Larry, you will be missed!

Today we celebrated Larry Lahman and his 25 years of working at St. William’s Living Center in our Maintenance department.

Congratulations on your retirement Larry, you will be missed!

St. Williams Nursing Home

St. William’s Living Center Celebrates National Nursing Week

Happy National Nurses Week to our amazing nursing team! 


It is because of all of our great staff that St. William's Living Center made the U.S. News & World Report list of Best Nursing Homes in Minnesota! We are proud of our 5 Star Organization and grateful for all of our staff who have helped us receive this recognition!