San Damiano’s Healing Legacy
By Judy Koeppl, MSSW
Recently, I toured the Frank Allis house at San Damiano and it filled my heart with many fond memories of the 23 years I worked there as the Director of a grief counseling center.
Walking inside the house, I fondly remembered the little office in the hallway that Father Lester Bach built for me and how the Capuchins made us feel so welcome. In my tiny office, I was privileged to listen to the stories and profound grief of hundreds of women, men, and young people over the years. The big, open living room with its generous fireplace and beautiful woodwork, functioned as our waiting room and as a comfortable space for support groups. The enclosed back porch is where children attended art therapy as a part of their healing process. The back room with the large windows overlooking the lake is where the Capuchin’s chapel was set up, and I remembered how the priests prayed for us and for the healing of the persons we saw there. I realized going back to see the house, that so much of my heart and spirit are still deeply connected with San Damiano, a place of grace and graciousness.
Apart from the house, the beauty and peacefulness of the property were ideal for our work. Our mission was to empower persons in their life journey and to promote the integration of their loss, spiritual growth, and mind/body healing. San Damiano was a true gift with its exquisite natural healing environment. So often profound grief can take your breath away, and I remember someone saying as we walked the property, “Judy, I can really breathe here".
My hope for the future is that the sense of healing and peace can continue to grace the lives of those who come to enjoy its beauty. I hope the Native Americans, who were the first inhabitants of the land, will be remembered and honored. Many thanks for all the work the City of Monona and the Friends of San Damiano have invested to make public access of this special place possible.