Taking their name from Saint Alexius, the son of a wealthy Roman senator, who gave up a life of luxury to serve the poor, the Congregation of Alexian Brothers received official status by papal decree in 1458. Their ministry to the United States began in 1866, when Brother Bonaventure Thelen, C.F.A., arrived in New York from Germany. He later founded a hospital in a wood frame house in Chicago where he carried in his arms the hospital's first patient on June 12, 1866. That summer, Alexian Brothers in Chicago cared for victims of a cholera epidemic. They soon earned a reputation for compassion and professional expertise, a reputation that endures to this day.
Besides the American Province of Alexian Brothers, which is called the Immaculate Conception Province, the Congregation of Alexian Brothers maintains health care ministries in Belgium, England, Ireland, Germany, India, and the Philippines. The Immaculate Conception Province supports the Philippines ministry, which provides medical and dental services for the poor in Davao City.
During an era when many institutions were questioning their positions on HIV/AIDS, the Alexian Brothers forged ahead to promote care instead of debate. In the early days of AIDS, it wasn't popular for many religious institutions to associate themselves with the issues related to, and populations affected by the disease. Yet, in this unsympathetic environment, the Alexian Brothers made a decision to create an entire program of care for those suffering and in need.
For seven centuries the Alexian Brothers have served the disadvantaged of society. They have cared for the victims of plague-torn Europe, sent brothers to battlefield hospitals in time of war, and faced cholera in Chicago. Now, with the establishment of two transitional housing communities, the Alexian Brothers have accepted one of the century's greatest challenges. . . living with AIDS.
Guided by the Alexian Brothers vision of providing care, compassion and dignity for the infection-challenged person, the mission of Bonaventure House in Chicago and its affiliate, The Harbor in Lake County, is to enhance the quality of life for people with HIV/AIDS within a supportive community.
When Bonaventure House opened its doors in March of 1989, the facility was neither hospital nor hospice. It was a home for people with AIDS and a resource center that provided counseling and an array of supportive services. Since then, Bonaventure House has been recognized by the Illinois Governor's Office and by Oprah Winfrey for the quality and comprehensive nature of its programs.
For a more detailed history of the Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry, visit the Alexian Brothers Provincial Archives
For more about the Alexian Brothers, visit their Web site
Alexian Brothers Health System
carries out the healing mission of the Catholic Church through the Alexian Brothers ministries by identifying and developing effective responses to the health and housing needs of those we are called to serve.