St Joseph’s Hospice Association was founded in 1962 by Fr Francis O’Leary. He was a priest of the Mill Hill Mission working in Rawalpindi. He set up the charity in Liverpool to raise money for hospices overseas – beginning in Rawalpindi. A hospicewas opened in that city in 1964 to be followed over the next 30 years by hospices in Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras. Support included sending out nursing staff on short-term placements (some of which became very long), sending money, and purchasing and sending out to Columbia a hospital in kit form – to be constructed on site in Peru.
In 1972 the charity bought its current site in Thornton, Merseyside and the old house there was refurbished and opened as a hospice on 19 March 1974. It was rechristened La Casa de San Jose to reflect the charity’s Latin American links. The hospice was extended in 1984 and 1988 to provide more rooms for patients. From 1982 – 2007 the charity also operated a hospice in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
In 1992 a major new building was constructed on the Thornton site – to become the Academy for Physical and Spiritual Endeavour. This combined patient rooms with education facilities. Rechristened St Francis House it was redeveloped in 2011 to be fully devoted to caring for patients. That development was made possible above all by a grant from the Department of Health. Other grants have made possible a major programme of upgrading all facilities in La Casa de San Jose – to be completed in 2014.
With constant demand for rooms, refurbished facilities, a tremendous reputation for high-quality care, and proven success in the never-ending task of fundraising, the charity faces the challenges of its next 50 years with confidence.