In 1987, Sister Doris Pehowski, the director of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, received a grant for six million dollars to build Canticle Court. She had no idea what that was supposed to be, as the request to the Housing and Urban Development had been made by the prior administration.
The request had come about as a “Needs Assessment for the Elderly” conducted in 1985 that concluded a strong need in the community for low-income elderly housing. Sister Doris Pehowski, Sister Marcia Lunz, and Sister Patricia Zolecki called the congregation together for an informative session on November 7, 1987, and again on December 13, 1987. The congregation, after weighing the pros and cons of such an undertaking, supported the venture and the grant was accepted. Construction of Canticle Court was quickly underway.
Keeping within the HUD regulations, the four-story building was constructed with 48 apartments, five of which were totally handicap-accessible. There are 36 one-bedroom and 12 studio apartments which are available regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin.
In September of 1989, a long line of applicants formed at the front door to obtain residence. By the end of the day, a waiting list was established. The facility was opened on May 19, 1990, to a full-house and a new ministry.
Sister Doris addressed the gathering by saying,
This morning I want to address a very important group of people – the residents of Canticle Court. I want to say that you are not here because we have created this building, but rather this building, Canticle Court, is here because of you. It was planned for you, it was built for you, and today, it is dedicated to you.
You are our special friends. In society, you are defined as ‘low-income’ elderly. You are in good company. We, too, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, are low-income, and some of us are elderly. St. Francis of Assisi, our founder and spiritual guide, was low income. Lady Poverty was his cherished friend.
In 1992, with help of a two million dollar loan from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Develop Association, WHEDA, a $750,000 loan from the congregation, and a grant of $250,000 from the Federal Home Loan bank, the change-over of the former St. Ann’s Health Center to Juniper Court began. Renovations began in May 1993, with the razing of each of the four floors of the former building and reconfiguring of the building into 53 apartments with space in the lower level for an office, activity rooms, and the existing kitchen. Secured entry ways were installed. The apartments had all been leased by September of 1994.
Sister Doris Pehowski again addressed the audience,
May the hundreds of Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, both living and deceased, who blessed the walls of this building by their presence and by their infirmities, surround each of you who live here with peace, joy, and love. In time of need, call upon those who have gone to eternity, for they are now saints in Heaven. We place Juniper Court under their special patronage.
But today, we dedicate this building to you, the residents of Juniper Court. We invite you to carry out the same Franciscan tradition of sharing with each other, with all on this campus, and especially with those in our society who are in need.
The walkway joining the two Courts was built in 1997, allowing the residents of Canticle Court to access the dining room, chapel, exercise room, library, beauty parlor and country store without going outdoors. It welcomes socializing between the two buildings.