A Commitment to the Future, While Honoring the Past
A long-time piece of Wellpoint Care Network’s campus now proudly stands outside the convent of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Milwaukee.
A statue of St. Jerome Aemilian, who is the patron saint of orphans and neglected boyhood, was placed on the Wellpoint Care (at the time, St. Aemilian’s Orphan Asylum) campus sometime after our Capitol Drive building was completed in the 1950s.
“When this building was constructed, and up and until 1969, Saint Aemilian was a part of the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese,” said Ann Leinfelder Grove, President and CEO of Wellpoint Care Network. “In 1969, our organization separated to become a standalone, non-profit childcare facility. Some of the elements of our religious history remained as a part of the campus, including the statue.”
But as leaders at Wellpoint Care began envisioning the transformation of the historic, 18-acre campus located on Milwaukee’s northwest side, new ideas for the front courtyard arose.
“As we looked to improve the facility, it didn’t make sense anymore that the statue would be a part of that front entrance,” added Leinfelder Grove. “Not because we don’t respect our history deeply, but things changed way back when, and they continue to evolve as we push to be much more community-facing, and serving children and families far earlier in their need for support and for care.”
So, the statue was removed from the Wellpoint Care campus in summer of 2022. It was then reconditioned, and in May of 2023 professionally installed near the sisters’ convent park.
“A really cool thing is it’s not that many yards from where it would have been first installed in the 1800s at the Saint Aemilian Orphanage, which was on the seminary grounds, which is immediately adjacent to where the sisters convent is,” said Leinfelder Grove. “The sisters say they’re so excited that the statue of St. Aemilian ‘came home,’ because it’s so close to where it first was.”
The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi also have a deep connection to Wellpoint Care Network.
“The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi worked at Saint Aemilian from the mid-1850s until approximately 2005, so over 150 years. In fact, there are 255 sisters who worked here over those many, many decades. We know that because all their names were placed on a tribute plaque some years ago, and it was that tribute plaque, along with the statue itself, that was what the recent blessing and celebration at their convent was all about.”
The statue was a donation to St. Francis of Assisi on behalf of Wellpoint Care Network.
“It was our gift to move the statue to their convent, to have it reconditioned and to have it professionally installed in such a way that it looks like it’s been there forever. Which is a really good restoration, right? That it fits right in and looks like it belongs there.”
Leinfelder Grove, who has been with the organization for over 30 years, says she’s committed to honoring the legacy of Wellpoint Care Network, while also looking to the future.
“When we can honor our history, either in overt ways like donating the statue or more subtle ways like making sure that aspects of our history can be woven into how we explain who we are, I think that’s really important. This building is 70-years-old, and there’s lots of things we can’t wait to get rid of because they’re so old or outdated. But some things, like the statue, are just a little more special.”
Construction on Wellpoint Care’s campus continues.
“I feel like we’re moving into our identity and setting a platform for the future really nicely,” said Leinfelder Grove. “That courtyard where the statue was will have great meaning, as being the welcoming place for people who come here for care or for meetings. There’ll be places to sit and engage with other people, beautiful landscaping. Just a commitment, right away when you see it, that this is a good and welcoming place. I’m really excited about that.”
For more on Wellpoint Care Network’s history in Milwaukee, click here.
To donate to Wellpoint Care Network’s mission of helping children and families thrive, click here.