Remembering St. Joseph’s founder

In February of 1971, Fr. Carmen Giuliano, SA, received the assignment from the Friars of the Atonement of creating St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center in Saranac Lake, “to serve God by promoting healing and recovery for all persons who suffer from the disease of alcoholism and chemical dependency” and to “prudently use resources to provide treatment and advocacy for those who lack the necessary resources.”

In the 46 years since the centers’ founding, St. Joseph’s has provided the gifts of hope and healing from addiction to thousands of men, women, adolescents and their families.

It is, therefore, with great admiration and tremendous sadness that I share the news that St. Joseph’s patriarch, Father Carmen, passed away in April.

Father Carmen’s death is not only a great loss to the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement of Garrison, who founded St. Joseph’s, but also to the entire St. Joseph’s community, including our community of graduates, St. Joseph’s Fellowship, which after more than four decades of steady growth now numbers more than 4,000 members.

Father Carmen’s creativity, dedication and compassion were reflected in the farsighted St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment Program that he created on a magic hill overlooking Lake Flower in Saranac Lake in 1971.

We are still guided by the mission that Father Carmen set for St. Joseph’s — to promote healing and recovery for individuals and families suffering from addiction, and to provide the highest quality professional services in a manner which recognizes the spiritual nature, inherent dignity and worth of every individual.

In preparing for opening St. Joseph’s as an addiction treatment center, Father Carmen traveled tirelessly around the country, picking the brains of noted addiction treatment experts to create an original approach to addiction founded on spirituality and best practices which was decades ahead of its time.

That strong foundation has allowed St. Joseph’s to evolve from its earliest days with the original six male residents to a truly comprehensive continuum of addiction treatment.

Although Father Carmen was too humble to ever seek or expect recognition, in 2011, to commemorate the agency’s 40th anniversary, St. Joseph’s formally dedicated our Spirituality Center as the Father Carmen Giuliano Spirituality Center in recognition of his vision and leadership.

In addition to a smiling picture of Father Carmen greeting all who enter the Spirituality Center, the following words are memorialized in the plaque dedicating the center in his name: “To heal the wounds, unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” Those powerful words capture the spirit of the charge to all who have joined Father Carmen in his noble adventure, begun 46 years ago, to help addicts and they remain a beacon for our efforts today and in the future.

Father Carmen, we will miss you and are fortunate to have had your gifts and your grace to lead our way to help others.

Bob Ross is CEO and president of St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers, based in Saranac Lake.

Excerpts from Fr. John Kean, SA,’s eulogy to Fr. Carmen

Among the assignments that Carmen had, he is noted for his ministry as minister general of the Friars of the Atonement and as director of Saint Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center in Saranac Lake, a ministry that he started.

Father Carmen was a pioneer in forming many action groups, such as the alumni recovery meetings, building cottages for family meetings on the grounds in Saranac Lake, and in working with others by writing legislation that defined alcoholism to be a disease rather than a crime in New York state — an action that reaches out not only to the state of New York but also to our nation and the world.

He often told me that his spiritual life could be summed up in a quote from Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer — namely:

“Being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and doing things together is more important than doing things alone.”

In this quote, Carmen saw his own Atonement vocation inspired by Father Paul Watson of Graymoor. Although he used his mind to give many talks to his Franciscan community and to many lay people seeking his wisdom, Father Carmen was above all a man with a heart full of love for others.

(He) preached this spirituality to others and he lived it intensely himself. This spirituality is summed up with this brief thought:

“The greatest hunger we have is to feel good about ourselves and to do something about it.”

In all his writings, I think the following paragraph, which he wrote himself, best describes what spirituality of self-esteem means:

“The heart is the center of spiritual activity, by which I recognize the transcendent dimension of my life. By it, I come to recognize that there is meaning and purpose to my life that goes beyond me and affects the lives of other people and the world in general. I experience that there is a Being dwelling within me Who is the Author of my life and Who uses all of these gifts to guide and direct me in fulfilling the purpose for which I was created.”

Carmen, my friend, with your “lions gird,” to use the words of the Gospel today, you have prepared yourself well to meet your Creator, Almighty God. We await to greet you on that day of resurrection! Like gold tried in a furnace, you have been tested and proven to be a true spiritual son of Father Paul of Graymoor, who, like you, tried to gather people together in unity and who served the poor in need of help and recovery!

May you rest in peace! Amen!