The inspiration for St. Michael’s Institute came in 1985. At the time I was working in a bureaucratic, government-sponsored mental health center, and I had become thoroughly disillusioned with the way the patients were treated there. The spiritual dimension of their lives was completely neglected by the staff. That was because they lacked any belief in God, objective truth, or morality. They encouraged divorce and sexual promiscuity, and ignored the powerfully negative effects that some patients’ occult practices were having on themselves and the entire center.
Frustrated, I contacted my friend Dr. Paul Vitz, professor of Psychology at New York University, former atheist, and fervent Catholic convert. When I told him of my dissatisfaction, Paul startled me by saying: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could develop a center in New York City dedicated to integrating psychiatry, psychology and Catholicism? Where we would be free of all bureaucratic interference? Free like the Apostles to go around, maybe two by two, to bring healing and the message of Christ?
My heart and mind burned with excitement at this deeply satisfying vision. But neither of us had the money to fund a center.
Shortly after our conversation, I received a phone call from Dr. Walter Bruschi, a psychiatrist at the famed Menninger Clinic. He told me he had been impressed after listening to an audiotape of Dr. Vitz. And then the astounding revelation: “I have had a profound conversion to the Catholic faith,” he said, “and both the Holy Spirit and Saint Joseph insist that I start a center in New York integrating psychiatry, psychology and Catholicism.” But he didn’t have money to fund this apostolate either.
So here we were, three mental health professionals in the manic phase, without money to realize our grandiose plan. But God was in charge of His project.
Dr. Bruschi then asked me if I knew of any other mental health professionals who might be interested in our project. He knew as well as I that Christ-based practitioners were, and are, rare. I told him I did -- a wonderful Evangelical Protestant psychiatrist, Dr. Quentin Hyder. I told Dr. Bruschi I would contact him.
When I hung up the telephone, I prayed to God for guidance, for some sign of confirmation. An impulse immediately came to me – go and open the scriptures. I opened the Bible and immediately came to Isaiah, Chapter 60, “the glorious resurrection of Jerusalem.” From there I read “…the glory of Lebanon will come to you to adorn my sanctuary and your doors will be open night and day.” At that point I turned to my wife Arlene and said with a calm and deep conviction: “God is giving us space in New York City connected with Lebanon.”
As I read the whole passage from Isaiah 60 (the same passage quoted every Epiphany in the mass) these words streamed effortlessly through my mind: “I, the Lord God, am rebuilding you, your marriage and family and the whole Catholic Church through my servant Pope John Paul II. I will do this in due time.”
Shortly afterwards Dr. Hyder called me and said: “ a friend of mine, a wealthy Lebanese Christian, is giving us space in his building at 5th Avenue and 30th street in Manhattan, New York City.”
“Yes, I know,” I said. “God already told me in prayer!”
Several days later we all went to meet our Lebanese benefactor at our new site. He told us “you are are God’s men, take this space.” And we have been there for fourteen years, during which time God has continually blessed us, and our patients.
(as told by Dr. Philip Mango, President of St. Michael’s Institute)