Department for Persons with Disabilities
A Catholic Charities Agency in the Diocese of Paterson
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Wehrlen House, West Milford

About: Wehrlen House is a bi-level home in West Milford, NJ. Throughout 2016, Wehrlen house provided 2,009 days of care to 6 people with developmental disabilities.

History: Wehrlen House opened in 1989 in West Milford. It was named in honor of DPD’s founder, Msgr. John B. Wehrlen. Monsignor Wehrlen started his career as a priest out of St. Phillips the Apostle Church in Clifton. It was here that he started the Department for Special Education, through a nursery and catechistical program. From there, Monsignor Wehrlen, opened day camps for children with special needs, day programs, and later group homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Monsignor Wehrlen, is still a volunteer for DPD, over 50 years after he founded DPD.

 "One of the most defining moments in my life and the one that really motivated me to jumpstart the Department occurred in the early 1960’s. I was stationed at St. Phillip’s from 1959-1967, though it seems like just yesterday. One evening, I heard a knock at the back door of the rectory and to my surprise it was a detective from the Clifton Police Department. He said “we need a priest.” The officer didn't give me any details and I had no clue what it was about. I soon found out that a tragedy occurred that we may have been able to prevent. One of our parishioners, Lucia, had a young son with a neurological impairment. She didn't have any help with taking care of him and there were no services offered back then. She was a single mother of three, whose husband had left her to fend for herself emotionally and financially. She felt alone, overwhelmed and isolated. Her third young child, an infant at the time, was also believed to have a developmental disability. That evening, she put her three children in her Volvo Sedan, put a vacuum cleaner hose through the tailpipe and the other end into the backseat of her car, and took the lives of herself and her three children. That was a very poignant wake up call for me. Many of the young parents of children with disabilities needed support and the church was just not giving it to them. Lucia’s story motivated me to do more for those in need and work to start a program to provide support for people with special needs."
– Monsignor John B. Wehrlen

Wehrlen House
18 Bisset Drive
West Milford, NJ 07480
Director:  Cheryl Slate
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Phone: (973) 409-2765
Fax: (973) 208-0381

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