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History of Collier

Collier Youth Services, founded in 1927 by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a Roman Catholic Religious Institute, is a non-profit, organization dedicated to serving at-risk young people and their families through educational, recreational, and residential programs.

The philosophy and objectives of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd are rooted in the Sisters’ mission of reconciliation, in particular their effort to bring young people and families who have experienced significant personal challenges and trauma to new understandings, and to provide them with a hospitable and nurturing environment and opportunities that lead to growth and change and personal and social fulfillment.  This mission of reconciliation is illustrated in the history of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the evolution of the services which they sponsor.
The Sisters of the Good Shepherd were founded in 1835 by Sister Mary Euphrasia (birth name, Rose Virginie Pelletier).  The community derives its name from the biblical parable of the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep to find the one who was “lost.”  During Sister Mary Euphrasia’s lifetime and under her leadership, the Sisters grew into a worldwide community of 3,000 sisters in over 70 countries.
Sister Euphrasia, a woman of vision and a compassionate innovator, was impelled by the religious conviction that love for individuals would awaken in them a sense of their worth and dignity as children of God.  She was also an eminently practical woman who had a profound understanding of the dynamics of the individual person.  Aware of the necessity to accept and address all of the needs of each person served, she fostered programs characterized by a spirit of welcome, understanding, and kindness – an approach quite different from the prevalent thinking of 19th century France.  Her broad sense of mission encompassed women and youth of many cultures, religions, and nationalities.
Today our services throughout the world continue to provide family, residential, and community programs to address the needs of those who are exploited and oppressed, living in poverty, dealing with significant personal challenges or trauma, and who are in need of hope, belonging, and an understanding of their inherent worth and dignity.

Publisher Peter Fenelon Collier discovered the Rest Hill (Wickatunk) site while racing across rural Marlboro with the Monmouth County Hunt.  His son Robert established a grand style country estate there, but it was the munificence of his widow, Sarah, who gave the property to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Peter Collier, an Irish immigrant went to Philadelphia to work in a publishing company and later founded the Collier Publishing Company, well known for its Collier Weekly News Magazine. Peter Collier was successful with a number of historical and literary works, including Collier’s Library, a long series of fiction and literature, sold at a low price that made worthwhile reading available to the masses. Peter Collier married Catherine Louise Dunn, and they had one child, Robert Joseph. 
Robert J. Collier married the former, Sarah Steward Van Alen, the daughter of James J. Van Alen and granddaughter of Caroline Astor, both prominent New York City and Newport, Rhode Island families.  Their only child died shortly after birth. Robert became an enthusiastic aviator during the field’s earliest days, an activity that brought many notables to his country estate. He also shared his father’s interest in equestrian sports. Indeed, he built a polo field near the house, a surface that doubled as a landing strip, a place that attracted notoriety throughout aviation circles. He knew the Wright brothers, bought one of their craft, and was an investor in the 1909 organization of the Wright Airline Company. Robert died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 42.

Sarah Collier, a reserved private woman, is perhaps best remembered for her faith. Mrs. Robert Collier, a devout Catholic, lost all interest in the family summer home after her husband Robert Collier’s sudden death in 1918. She was looking for a community of Sisters who cared for children, and it was through her friendship with a Sister of the Good Shepherd, Sr. Mary Reilly that the Sisters of the Good Shepherd were offered the 300+ acre property in Wickatunk, NJ. In 1927 five Good Shepherd Sisters arrived on the Wickatunk property soon followed by additional sisters with the arrival of the first 10 girls in their care from Newark.

The legacy of Sr. Mary Euphrasia continues today at Collier Youth Services where, since 1927, at-risk young people have been given the opportunity to develop a sense of belonging, dignity, and hope.  Guided by the vision of Sr. Mary Euphrasia, and Catholic Social Teaching, Collier Youth Services is committed to continuing its mission to give young people “a chance to grow” and to celebrate their inner wealth and inherent dignity and worth. Today Collier operates Collier Middle and High School, a state-approved school for students whose behavioral and mental health challenges cannot be met within the public school. Combined with a strong therapeutic component, students are academically prepared for college, technical/vocational schools, and full-time employment.  Collier residential program addresses the immediate needs for safe housing and food security for young women who have survived trauma, abuse, or neglect while providing in-depth counseling and life skills training with the goal of reuniting with their family or transitioning to independent living. Kateri Day Camp provides over 220 children, whose families struggle to make ends meet, with a safe, affordable, kid-friendly summer camp experience. While at Kateri, campers make new friends, gain confidence, learn to swim, enjoy nature and continue to make academic gains … all while having fun!