Monsignor Michael Azzopardi, Ecclesiastical Assistant General of The Malta Catholic Action had, for some time, nursed a ‘dream’ that would help improve the quality of life of people with disabilities who for one reason or another could not stay any longer with their parents.
On the 12th September 1965 he aired his idea during a radio programme – that of opening the first residential home in Malta for persons with disability. A young lady who heard the programme was so moved by his idea that she sought him out and gave him a cheque for Lm100 (around €230) – money she had saved for a holiday abroad!
On the 21st January 1967 the deeds of the building and land that was formerly the Qrendi Royal Navy Rest Camp were formally signed over to The Malta Catholic Action which now have become the home base of Id-Dar tal-Providenza.
Thanks to a very generous contribution from the then Archbishop of Malta – Monsignor Michael Gonzi, extensive renovations to the building now called ‘Villa Monsignor Gonzi’ were carried out in preparation for receiving the first residents.
Nuns from the Congregation of Sisters of St Jeanne Antide Thouret took up residence on the 12th January 1968. They were Id-Dar tal-Providenza’s first support workers aided by volunteers and subsequently by employed personnel. The Sisters have given full time service since then. From the very beginning of the Homes, one of the clauses in a set of rules written by Mgr Michael Azzopardi on the 16th of December of 1968 has been the cornerstone of the Directorate of the Homes has always been the integration of the disabled into society. The first three residents of Id-Dar tal-Providenza arrived on the 11th of February 1968. They were all housed in the newly refurbished Villa Monsignor Gonzi. In 1999, this villa was eventually demolished and rebuild. It was inaugurated again on the 17th July 2001.
1971 saw the start of the building of a second home designed to accommodate fifty residents. This home, called Villa Papa Giovanni, was inaugurated on the 19th March 1974. Whilst work was in progress on Villa Papa Giovanni, a second floor was added to Villa Monsignor Gonzi.
Monsignor Michael Azzopardi passed away on the 13th May 1987. During the funeral homily of the beloved founder of Id-Dar tal-Providenza at St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta, on the 14th of May 1987, Mgr Joseph Mercieca, the then Archbishop of Malta said: “…Go with your mind at rest…Rest assured, Dun Mikiel, that all initiatives started by you will be continued”. Most appropriately, he is buried at Id-Dar tal-Providenza. Mgr Phillip Calleja, temporarily took over the running of the Homes, until Mgr Lawrence Gatt was chosen by Archbishop Joseph Mercieca to sucdeed him as second Director on the 1st July 1987.
On the 8th September 1987 Villa Papa Luciani was inaugurated. This residence was designed to house semi-independent residents and currently has a complement of thirty senior citizens and young adults.
On the 11th of February of 1997, four residents moved to “Zerniq” a small house in Mons. Mikiel Azzopardi Street, in the village of Siggiewi, to experience “Supported Living” in a homely environment.
Dar tal-Providenza offers respite-care facilities to persons with disability who still live with their families. The knowledge that these facilities are available greatly support these families to continue in their endeavour to enable their family member continue to live with them.
Since 1998 Id-Dar tal-Providenza has been affiliated with a foreign agency from Glasgow (Scotland) called SPRED Special Religious Development which offers a network of services designed to assist persons with intellectual disabilities to become integrated into parish assemblies of worship through the process of education in faith.
On the 1st October 2008, Fr Martin Micallef was appointed Director of id-Dar tal-Providenza succeeding Mgr. Lawrence Gatt who was appointed Chancellor of the Archbishops Curia.
This post is also available in: Maltese