Within the first year, a desperate, overwhelmed mother left her infant child in the permanent care of the Sisters. Paralyzed with severe physical disabilities, spina bifida, her head enlarged by hydrocephalus, medical professionals offered the grim prognosis that Maria would not live beyond three months. Yet she did.
Surrounded by love, learning and the opportunity to live a dignified and empowered life, she began to cry less and smile more – and Maria Morrow became the first official resident of Holy Angels. As word about Maria spread throughout the community, state and country, co-founders Mother Mary Benignus Hoban and Sister Marie Patrice Manley worked to accommodate the additional children with special needs who began to arrive at the newly formed Holy Angels. Parents, many of whom could no longer provide the necessary care their children needed, were grateful for an environment that provided a place of loving, living and learning for their children.
In 1961, a new wing was formally dedicated to the compassionate care, education and development of children with intellectual developmental disabilities and delicate medical conditions. Sister Patrice continued to oversee the tremendous growth of Holy Angels during its formative years, while Mother Benignus supplied the essential spark necessary for fundraising and served as president of the organization until 1997. She remained president emeritus of the facility until her death at the age of 94 in December 2000.
A national inspiration for those with intellectual developmental disabilities and delicate medical conditions, the ever-smiling Maria eventually took on the role of receptionist at Holy Angels, displaying a brand of determination for the countless children, adults and families who witnessed all she achieved during her remarkable legacy of 54 years.
From the day of Maria’s arrival, Holy Angels has been dedicated to believing in the possibility that lies within each of us. From the children and adults we serve to the direct support medical professionals, educators and volunteers who serve them, we are in awe – every day – of what we all can achieve.