Holy Angels is a remarkable place and the story of its beginning is remarkable as well. It is the story of Maria. . .
Doctors did not expect the baby girl to live long beyond her December 20, 1955, birth. She was born medically fragile, with multiple disabilities. If she lived, the doctors said, the baby would have serious medical problems, severe mental retardation and physical disabilities.
Her young mother sought help from the Sisters of Mercy who operated a day care center under the direction of Sister Marie Patrice Manley, shown at top left with Maria. In January 1956, the young mother, a worker in one of the textile mills in Belmont, began to bring her fragile child to Sr. Patrice. When the baby became seriously ill, the mother asked the sisters to care for her child.
Each sister took turns caring for the infant who was named, Maria. She began to thrive with their attention and lots of medical care. She grew and developed far better than expected. Soon, other parents of children with multiple disabilities and mental retardation asked the Sisters of Mercy for help. The Sisters realized that there was a compelling need for a home that offered loving, compassionate care for children with special needs. Always willing to answer God's call, the Sisters set up a home, which eventually became Holy Angels. Mother Mary Benignus Hoban, shown at bottom left with Maria, co-foundress of Holy Angels, called the children who came to live there, “God’s innocents.” Mother Benignus served as president of Holy Angels until 1997. She died on December 30, 2000 at the age of 94.
The late Kays Gary, a North Carolina newspaper columnist, wrote about Maria, the Sisters of Mercy and the other children. His friend, syndicated columnist, Jim Bishop, wrote stories, too. Their journalism brought support – and more children – to the Sisters of Mercy. These articles touched the hearts of people throughout the country who demonstrated their love for Holy Angels and its residents through gifts of financial support and prayers.
Then on October 2, 1961 – the Feast of the Guardian Angels – a new wing was formally dedicated to the compassionate care, education and development of children with mental retardation and other disabilities. What until then had been called “the Nursery” became Holy Angels. Later, in 1972, the newly built Main Center opened. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Holy Angels in 2006, the Main Center was re-named in honor of Maria and today is called the Morrow Center.
To read more about Maria and the touching story of the relationship she developed as an adult with her recently deceased mother, click here.
Unfortunately, Maria passed away at age 54 on August 24, 2010. Holy Angels grieves our loss but celebrates the life and legacy of Maria! Click here to read a special Heartline newsletter about Maria.