The Christophers have a longstanding connection to the New York Foundling, one of the city’s most successful child welfare agencies that provides shelter for abused, abandoned and neglected children. Both its longtime medical director – the late Dr. Vincent Fontana – and founder of the hospital’s Blaine Hall Initiative for children with behavioral problems – Sister Teresa Kelly – are winners of Christopher Awards for their work. For the past few Christmases, our staff has contributed toys and clothing to the children there.
Church historian Pat McNamara has written a wonderful piece about the creation of the foundling by a selfless and heroic nun named Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon. Here’s a sampling:
The babies showed up at the front door of the house, in a variety of outfits and packages. Some were dressed in rags, some in fine clothing. Some had a dollar pinned to their blanket, all their mother could afford. Sometimes notes were left. One mother wrote:
“If in years to come I could hear that he has a home and some friends, I could die in peace. If I should not hear this, it would haunt me to the day of my death. Please, in God’s names, remember the last request of a heart broken mother and be good to my dear little Charley…”
Another wrote: “This little child has suffered since she was born…. My husband is dead and I have nobody to help me.” One child was sent by a “wronged and heartbroken mother with no one to take an interest in her but God.”
In the fall of 1869, a group of Catholic nuns rented a house on East Twelfth Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village to care for the unwanted and the abandoned children of New York. Their leader was a determined, compassionate woman named Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon. Over the course of the following year, over a thousand infants were dropped at their doorstep. These Sisters of Charity, as they were known, were meeting a major social need of the day.
Read the full story here.