Abandon No One

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.

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About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.