This year, Mercy Home is celebrating our 130th anniversary of serving children in need. That means our Mercy Home family has celebrated quite a few Christmases!
Christmas at Mercy Home has always been a special time for our boys and girls. Even in our Home’s earliest days, making the holiday memorable for our kids was a priority.
Thanks to The Waifs Messenger, our publication that we have sent friends of the Home for over 115 years, we can look back at Christmases through our history.
One of the first accounts of a Mercy Home Christmas was detailed by Father Centennial J. Quille, our third president, in the December 1912 issue:
“We celebrated the great feast in the midst of a throng of ninety boys, each and every one of whom had his fill of turkey and the good things which make a boy believe in Christmas; each and every one of whom laid down to rest that night in a comfortably and cleanly shelter; each and every one of whom, ere his eyes closed in his sleep, prayed for us who took him in from the cold selfishness of the outside world, and for you also, whose charity made it possible for us to do so.”
The early issues not only paint a picture of the Home’s merry celebrations, but they also serve as a window into our country’s history. In his December 1939 column, Father Edward Kelly gave a glimpse into the struggles Mercy Home faced during the Great Depression:
“I see the Yuletide joy all around me and I sense the glow and harmony of the bustling crowds. And then when I return to my room and gaze out of my window, I look out upon my youngsters running around in the yard, playing because now at least they are unmindful of the disappointment that awaits them. If they but knew how heavy my heart is because, according to present outlook, I’m helpless to make their Christmas a real one.”
But Father Kelly had an idea to overcome his challenge: He invited Mercy Home’s friends to “adopt an orphan just for Christmas day.” Readers were invited to give $1, $2, or $5 to sponsor a Christmas meal, candy, new clothes, and outerwear for a young man in need at the Home.
Readers of Waifs’ got a special look at Mercy Home’s festivities when Father Kelly shared a photo of our Christmas celebration in 1950. The beautifully decorated tree shows the meticulous care put into making our Home a cheerful place during the holidays!
When Father James Close took the helm, readers began to see a more in-depth picture of what Christmas at Mercy Home was like.
In the December 1978 issues of Waifs’, friends of the Home from C.W. Transport’s trucking terminal in Bridgeport, Ill., were recognized for their efforts to raise money to buy gifts for all the young men at Mercy Home.
C.W. Transport employees then wrapped the gifts and delivered them to Mercy Home on Christmas Eve, where they were placed under the tree and passed out after Christmas dinner. The company repeated this generous tradition for years!
Father Close reflected on this kindness:
“Christmas is one time during the year when unwanted children should receive more attention and love than they usually get. This is important therapy for them, and all during the next year they will look back on their Christmas experiences with smiles on their faces. They will have a glowing feeling inside them because someone cares.”
These special Christmas experiences continue today. Our young men and women experience the wonder of the season much like any other child would. They enjoy festive decorations around the Home, a warm Christmas meal, and presents, thanks to generous friends like you!
We are truly thankful to each and every donor who has helped make Christmas merry for our children over the past 130 years.