Cardinal Hayes Home is sponsored by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, a Roman Catholic order of women. The foundress of the FMMs was Helene de Chappotin, a woman of a lively and joyful personality, who opened a new way in the church.
Helene was born in France in 1839, the youngest of five children. When she was 21 years old, Helene entered the Poor Clare Monastery. It was there that she encountered the spirit of St. Francis, the poor man of Assisi. This experience profoundly influenced her life. Because of poor health, Helene could not continue the austere life of the Poor Clares. In 1864, guided by her spiritual director (but with opposition from her family), Helene entered the newly founded society of Marie Reparatrice where she was known as Mary of the Passion.
Sent to India as a missionary, she soon was asked to assume responsibility for the mission. Mary of the Passion’s intense missionary activity developed over the next ten years. Various events, compounded by the length of time it took to communicate with her superiors in Europe, led to difficulties. Through struggle and suffering, the Sisters trusted in God, and a number of them, following their consciences, eventually separated themselves from their religious community. Mary of the Passion was among them.
With three of her companions, Mary of the Passion left India to go to Rome where she met with Pope Pius IX who, in January 1877, approved the foundation of a new institute, the Missionaries of Mary. This was the first missionary community of women founded by a woman. In 1882, with the encouragement of Pope Leo XIII, the Missionaries of Mary were joined to the Franciscan Order and became known as the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Thus, after many years, Mary of the Passion’s path led back to Francis.
The beginnings of this new missionary group were difficult. Nevertheless, as the Sisters traveled and lived in the four corners of the world, their lives were characterized by joy, poverty, simplicity, family spirit, and total abandonment to the will of God. Today there are 8,000 sisters of 73 nationalities residing and working in 76 countries on all five continents. You will find the Sisters especially among the poor and marginalized, those most in need of care and love. They live in international communities witnessing to life, peace and hope, and announcing by word and by their life the Good News of God’s unconditional love for all.
Mother Mary of the Passion died on November 15, 1904 at the age of 65. In a ceremony in Rome on October 20, 2002, Pope John Paul II declared her blessed.
In 1941, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary transferred their small convalescent care center for children from Palenville, New York, to Millbrook. Thus began Cardinal Hayes Home for Children. For more than sixty years, the FMMs have sponsored the Home and been actively engaged in the work of the agency. Over the years, the Sisters have served in many capacities, such as social workers, nurses, administrators and supervisors. Their convent is located on the Millbrook campus, a short distance from the main building. The Sisters welcome the use of their chapel for ecumenical monthly prayer services for the young people who reside at Cardinal Hayes Home and for periodic services for staff.
Several Sisters live in the convent and are engaged in various positions either at Cardinal Hayes Home or Cardinal Hayes School. Their Franciscan spirit of compassion extends to the staff as well as to the disabled young people who live here. Whether it is a critically ill child or a staff member who is sick or having difficulties, the Sisters are there to console, to support, to pray. Hard-working, practical, joyful, and holy women, the FMMs are a vital part of Cardinal Hayes Home for Children.