Monthly Archives: November 2015

Gratitude is “Happiness Doubled by Wonder”: Thank you, Follett Higher Education!

As we prepare for our unique American celebration of Thanksgiving, sometimes we need to remind ourselves to count our blessings rather than the number in people in line ahead of us in the grocery store.  Not so this year, because for the National Christ Child Society there have been so many amazing, ground-breaking blessings this year, blessings we never could have dreamed of even a year ago.

David Werda Follett

David Werda, Director of Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore accepting the South Bend Chapter’s “Heart of a Child Award” at South Bend’s annual “Let Love Shine” fundraiser

Let’s start with the most recent blessing.  As G.K. Chesterton said, gratitude is “happiness doubled by wonder.”  Those words really describe the joy and awe we feel because of the generous gift of Follett Higher Education Group of 6,000 Good Night Moon board books to be distributed to 27 Christ Child chapters across the country before the end of December, for inclusion in these chapters’ layettes. Follett_Vertical_RGB Follett has for some time been incredibly generous to our South Bend chapter, since 2008 donating these books for inclusion in the chapter’s layettes and donating many other books as well.  In fact, Follett has been so generous over the years that South Bend this September awarded the   Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore (a Follett Higher Education Group bookstore) its 2015 “Heart of a Child” Award.

GNM and layette

Follett Higher Ed duo with Deb

Carol Winter, Sr. Vice President of Merchandising, and Don Germano, President of the Follett Higher Education Group with South Bend chapter member and NCCS Board member Deb Low

In learning from Deb Low, who chairs grant-writing for the South Bend Chapter and serves on the NCCS board as development chair, that there are many other chapters around the country distributing layettes, Follett offered to extend its generosity more broadly.  Now, two-thirds of all Christ Child chapters will soon be able to pick up from local Follett Higher Education Group bookstoresenough Good Night Moon books to meet their full year’s layettes needs.  (Chapters benefitting from the Follett gift will be contacted directly by NCCS with the particulars).  Truly wonderful for the mothers and babies who will bond together while reading this timeless classic.  Wonderful for each of the 27 chapters receiving this gift this year, ensuring our ability to support early childhood reading which is so fundamental to a child’s ability to learn and progress in life.  Wonderful for us as a national organization to share this gift and be able to exclaim our gratitude from coast to coast to Follett Higher Education bookstores near us!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Follett.

The Follett gift is pivotal in scope and size and because it is the first gift received to benefit such a large number of chapters at one time.  But this year NCCS also received several other unique and important donations:

  • The significant bequest to NCCS from the Estate of Patricia Bertrand. Patricia Bertrand died this past year after having been a member of the Cleveland and Palm Beach chapters and a founding member of the Boca Raton chapter. Having experienced Christ Child in three different communities, Patricia appreciated NCCS’ role to support existing and forming chapters. Her bequest has allowed NCCS to make a one-time investment in improved communications and public relations with the aim of helping chapters attract more members and funding, as well as a substantial donation to the Cause for Canonization as it prepares to move to the Roman phase. God bless and keep Patricia.
  • The Green Foundation’s lead donation to the Cause for Canonization of Mary Virginia Merrick. Based in Los Angeles, California, the Green Foundation made this donation to encourage other foundations and individuals to help make it possible to send the Cause to Rome. Their gift has encouraged significant giving, as have the major pledges and gifts of a number of chapters, including $25,000 by the Washington, D.C. chapter and, most recently, $5,000 by the South Bend chapter. What seemed an impossible task now seems more achievable as a result of these major gifts and the gifts large and small of other chapters and individual Christ Child members from across the country. Blessings and gratitude to you all.

Thanks as well to every Christ Child member and supporter, for each person’s gifts of time in leadership, in fundraising or in volunteering with children, and each person’s financial support to their local chapter, NCCS and/or the Cause. I ask Mary Virginia Merrick to pray for each of you and yours, and send warmest wishes to each of you for a Happy Thanksgiving full of gratitude and wonder.

“Saints are the ones who let the light shine through them” Happy Birthday, Miss Mary!


Stained glass window depicting the Christ Child with Our Lady by Harvey Salvin at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., donated by the National Christ Child Society in honor of Mary Virginia Merrick’s 100th birthday in 1966

Mary Virginia Merrick, Servant of God, was born 149 years ago today.  Most people aren’t remembered 150 years after their death, but Miss Mary is, because of her holy inspiration to all of us, especially to those of us who are connected to Christ Child.

This Sunday, at  my church, Fr. Marc Rougeau, Salesian of Don Bosco, gave a beautiful sermon on the beatitudes and communion of the saints. He basically said that the poor and persecuted and hungry being “blessed” is counterintuitive until you understand that Jesus calls us to be close to them—and that the saints, and our current Pope, are our best examples on how to do this.

He then told a story, sort of a fable, about a father who took his child on a tour of a church with beautiful stained glass windows depicting the saints.  When the father and child returned home, the mother inquired what the child had learned from the tour of the church, and the child said: “The saints are the ones who let the light shine through them.”

Mary Virginia Merrick understood this. According to her autobiography, she first learned about St. Francis when she was 25 by reading a French biography:

“I have always loved the animal world [God] created and from them have gotten real pleasure, and I love and have always loved to be near them. I find a kinship with them in our common Father. When I first read of St. Francis . . . . I was so happy for I understood him and his love of the lower creation in which he found God. This life made a great impression on me and I thank St. Francis for emancipating my soul. St. Francis in Monmonier’s beautiful life came as a justification of the way God was calling me to love, and it was a keen delight to me to find that ‘I was a partaker with those who loved God,’ even through His saints.”

Our founder was inspired by many saints, but she also found inspiration from the holy men and women around her, including her parents and many religious.  She found particular inspiration for her life’s work in Fr. John Drumgoole whose orphanage she toured in New York with her father as a young woman. About that visit she said:

“Goethe says somewhere that the eye would not see the light if it were not lightsome. I believe the seed that God had planted in my heart found a like Heavenly blossom growing in those bare walls and like it struggle into light and life. This blossom was destined to become a great tree under whose shade many orphans found shelter. After that Father Drumgoole figured in all my dreams of helping children for the love of Christ. I would picture myself working with him. I never saw him again, nor did he know the good influence he had cast on my way as a beneficent ray of light.”


Monsignor John Enzler, depicted at Mary Virginia Merrick’s home parish Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C., where he served as pastor prior to becoming Catholic Charities CEO and where NCCS celebrated Mass after our recent Conference.

Just as Miss Mary was inspired by the lives and examples of others, we are inspired by her today. At Mass following the recent NCCS Conference, Monsignor John Enzler, CEO of Catholic Charities and member of the Advisory Board of the Cause for Canonization of Mary Virginia Merrick, in his homily called us to strive to live our lives in ways that we can ourselves some day join the communion of saints and be with Miss Mary in heaven. He emphasized the importance Pope Francis places being with and serving the poor as Monsignor learned first-hand during the Papal visit Fr. John also encouraged us to celebrate Miss Mary as an example to others by supporting the Cause.  Here’s how he sent us forth, suggesting we let Christ’s light and Mary Virginia Merrick’s example shine forth just like the stained glass windows in Fr. Rougeau’s story:

“Let’s make it happen to be with Mary Virginia Merrick some day when God calls us home. And celebrate the wonder of the one who brings us here today and sends us forth in mission and evangelization to take care of the little ones, provide the gifts they need and let the Christ Child shine forth strong in our hearts–strong because she inspires us to do just that.”

So today, let’s celebrate and remember Miss Mary12[1] on her birthday, maybe even in some new ways:

  • Wish Miss Mary a happy birthday by “liking” her on  Facebook
  • Learn more about Mary Virginia Merrick and her life on the Canonization website or Wikipedia page
  • Pray for the Canonization of Mary Virginia Merrick
  • Read a quote a day from Mary Virginia Merrick, as Monsignor Enzler told us he does every day, either online or by ordering her desk calendar from the NCCS office
  • Donate to the Cause for Canonization
  • Do your Christ Child work today in her honor
  • Shine your light by recruiting a friend or acquaintance to become a Christ Child member

And think about how we can honor her next year on the 150th anniversary of her birth!