Who Is Mary Virginia Merrick?

Through my involvement with a diocesan saint project, I became acquainted with Mary Virginia Merrick. This woman, who was born in Washington, D.C. in 1866, is an extraordinary example of what a Christian is capable of despite all odds. Her cause for canonization was opened in 2011. At the age of fourteen Mary Virginia suffered a spinal injury that confined her either to bed or to a reclining wheelchair for the rest of her life. She died in 1955, when she was 88. Instead of wallowing in her misfortune, Mary Virginia refused to speak of it and as a teenager spearheaded a movement that evolved into the Christ Child Society. It began when she inspired her friends to find and need and fill it. They discovered a poor expectant mother who did not have baby clothes, and the girls made a layette for her. Mary Virginia’s devotion to the Christ Child impelled her to focus her charitable works on children, and today the Christ Child Society has 6000 members who help children and families in need. Her eulogy summarized her life: “She took her cross and out of it fashioned a bridge over which she and others could walk on their way to God.”


People like Mary Virginia who refuse to let severe disabilities control them but live boldly and make a difference in the world are a challenge to the rest of us who are healthy and able-bodied. It’s said that we use only a percentage of the potential of our brains. And according to Scripture, more will be expected of those who have more. I wonder sometimes how much I could be doing that I’m not! I certainly hope that Mary Virginia is declared a saint someday. She is someone worthy of our admiration and imitation. You might want to check out the Christ Child Society at www.nationalchristchild.org. Children and families today perhaps have needs greater than ever.

Who do you know who lives life to the hilt in spite of intimidating personal challenges?


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