History of the National Christ Child Society
Ms. Mary Virginia Merrick, Founder – Christ Child Society
The Christ Child Society was founded by Mary Virginia Merrick in Washington, D.C., in 1887. In her teens, Miss Merrick was injured in a fall. She was so seriously hurt that her life became that of a complete invalid. Unwilling to resign herself to a life of idleness, and despite her overwhelming handicap, Miss Merrick turned her thoughts to the poor children of Washington, especially babies.
In her desire to help these children and to honor the Christ Child, she called upon her friends. The young women met with Miss Merrick and began sewing layettes, which were given to the mothers of needy infants. The interest and the need grew, and eventually Miss Merrick formalized this organization, founding the Christ Child Society.
Although all chapters today help needy children, in accordance with Miss Merrick’s wish, Christ Child societies adapt themselves to the specific needs of the communities they serve. Thus, each of the 38 chapters is individualized in both project and services.
As a result of the good Miss Merrick had effected and because she was the guiding light for similar organizations throughout the United States, many honors were bestowed upon this frail woman. Some of the most noteworthy were: the Laetare Medal, awarded by the University of Notre Dame in recognition of her outstanding service to the children; the Siena Medal, presented annually to the outstanding Catholic woman in the United States; and the Papal Cross, awarded by the Vatican to persons who have uniquely served their God and their country. On April 2, 2003 Pope John Paul II declared Mary Virginia Merrick a ” Servant of God,” the first official step towards canonization.