Diocesan News

Marian Sisters' History: St. Thomas Orphanage to Marycrest Motherhouse

Submitted by the Marian Sisters

In 1963, at the time when St. Thomas Orphanage, the Marian Sisters’ first home, was closing, and the children were being placed in foster homes, Bishop James V. Casey was organizing a DDP campaign for a Catholic Center near Waverly.

Included in the Center were Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House, Villa Marie School for Exceptional Children, and the Marian Sisters' Motherhouse.

The Marian Sisters made many trips out to the site of their future home. The sisters brought out picnic lunches even before the building was constructed. At the time, the site was considered a long drive from the heart of the city – 84th Street was still a dusty gravel road.

On their trips, the sisters would sometimes put new words to familiar songs to depict their excitement. One song was to the tune of “Sunflower.” The new lyrics said, “We were born in Lincoln- we were sown in Lincoln- and when- we get settled we’ll be- home in Lincoln. There’s a spirit here that we all think is grand- and we want to spread it out- all over the land.” At the time, the sisters did not know the new address would be Waverly!

The actual moving day came quickly, unexpectedly, on September 10, 1963. The children from the orphanage had all been placed in foster homes by this time. However, Cuban refugee teenagers and young adults, supervised by Father Edward Tuchek moved in to St. Thomas Orphanage. It was not exactly the atmosphere for a religious novitiate house.

When the sisters moved in to the newly-constructed motherhouse, they were able to bring a few things they could use, but had no beds or furniture of any kind there. They made do in the kitchen by using orange crates with a large piece of plywood placed over the top serving as a table and used for food preparations and dining.

Beds were eventually rented. Moving them in was an experience many of the sisters remember well: “It had been raining hard most of the day. There was no paved driveway. We and a small group of generous volunteer men carried the rented beds in from the gravel road, through much soft sinking mud and up the stairs to bedrooms. To say the least, it was a muddy problem!”

The sisters eventually acquired chairs which were set up in the ‘chapel’ that had no altar or tabernacle. The sisters still gathered there for Divine Office recitation and various devotions.

The sisters were thankful for the eventual furnishings, which arrived slowly, including a stove, sinks, and tables. Every piece was truly appreciated. When the sisters were able to have the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel, they were very grateful.

To help catch an influx of mice coming in from the fields that first fall, the sisters acquired two kittens, Sugar and Spice. The sisters enjoyed the kittens too much and would sneak them table scraps, as they felt sorry for them. Next the sisters acquired a dog named Poochi, but again it didn’t work out, as he had too many masters among the sisters and began mischievous antics, like chewing the mats at the doorways and attacking the sisters’ laundry on the outside clothes lines.

The sisters later acquired a black Lab named Ben, but being too friendly with guests, he would overpower them, and so he was found another home.

In spite of the rather chaotic and often humorous beginnings, the sisters have enjoyed the home for 50 years and are grateful to the people of the Lincoln Diocese who so generously contributed to Bishop Casey’s building program.

Since the sisters arrived at the motherhouse in September 1963, they have managed to grow in numbers and have had two additions built on to the original motherhouse. They are presently in the process of having the main chapel renovated to give more glory to our Lord and Savior.


Editor's Note: Please also see "Marian Sisters celebrate 60 years of serving God" and ''Marian Sisters' chapel renovation: ‘Building Something Beautiful For God’"

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