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Mercy Volunteer Celebrated as a Founder of Marian House in Baltimore
May 01, 2012


Pictured thirty years ago at the ribbon cutting of Marian House in 1982 are Sr. Marilyn Graf, the first director, and the late William Donald Schaefer, mayor of Baltimore at that time, who later became the 58th governor of Maryland. Schaefer was responsible for securing funding for the renovation of the Marian House building.


Pictured at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of Marian House in Baltimore, MD., is Sister Marilyn Graf, RSM, the first director of Marian House and long-time volunteer of Mercy Medical.

Celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, Marian House of Baltimore, Md., honored its founders and its 1,000 women who have overcome lifestyles of homelessness, poverty, and addiction through the program on April 14, 2012 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore City. Sister Marilyn Graf, RSM, former vice president of mission at Mercy Medical and current Mercy volunteer was recognized during the celebration. The event raised more than $85,000 in sponsorships, individual donations and ticket sales.

Sister Marilyn, a native Mobilian, became the first director of Marian House in 1982 and took the lead to raise Marian House from its infancy. Marian House was established to minister, rehabilitate and encourage women from prisons, mental institutions and homelessness to become productive citizens and develop their potential. Sr. Marilyn created the board, worked to secure potential donors and turned a run-down building into a home and shelter by cleaning, getting furniture, finding collaborators, hiring staff, and setting up basic policies for the organization.

“Marilyn had hardly any resources, but she was very resourceful. Her southern charm was a great asset, and she could be tough when she had to be, especially in establishing the expectations and spirit of Marian House,” stated Sr. Margaret Beatty, RSM.

Sr. Margaret is credited as the visionary of Marian House. As a prison counselor, she saw many women coming right back into the system with no chance of survival due to lack of support and rehabilitation.

“Sr. Margaret had the dream of Marian House and was very successful in inspiring others to believe in their ability to make the dream a reality. She won the support of the Sisters of Mercy and the School Sisters of Notre Dame and they joined to form one of the first collaborative ministries in the area. Margaret’s concern for the underserved women of our community and her understanding of their needs was the foundation behind Marian House’s spirit of hospitality, loving environment and rehabilitation efforts. Becoming the first director was the most wonderful experience of my life because I was able to use creativity and personal resources to meet many challenges. I enjoyed seeing women walk through our doors and be enveloped by love and support of our staff. How fulfilling it was to see women, who struggled with addiction and other issues, meet their potential,” said Sr. Marilyn.

After six years at Marian House, Sr. Marilyn left the ministry in 1988 and continued to utilize her resources and creativity in education, charitable organizations and counseling throughout her career. Sister Augusta Reilly, RSM, another native Mobilian, grew the Marian House program over the next two decades which now provides transitional housing, permanent housing and supportive services including counseling, addiction treatment, education, employment, life skills and family reunification. Sr. Loretta, SSND, became the administrator for a short while after Sr. Augusta. Today, under the direction of Katie Allston, LCSW-C, the fourth and current administrator, Marian House offers a program for the invisible poor, the homeless families living in cars and fearing that their children may be taken away.

In 2001, Sister Marilyn joined the Mercy Medical family in Mobile as the program director of Portier Place and was later promoted to vice president of mission. In 2010, Sr. Marilyn became a volunteer, headed up a committee to recruit others to serve the homeless women of McKemie Place, and has most recently been on the Mercy LIFE capital campaign committee. The committee has raised $400,000+ dollars for Mercy LIFE, Alabama’s first PACE program (Programs for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly). The PACE program helps disabled elderly stay in their homes and out of institutions. Mercy LIFE is located at 2900 Springhill Avenue, in Mobile, Ala.

For more information about Mercy Medical, Mercy LIFE or to make a donation in support of PACE or other Mercy programs, call the Development Office at 621-4884 or visit www.mercymedical.com.