Our First 60 Years
Edward Cardinal Mooney’s vision was to create a place for boys to develop self-esteem and self-reliance, learn academics and develop spiritual values. These goals remain at the core of today's Holy Cross Children’s Services’ mission.
With a dream and prayer, his determination and diligence were key factors in making Boysville of Michigan a reality. Cardinal Mooney invited the other four bishops in Michigan and the Michigan Knights of Columbus to join him in his quest to care for young men who were experiencing family challenges.
In 1947, Ed Barrett, State Deputy for the Michigan Knights of Columbus, asked the delegates at their State Convention to consider accepting Cardinal Mooney’s invitation to make Boysville their principle charitable responsibility. This request was compatible with the mission of their founder, Fr. Michael J. McGivney — to care for widows and orphans. A unanimous decision was reached and the road to Boysville was soon to be paved.
Brother Ephrem O’Dwyer, provincial of the Congregation of Holy Cross was invited to sponsor this project and Cardinal Mooney became Chair of the Boysville Trustees.
Henry Ford I had built a high school in Macon, Michigan in the early 1940s to educate rural youth. The school was not successful and Henry Ford I donated the land to Cardinal Mooney to begin Boysville. The Archdiocese Development Fund in conjunction with the bishops of Michigan’s four other dioceses raised funds to begin construction of the campus.
In 1947 workmen began to lay pipes, dig ditches and erect additional buildings so Boysville could eventually become a fully-accredited high school offering academic courses as well as vocational programs. In September of 1948, the Boysville campus opened its doors to youth in need of care, guidance and education.
Along with its early and crucial support in opening
Boysville, the Knights of Columbus could and did
do more. At the invitation of the bishops, the state
council officers voted to make all Michigan Knights
“foster fathers” of Boysville boys. Specifically, the
Knights undertook to underwrite operating expenses
With an intelligent, caring and patient team of brothers on staff and making headway with the boys at the Macon campus, Cardinal Mooney encouraged Boysville to expand. In 1950, the bishops, as trustees for Boysville purchased an army camp in Jackson, Michigan. The army facilities were moved to the Boysville campus, providing a temporary dining hall, dormitory, clinic and recreation hall for 150 students.
The first permanent building, built in 1951 with funds through the Knights of Columbus was the gymnasium. The boys had been using the gym at Britton High School to play basketball prior to having their own. In 1952, the first permanent dormitory opened and housed 80 young men. The new state-of-the-art Thomas Moore High School was built in 1957.
Bringing Services Closer to Home
With most of the major construction efforts complete,
the focus of Boysville turned to stabilizing its
educational programs, making it the number one
The Boysville High School became accredited by the Bureau of School
In 1967, under Cardinal Dearden’s leadership, the Brothers of Holy Cross developed homes and schools in other dioceses to serve young men closer to their own communities — and to allow for more participation by local Knights of Columbus councils and parishes in the care of these local students.
As Boysville worked more and more intensively with the young men referred for help, it became clear that it also needed to wrap support around the families to whom the youth would return. Over the course of the next decade a variety of programs were added to better support youth and families who were experiencing an array of challenges in various stages of life.
The Positive Peer Culture program was developed wherein
students used the guidance of other students. The philosophy is
still woven through Holy Cross Children’s Services
The peer program helps youth focus on their reactions to life
problems and encourages them to develop alternate
Expanding Services to Young Women
In 1984 St. Vincent Home in Saginaw, MI became the agency's first official center for young women. Soon four homes for young women were open in Toledo, Ohio, Detroit, Redford and Saginaw, Michigan.
Boysville continued expansion through the opening of additional sites in Michigan. With the help of benefactors including the Thomas Cracchiolo family, the Peter Cracchiolo family, the Edward Corcoran family, the William Zehnder family, and the Ray Lynch family, more programs were opened in Mt. Morris, Macon, Saginaw, Frankenmuth, Detroit and Monroe.
Wanting to better understand its impact on youth and families and knowing that data would help it advocate more effectively, Boysville launched a computerized client information system in 1982. The National Research Advisory Council (NRAC) — a group of social scientists from across the country that advised Boysville on how to best collect, analyze and use information, was formed in 1984 to guide this effort.
Reaching Out to Families and Community
Cardinal Maida, having been appointed by the Pope to assume responsibility as the next Chairman of the Boysville Trustees, recognized the importance to support communities where families were most in need. In the early 1990's, Boysville began a focus on community revitalization and providing family-based services in communities. These services included foster care, independent living, job and vocational training and in-home treatment.
The agency continued reaching out to families and communities and thus changed its name in 1998 to Holy Cross Children’s Services. Opening additonal child care programs in Saginaw, Detroit, Onaway, and Grayling allowed the agency to provide services across the state.
In 2001, the Sisters of Mercy (now Trinity Health) gifted the former Mercy Hospital on Detroit’s east side to Holy Cross Children's Services. Trinity Health continues to provide in excess of two million dollars worth of primary health care services annually for the uninsured on Detroit's east side. The former hospital was renamed the Samaritan Center. In 2011, the Ford Wellness Center opened and will provide health, wellness and recreational services to children, youth and families. The Wellness Center will also host the Dick and Betsy Devos Dental Clinic designed to serve the needs of children and adults who are covered by Medicaid or are uninsured.
Through the visions of the Brothers of Holy Cross and the Knights of Columbus, to our meager beginnings at Henry Ford’s former agricultural school, to growth and expansion throughout Michigan, Holy Cross Children's Services has emerged an innovative and remarkable human service agency.
As Holy Cross Children’s Services grows, programs are being redesigned to meet the needs of youth struggling with mental health, learning and other disabilities. National accreditation and an emphasis on coworker credentialing and training allow the organization to build on a long history of quality care. Maintaining state-of-the-art technologies to support programs and services is critical to the organization’s success.
We thank all those who have been part of the first 60 years, and hope they and others will join us on our journey through the next 60 years.