As the needs of the community change, the ministries of the Felician Sisters change to meet them. This evolution is evident in the ongoing transition of the Our Lady of Grace property in Newark, Delaware, from an orphanage in the 1940s to an affordable housing complex scheduled to open in this fall.
The 180-acre Our Lady of Grace property was originally home to an orphanage run by the Felician Sisters which served the area’s most vulnerable children for more than 60 years. In its later years, the facility transitioned into a group home for children in foster care.
After the closing of the children’s home in 2009, the Sisters began to discern how best to use the property. They recognized the need for affordable housing in the Newark area, and once again, new life was breathed into the ministry.
On Nov. 16, 2018, ground was broken on the Our Lady of Grace Village affordable housing project. The 60-unit rental community, which was developed in cooperation with Felician Services Inc., will serve households with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income. Twelve units will be handicapped accessible and six have been designated for special populations, including persons with disabilities. Felician Sisters will also live in the community, serving their neighbors in a ministry of presence.
The project received a 2015 Low Income Housing Tax Credit award from Delaware State Housing Authority generating more than $8 million in equity for these family units, and a home loan commitment from New Castle County's Department of Community Services brought an additional $150,000 in funding.
Haley-Donovan Architects and Hamel Builders are leading the project team creating the beautifully designed apartments. Each of the 12 two-story buildings will house five units, with its own porch or balcony and a washer/dryer. Residents will also have access to a community building, garden, playground and public transportation.
In line with the Sisters commitment to their Franciscan heritage of responsible environmental stewardship, the community will include many “green” features including increased insulation, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, Energy Star-rated appliances and low-flow water fixtures. The complex is being built and certified to Energy Star 3.1 standards to assist residents in keeping utility costs to a minimum and the community building will be powered in part by a rooftop solar array.
In her remarks for the groundbreaking at Our Lady of Grace Village, Sr. Mary Christopher Moore, provincial minister for the Felician Sisters of North America, said, "Scripture admonishes us to care for the needs of our brothers and sisters: Food, clothing and shelter are the most basic of those needs. It is not profit or politics that brings us here today but the love of Christ which impels us to follow his mandate. Thus, Our Lady of Grace Village represents the transformation of one social need – care of orphans – to another, appropriate to our times, affordable housing."
The dedication of Our Lady of Grace Village is planned for Oct. 15, 2019.