Daughters of St. Mary of Providence:
Nearly a Half-Century of Devotion to Service
by Diane Morey Hanson (CREDO)
Nestled on 40 acres in the southwest corner of Beck and
Six Mile roads in Northville Township, Our Lady of Providence Center (OLP) has
been serving developmentally disabled girls and women for 45 years. The center
will close soon because of a lack of vocations.
In 1950 Detroit’s Cardinal Edward Mooney invited the
Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, with U.S. headquarters in Chicago, to
search for a suitable location to establish a residential nonprofit facility in
Michigan. OLP was completed and had its first residents by 1957.
Blessed Aloysius Guanella founded the order, devoted to
the care of the elderly and mentally disabled, in 1881. He also established a
men’s congregation, the Servants of Charity, in 1908. The St. Louis Center for
men and boys in Chelsea is under the direction of three priests and a brother
from the order. A fourth priest from the order oversees the direction of the
Pious Union of St. Joseph in nearby Grass Lake.
Since nearly the beginning, Sr. Stella Ferrini, DSMP, has
been a part of OLP. She started there in 1958, the year after her first
profession of vows. She remained there 10 years before being called away for 30
years. Then she was back again in the early ’90s for four years and returned in
1997 after a year’s assignment away. Now she is helping close the facility where
she started her religious life.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years,” she said.
When OLP first opened, the main building was both
residence and school to the 86 school-age girls who moved in that year. As the
number of residents burgeoned to more than 100, Cardinal Mooney came to the
rescue and in 1959 a new residence to house 40 was constructed and paid for by
the Diocese of Detroit. It was named Cardinal Mooney Hall.
A new chapel was dedicated in 1967 and the old chapel was
turned into a convent for the sisters. Another residence was constructed in
By 1976, the nuns began catering to the needs of the
older developmentally disabled. Cardinal Mooney Hall was remodeled to comply
with adult-foster-care licensing standards.
In 1979, three homelike apartments were constructed with
dorm-like settings. These were initially funded by the Motherhouse.
By 1991, the school was closed and those under 26 and
still eligible for state-funded education were placed in Northville Public
“They have done a wonderful job,” said Sr. Linda Willette,
DSMP, administrator superior at OLP. “They have an excellent special-education
program. We worked very well with the Livonia Public Schools too. That’s where
the girls would go for their work training.”
Our Lady of Providence will close on June 15, 2002, just
a few months shy of its 45th anniversary.
Said Sr. Stella, “Time goes on.”
(Credit: Diane Morey Hanson for the CREDO publication. This article is
located on the CREDO site at