65 Years Later
Story in the North Carolina Catholic – March 1, 1964
It started out as a country hill, with a view. Father Price had more than a view, though; he had a vision, and it was more than the small town of Raleigh that he saw. The hill would be the home of many of God’s children, and so he called it Nazareth. The year was 1899.
His first intent was to build on the Nazareth hill a training center for Apostles in the Tarheel State – a seminary. Later, a more urgent need for those early, wooden buildings was met by converting them into homes for the homeless. Through a world war, a depression, and a second world war, the Sisters of Mercy of Belmont devoted themselves to the ever-growing Nazareth Family that could no longer be contained in the original structures.
By 1927 the great Tarheel Apostle would have blinked in astonishment at the reality of his own dream, for there it was – a plant, laundry, offices, recreation areas, and – the heart of it all – the historic old chapel that had become such a familiar landmark.
The hillside was good farmland, and Nazareth even boasted of its own herd of cattle. There seemed to be a bed and bread and milk for just about everyone, and whom for awhile it seemed as if just about everyone was moving in. Times were hard.
Nazareth much prefers to be thought of as a warm family than a cold corporation; so the news of the formation of the Catholic Orphanage Corporation did not make much difference to the daily life of Nazareth. The legal formalities were completed in 1942; the Orphanage was a non-profit Corporation, issuing no stock. But most of all, it was still a family.
Increasing work on the part of the Catholic Social Services in the Diocese resulted in a gradual decrease in the number of children living in the staunch and aging buildings. Surely, this too would have been part of the great dream; Father Price was not interested in building the biggest home for children in the world; if the children could be kept with their own parents, so much the better.
The great, old buildings, standing fortress-like on the ridge of Nazareth hill, are a tribute to those who sacrificed so much to make sure there was always “room at the inn.” The buildings served well, and now their work is done; their usefulness has passed. Does it sound strange to say that by growing smaller we are growing better? Nazareth’s work will never be done; the number who need her are fewer now, but their need is still great.
The new home for children will anticipate an enrollment of from 30 to 50 boys and girls. (There are now thirty-one beds occupied in the old dormitories.) Its maintenance will require only a small fraction of the cost of keeping the present buildings in livable condition, yet it will provide a moderate, contemporary standard of living for those who will continue to know it as their only home.
The girls’ dormitory building, now known as “The Olde Fortress” will be dismantled, as will the abandoned school building. The chapel’s historic charm will survive a renovation, and the boys’ dormitory building will find partial use as a temporary diocesan office building.
The Nazareth hill is no longer far out in the country. The “little town of Raleigh” has stretched out beyond the hill, and the State College Campus huddles ever closer beneath. But it is still a quiet place, where one can easily remember that God is good, and that the legacy of Fr. Price is as lasting as the hill.