Mercy Hospital to wrap newborns in adorable Christmas stockings, a 53-year tradition


ST. LOUIS — Babies born at Mercy Hospital St. Louis on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will receive special gifts this weekend: holiday stockings big enough for them to fit into.

It’s a 53-year-old tradition that Sister Michael Marie Flannery and her mother started.

Sister Michael Marie worked as a nurse at what was then St. John’s Mercy Hospital, now Mercy Hospital St. Louis. She then rose to the position of executive director of the hospital’s labor and birth unit. Her mother was so proud of her that she began making Christmas stockings for the newborns.

“Her mother wanted to help out and take care of those moms and babies that were away from home over Christmas. So that’s the tradition Sister Michael Marie took over after her mother passed away,” said Emily Combs, the vice president of Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

The nun then continued hand-making the stockings for about another 50 years.

“She used to have people come up to her in their 30s and 40s and say, ‘I still have my stocking from when I was born,'” said Diana Orso, Sister Michael Marie’s niece.

Sister Michael Marie passed away in 2018. At that point, her two nieces stepped in to pick up the tradition to make stockings for more than 150 babies every year, with the help of seamstress Mary Paleen.

“We just knew that when she passed that it was our labor of love to carry that on it was very special to her. I hope she’s proud of us, I think she is I think she knows that we’re carrying this on for her,” said Jennifer Zwart, another niece of Sister Michael Marie.

The nieces delivered 150 Christmas stockings to the hospital Wednesday.

“So, we’ll give these stockings to all of our babies who are born Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and all of our babies in the NICU,” said Combs.

The nieces of Sister Michael Marie hope that someday their children will continue making the beautiful stockings for bundles of joy at Christmas time.

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