Sheltering Tree brings a new connection to the Servants of Mary

By Hayley Golden ’18

You may or may not have noticed the new building just east of the convent and Marian on 72nd Street. The building has a strong connection to the Servants of Mary. 

     “A woman named Shirley McNally had opened a Sheltering Tree in Bellevue and contacted us about the possibility of us selling some of our property to them. So we sold a small amount of our property, and then they built the building down there,” Sr. Jackie Ryan said.

The view from 72nd Street with the Servants of Mary Convent and Marian High School in the background. Photo from

     The building, which was initiated by Sheltering Tree, Inc., was built for the purpose of helping adults with disabilities live more independently. “We build buildings for individuals with disabilities and then they apply. We also have activities planned,” said Anne Carter, treasurer of Sheltering Tree. 

      The idea for this community originated in 2005 by Tom and Shirley McNally and their children; though the idea didn’t come to life until September 2015 when the Bellevue location opened. “We had the same burden that all families do when they have a child with developmental disabilities, or any disability. You just wonder what’s going to happen to them,” President of Sheltering Tree Shirley McNally explained. “We just came together with our church and with other families and decided that we would create our own setting, privately-owned so that they could be taken care of the rest of their lives, and we would not worry about it.”

     The Servants of Mary are happy to show their support of the building and the organization. “We see them as our neighbor, and we want to reach out to them and mutually work together,” Ryan said.

      The Servants of Mary have made an impact on many at Sheltering Tree; not only by selling them the land, but also by working with the residents. “When we had the opening and everyone moved in at the same time, they all came in on a Friday evening for a big pizza party and 39 of the [Servites] came down and joined them to welcome them home.”

McNally and Carter note that Sheltering Tree is open to anyone willing to volunteer. “The residents would love it. Watch a TV show, play a game of cards, a craft or something,” McNally said

      Senior Grace Woltemath said she thinks the new building was a great addition for the Marian community. “I’m glad the building is so close to Marian because it makes for easier access to and from the school. That way we could do trips to visit the residents in later years, which would be really cool,” Woltemath said. 

      Service opportunities may be in the works for Marian girls. McNally and Carter spoke with President Mary Higgins, about the potential opportunity. “She wants us to be a service project for Marian girls. We welcome that opportunity,” Carter said.

      At the end of the day, Sheltering Tree wants to provide a safe and welcoming environments for its residents. “They’re just like everybody else,” McNally explained. “They just want to belong.”


“We see them as our neighbor, and we want to reach out to them and mutually work together.”
–Sr. Jackie Ryan

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The Network is the student newspaper of Marian High School, Nebraska's only Class A College-Preparatory School for young women.

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