Sister Michael fosters 100th child; Mount Saint Vincent celebrates 140th anniversary
In June, Mount Saint Vincent, now a part of Intermountain Health, celebrated its 140th anniversary. Mount Saint Vincent serves the community through three key program areas: community preschool, foster care services and pediatric behavioral healthcare. Within those behavioral healthcare services are day treatment and education, outpatient therapy and in-home therapy.
Founded as an orphanage by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas in 1883, Mount Saint Vincent has continuously evolved to meet the community’s changing needs for children and their families.
Mount Saint Vincent is run by compassionate, experienced and dedicated caregivers. One of those caregivers is Sister Michael Delores Allegri. Sister Michael has worked as a teacher, a principal and a buildings and grounds manager, but always knew she wanted to be a foster parent. She first came to Mount Saint Vincent in the 1980s. At the time she was a high school teacher and she stayed for a few weeks during the summer. The following summer she led the recreation portion of the boys' summer program and from 1986-1990 she was the unit manager of a group of boys aged 8-10.
In 1990, she went back to Kansas City and worked in a school for seven years. At the time, she lived with three Sisters, one was a foster parent. When Sister Michael came back to Denver, she asked the community if she could be a foster parent, and in 1999, her journey began with five foster children.
Since 1999, she’s fostered more than 100 children. Currently, she has three foster kids ranging in age from two to 18. She explained that of every role she’s had and every job she’s done, fostering has been the most meaningful.
“I think the thing that has been the most challenging and life-changing has been fostering,” she said. “There is something very special about Mount Saint Vincent. There is a feeling when you walk on the grounds that God is there. It feels like he’s in the building with us.”
Sister Michael, who is 81 years old, has no plans to stop fostering any time soon. “I always say if I have the health and ability to do it, I will continue to care for the children as long as I can. We have Sisters at the mother house who are 90 and 100 and still going strong. As long as I am able, this is what I want to do.”
Sister Michael’s primary responsibility is to help the children reach their full potential. Her goal is to help reunify children with their families if the family is able to provide a healthy environment for them.
“You’re helping to heal a family,” she said. “If the parents are unable to care for their children, we help move the children into an adoptive home. In those cases, you’re helping to create a new family for parents who couldn’t have children of their own. What greater gift could you give to someone?”
She is still in contact with some of the children she fostered and regularly speaks with them on their birthdays, and occasionally, they’ll invite her to lunch.
“The day the kids move in, we know they’re going to move out,” explained Sister Michael. “Our job is to help make them ready to go to their permanent family, whether it’s back with their parents or with new ones. It’s hard when you have to say goodbye to a child, but I know when I do it, I’m putting them where they need to be for the long term and that’s incredibly rewarding,” Sister Michael said.
In 2022, the Mount Saint Vincent board of directors shifted away from providing residential treatment services and focused on outpatient and day treatment programs to best serve children and families in today’s environment.
“Mount Saint Vincent is here to meet the needs of kids today, however that looks,” Sister Michael said. “We started as an orphanage and when the government shut down orphanages in the 1960s, it became a residential treatment center for kids who were one step below a mental health institution. Though our services have changed, our mission has been the same for the past 140 years. We help abused, neglected and behavioral health-challenged children function fully in their homes and society.”
“Mount Saint Vincent has the commitment and desire to help kids live to their full potential and work through their trauma,” said Sister Michael. “It’s a really special place and I believe wholeheartedly that God is there, and we are taking care of his children. What better thing can a person do than that?”