LaHood plays a game with her friend Curtis Teets, who has Down syndrome.
LaHood plays a game with her friend Curtis Teets, who has Down syndrome.
For Mary Frances LaHood, one of her favorite times is when her worlds collide. Rather than a planetary collision, that involves her friends from the Academy of the Holy Cross hanging out at her house.

The LaHoods' family home is like no other in their neighborhood, because Mary Frances' parents, Dan and Cubby LaHood have raised three children in a home they call St. Joseph's House, where they care for children and young adults with disabilities.

"They make me so happy. They're my friends," said Mary Frances of the youth with multiple disabilities who are cared for at their home. "It's the way it's always been," she said of her home life, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

Mary Frances LaHood, a graduating senior from the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, has completed more than 500 hours of community service, including at her own home and at several nursing homes. She started a local branch of the non-profit group New Global Citizens, which encourages youth to reach out to those in need around the world.

Following the death of a son, Francis, who died moments after his birth due to kidney disease, the LaHoods have dedicated their lives to serving children, and opened up their home as a place of love and friendship to young people with disabilities. Now Cubby LaHood is active in a program in the Archdiocese of Washington called Isaiah's Promise, to offer support to families with a difficult prenatal diagnosis.
For Mary Frances LaHood, love and faith have been part of the fabric of her life and her home for as long as she can remember. Her parents are her heroes, and her best friends. "To me, they completely exemplify Catholicism. They live completely for others... They're the happiest people I know," she said.

The work is not always easy, she said, but the rewards are incredible. Recently, some of her friends from Holy Cross came to her house and helped do the hair for their friend Amanda Mahmood, a young woman with Down syndrome who was going to her school's prom. Mary Frances likes hanging out, going to the mall, doing each other's nails, watching movies and going dancing with her friends from Holy Cross, and her friends from St. Joseph's House.

"When you put love into the equation, and see them as human beings, as peers, it's an incredible joy. Being with them is a gift to me," said LaHood, of the youth and young adults at St. Joseph's House, her house, who have "this joyful past we all share," she said.

Mary Frances LaHood has earned a Blessed Basil Moreau Scholarship to St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, a Holy Cross school like her Catholic girls' high school. Blessed Basil, a French priest, founded the Congregation of the Holy Cross. "There's an emphasis on discerning God's plan, and living it, in whatever you do," LaHood said.

In the past two years, Mary Frances helped care for her mother as she was being treated for breast cancer. "She's been a wonderful friend and support to me," Cubby LaHood said. "In my illness, at its worse, Mary Frances stood by me and cared for me."

Mary Frances thinks that someday she might like to start an outreach like St. Joseph's House on a larger scale, or provide counseling to families facing difficult prenatal diagnoses. The lessons she has learned about the dignity of human life, about faith and about love in her own home, she said she carries with her in her heart.

"I have unique things to share," she said, smiling.