When the garden city of Garden City Hospital in Garden City, Illinois, was built in the 1940s, its residents had no idea what a graveyard would look like.
The building had no cemetery, just a small cemetery, a concrete tomb, and a single grave, according to a 2007 report in the Journal of American History.
But for residents who lived in the area, that cemetery would become a source of comfort and a place of worship for a group of devout Catholics.
As the cemetery became known, the church began to expand its reach in Garden Cities, with the addition of a cemetery for women, children, and the elderly, according a 2009 report in The Journal of Contemporary History.
Garden City’s residents eventually grew to more than 2,500.
Some of the parishioners who were baptized at the cemetery had served in the U.S. Army and served in World War II, according the report.
Some, like Mary Ann, still live in the cemetery and continue to serve as the cemetery’s custodian.
But other residents have been drawn to the cemetery.
Mary Ann says she and her husband are not affiliated with any church, but have often attended services at the graveyard.
“It has always been there for us,” she said.
“We are the ones who have always been here, and we will always be here.”
The cemetery is surrounded by the Garden City School of Nursing, where Mary Ann said she taught nursing and medical care.
But Mary Ann and her spouse are now members of the Garden Cities Catholic Diocese.
“I am not the one who does this,” she told ABC News.
“This is for my children, for my grandchildren, and for our great-grandchildren.”
The Catholic Dioceses of Garden Cities is the largest Catholic congregation in Garden County, according.
Its parishioner numbers are about 2,000.
As a result, the diocese has been able to reach out to residents of the city and surrounding communities in order to keep their connections to the church.
Mary Anne and her children are in charge of the cemetery as well as the church’s other cemetery, but she said that they do not have a role in the funeral services for those who die there.
They say they pray daily that their community will remain united.
“That is what we try to do, to be a community that is unified, and to have a prayer vigil,” she explained.
“And that’s what we will do every single day.”