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Misericordia credits success to nun's work

August 16, 2009 9:07:49 AM PDT
The success of Misericordia, a not-for-profit organization for people with developmental disabilities, is due to the strong commitment of Sister Rosemary Connelly. Sister Rosemary is celebrating her 40th year as the executive director. Very few executive directors stay in the same position for 40 years. Despite all the challenges and responsibilities that come with the job, Sister Rosemary says she has no plans to retire.

"I could leave Misericordia tomorrow and I'm surrounded by the best people that will make sure Misericordia maintains the quality of care that we're known for, but I still feel I have a contribution to make," said Sister Rosemary.

Misericordia started on Chicago's South Side with 132 children in 1969. They are now located on the North Side with 550 children and adults with mild and profound developmental disabilities.

Terry Morrisey was one of the first residents. He still lives here.

"Sister Rosemary was like a mother to me," Morrisey said.

Programs provided at Misericordia include residential, job training, employment opportunities at their Greenhouse Inn restaurant and bakery, and a very busy creative art department which is a favorite of Sister Rosemary.

"One of the most satisfying programs would be our art department, and I always say you could lock me up for a year and I couldn't do what our adults are doing in art. They do beautiful work and at first it was cute, now I stand in awe, so I think that's one of my favorite programs," said Sister Rosemary.

Parents who have children at Misericordia believe it's Sister Rosemary who has made this place a success. Susan Axelrod is the wife of Obama's senior advisor and mother of resident and artist Lauren.

"We just feel incredibly blessed to have her in a place that's so nurturing and so loving, and we're just seeing her grow and thrive in so many ways. We think often when she comes home one weekend a month we're just constantly amazed at the growth continually. You know, this many years afterwards, she really is continuing to grow in ways that we never imagined that she would," said Axelrod.

The residents of Misericordia also speak highly of sister rosemary. Twenty-nine-year-old Melissa Grossman moved here last year.

"I think she's really sweet and I think she's a wonder for 40 years old because the wonderful place she had is like amazing life, she's sweet and cheerful and she's always happy," said Grossman.

Happiness will only go so far with Sister Rosemary.

"I'm very worried about the future for this population. It's the aging population, too, that's a new phenomenon, you know in the past people with developmental disabilities died young today, because of all the programs because of medical people's interest in them, because of the activities that they have they are living longer I don't think our society is looking at the aging person who is going to need more care in the future," Sister Rosemary.

"I don't think that Misericordia would have been the same place. I honestly think that she has created this amazing environment. I'm never here when I don't see her doing something. She is omnipresent, she is everywhere," said Axelrod.

"She's always come to Greenhouse Inn. She love it. She loves the food. She's terrific," said Grossman.

"I think she's wonderful. I think she's a nice person. I think she really deserves to be 40 years here at Misericordia," said Morrisey.

"They insure me that they think I have contribution to make. So as long as the lord gives me the health, I'll continue," said Sister Rosemary.

Misericordia will have a dinner to honor Sister Rosemary in the fall. To learn more about the organization go to www.misericordia.com.


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