McHenry Co. Board rejects nuns' multi-million dollar compound building proposal

MCHENRY COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- A religious order's proposal to build a sprawling multi-million dollar compound was rejected by the McHenry County Board Tuesday night.

The proposal was made by the same group of nuns that was so short on cash they sought public donations to replace broken boilers in their church last winter.

One McHenry County Board member called this the most contentious issue he's faced, pitting the group of nuns against their neighbors.

The fight is over a 95 acre site in Marengo that is already occupied by a French religious order called Fraternite of Notre Dame. They wanted to add a school, a dormitory, a nursing home, commercial kitchen, brewery and wine-making operation.

Neighbors said "no," and Tuesday so did the McHenry County Board

"We don't need the traffic, more congestion, we actually moved out there because of the rural area, peace and quiet," said Peggy Jacobs, a Marengo resident.

"No, it was not about noise and traffic," said Mother Marie Martha. "It's religious discrimination."

The sisters' good works were in the news this winter when the boiler at their West Side church broke. The nuns said they didn't have enough money to fix it and donations poured in. That's when the I-Team reported on the religious order's northwest suburban neighbors. They wondered how the nuns planned to finance a multi-million dollar expansion in Marengo?

"Whatever they want to do; however they want to practice, that's up to them. But building and land use is a whole other matter," said resident Rob Cisneros.

"The thing is we feel really they want to stop God's work. They don't want the presence of God behind them," said Mother Martha.

While the nuns call themselves a traditional Catholic religious order, they are not affiliated with or sanctioned by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Tuesday night the sisters say they will pray on what to do next but have no plans to give up the fight.
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