WILMETTE – Just in time for the holidays, Saint Mickael Inspirational Gift Store has opened in downtown Wilmette by the sisters of Fraternite Notre Dame — the same sisters who opened the organic bakery St. Roger Abbey French Patisserie in July.
Located at 1114 Central Avenue, the former home of Bobtail Ice Cream, the new shop features a range of items from the religious to unique secular gifts. Sister Mary Valerie emphasized that everyone is welcome to shop at the store, noting that it is called “inspirational” as a way of being open to anyone, of any faith. Indeed, while the store boasts creche from all of the world, a menorah is also featured in the window.
Like the bakery, all of the proceeds support the order’s humanitarian work. “It is the same goal. Whatever we make here goes back to charitable causes,” Sister Mary Valerie said.
Fraternite Notre Dame was started in 1977 by Bishop Jean Marie Kozik with the mission to serve the poor not only in the Chicago area, but around the world. The religious order has a soup kitchen on Chicago’s west side, as well as a food pantry. The nuns regularly visit prisons, hospitals and elderly people in their homes.
Many of the items in the shop are handmade by the priests and nuns themselves. Wooden stools, trays and signs on display were made by the priests, Sister Mary Valerie said. A sign reads: “Our religious people craft furniture with love and prayer to your specification.” The priests also build larger furniture, such as tables, chairs and hutches, which can be ordered. Paintings are hung throughout the store by Mother Marie Faustina and Sister Marie Fabienne. The paintings vary from pastoral scenes of France to a farm in Wisconsin.
While the store has a large collection of religious items such as statues, rosaries and prayer cards, there are also plenty of other gift items. For example, the store offers watches, stuffed animals, backpacks, pillows and holiday decor.
Customers may recognize some of the same sisters at the store who also run the bakery down the street. The sisters are very busy this time of year, baking goods for the bakery while getting the new store up and running. They are also busy hosting a series of Christmas parties in Chicago that serve low-income seniors and families, as well as the homeless.
Saint Mickael Inspirational Gift Store is open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information go to www.stmickael.us.