Mary Kay Granato-Dungan is the mother to 18-year-old triplets, two boys and a girl. Her daughter Kathryn has special needs. “We’re praying that Misericordia will be her future residence—it’s such an incredible place,” she says, explaining why three years ago she joined the Misericordia Women’s League.
The Misericordia Heart of Mercy Home has been serving those with special needs in Chicago for more than 90 years. It is the home to 600 children and adults with mild to severe developmental disabilities. Misericordia’s goal is to support its residents with exceptional care to maximize their independence and self-determination in an environment that fosters spirituality, dignity, respect, and an enhancement in the quality of life.
The Women’s League of Misericordia was formed in 1995 after a handful of women gathered 75 friends and visited Misericordia’s gift shop. Since then, the League has contributed more than $3 million to support Misericordia Home.
“Once you go to Misericordia and see the environment these individuals live in, you’re blown away,” says Michelle Parsons, whose sister-in-law Katy has been a Misericorida resident for more than 20 years. “First, you’re taken in by its beautiful college-like campus, but then you see how the residents are involved in every aspect of life there—it’s like no other place I’ve ever been. The residents are so proud of Misericordia, of what they’ve done and all that they’ve accomplished. They work hard because they’re so grateful to have this environment to shine in.”
Currently, there’s a waiting list of hundreds and hundreds hoping to take residence at Misericordia. “It’s really a lifestyle choice for your family,” explains Mary Kay. “It’s not like you drop off your child there and visit once in a while,” she says. “Your family becomes engaged in helping and supporting the community in whatever capacity you can. My kids love helping out in the bakery at Christmas time and Candy Days in the spring—they have learned to give of themselves. My hope is that we’ll always be part of this.”
On March 8, the Misericordia Women’s League will host the 18th annual fundraiser, Mis Queen of Hearts, at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. Beginning at 7 p.m., guests will enjoy an evening of Vegas-style gambling, in addition to a silent auction featuring Misericordia artwork, live auction, exceptional cuisine, live music, and an overall glittery atmosphere.
Funds raised at the Queen of Hearts event are earmarked for Misericordia’s Personal Effectiveness Program (PEP). This innovative program uses interactive technology and visually supported tools to enhance the behavioral health of Misericordia’s adult residents.
Sister Rosemary Connelly has been the director at Misericordia for more than 40 years. Determined to create an environment that would be open to the gifts and abilities of children and adults with special needs, Sister Rosemary contacted experts in government and education to request their help in developing programs and services. At every turn, Sister Rosemary was told that there were no programs and she should take the initiative to create them. And that she did.
“At Misericordia, we look upon each one of our children and adults as a person with individual needs, feelings, aspirations, limitations, and gifts,” Sister Rosemary says. “Each one is unique, a gift to us today, a loving and loved person by God with a purpose in life—no matter how wrapped in mystery that purpose is. We believe, we accept, we love each person, and we are better people because they have touched our lives.”
Both Mary Kay and Michelle draw inspiration from Sister Rosemary and the love she has for the Misericordia community. “She truly is the Queen of Hearts,” says Mary Kay.
For more information about Queen of Hearts or to register for the event, visit events.org/misqueenofhearts.
-Ann Marie Scheidler // Photography by Joel Lerner