The preparations and secret planning were over. The BIG day had finally arrived. We were going to celebrate Mother Provincial’s Feast day with a good ole summertime family picnic. Three young-professed Little Sisters: Sr. Mary Matthew of the Cross, Sr. Jessica and Sr. Mary Gerard of the Cross were here to help. Courtney Moore (one of our Spring into Service interns) traveled from St. Paul to join us. She had wonderful news – she will be entering our Congregation in October as a postulant!
How appropriate that this “family affair” celebration would take place on Friday, August 14th, the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. He had a great love for our Blessed Mother and that love drove him to give his life in place of another prisoner who was a husband and father. This self-giving goes hand in hand with the “family spirit”, the legacy, left to us by St. Jeanne Jugan.
The day began with Mass. About 60 Residents, Little Sisters and AJJs and/or Volunteers came from St. Mary’s Home in Chicago and joined our over 150 Residents, Sisters, staff and AJJ/volunteers to celebrate the day. It rained just before they arrived but as soon as our visitors started to get off the bus, the sun came out and stayed out for the rest of the afternoon. Many of them had never been to our Home, so our “welcoming committee” was happy to greet them as they got off the buses and show them around.
The Chapel was decorated, with candelabras and colorful bouquets of flowers. The pews were filled as the main celebrant, our good friend Fr. William De Salvo of St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale processed down the aisle. Concelebrating was his friend, Fr. Rogers from Minnesota, Fr. Tim Fairman of St. Theresa Parish, Fr. Tom Rzepiela from St. Thomas of Villanova Parish, our chaplain, Fr. George Auger and Resident, Fr. Frank Kiley. Fr. De Salvo’s inspiring homily perfectly expressed the family spirit that this day was trying to celebrate. He explained that as a young priest he had been told that the best way to view the Church is to look at her, not as an institution, but as a Mother. Father then stressed how important Mother Provincial’s role was as she was to instill and encourage the Sisters to live that same family spirit passed on to us from St. Jeanne Jugan. The beautiful music was led by organist Scott Arkenberg. Sr. Mary Grace accompanied Scott on the flute and cantor Allison Cook’s angelic voice lifted us in spirit.
It was through the generosity of some benefactors, that we were able to have this wonderful outdoor summer picnic. Two benefactors paid for the cost of renting two large white tents providing a comfortable shady dining area. A couple of volunteers and office staff had been busy grilling and preparing the hamburgers, brats and hotdogs donated by Peapod and Windy City Provisions. The kitchen staff once again outdid themselves preparing our all-time picnic favorites of coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, beans and watermelon. Thanks to the hard work of the staff and volunteers, the picnic was ready as soon as Mass was over. In our true family spirit, every Resident was helped to their seat, made comfortable and served.
As we gobbled down the delicious food, we were entertained and awed by a knife wielding juggler, a clown who did card tricks, told corny jokes, and made balloon animals, and a DJ who played background music. The coup de grace though was when the Good Humor Ice Cream truck pulled up!
In our search for a luscious ice cream treat to serve at the picnic, we contacted many ice cream vendors. We heard back from Dave Allegretti almost immediately. He said he would be happy to bring his Good Humor Truck and donate all of the ice cream! His wife and children came along to help serve the ice cream. We later found out what a small world it is, when we learned that his wife’s uncle lives in our Home in Chicago. The Residents were delighted to see the Good Humor Ice Cream truck again and couldn’t get over all the choices of ice cream available to them.
The picnic was a huge success thanks to so many who worked so hard and who helped in so many ways. Before leaving, everyone got a small gift bag so that they wouldn’t be returning home empty-handed. As our guests from Chicago began loading up their buses for the return trip, they all seemed to have enjoyed the day as much as we did. Sr. Judith brought out her guitar and we sang for them as they departed.
We are so grateful to our Lord for the family spirit that does reign in our Homes and we pray, through the intercession of St. Jeanne Jugan, that it will always do so!