A Celebration to Remember
150 Years ago seven Little Sisters arrived in America to care for the needy elderly. We planned a special Amazing Grace Gala (our largest annual fundraiser) for this milestone anniversary at the beautiful Sanfilippo Estates in Barrington Hills. The Estate is home to the world’s largest collection of automated musical instruments, most built at the end of the 19th century.
When those first Little Sisters arrived, it was a very different America than we live in today. There were no automobiles, refrigeration or electricity. We hoped that our guests would enjoy the opportunity to relive that early time by touring the many music and other antique machines of the late 1800’s/early 1900s at the Estate. Little did we know that when they arrived at the Sanfilippo Estates for our Amazing Grace Gala on June 30 that they would also relive the experience of no electricity as well.
Shortly before our event, a major line of thunderstorms and high winds swept through the area. A tree was up-rooted in and lay on its side in what was to be the parking area. The pavilion where dinner was to be served and the main estate that houses over 2,000 music machines, nickelodeons, steam engines, clocks, and arcade machines went dark.
A call for prayers was made to our Home where the Little Sisters were getting ready to leave for the Gala. The Sisters put a statue of St. Joseph facing the storm and they began to pray. Sr. Mary Timothy (on her electric scooter) raced to the chapel. The good Lord had inspired over 350 guests to attend our sold out Gala, but without power it couldn’t be held. Positioned in front of the altar, she looked up at the crucifix and pleaded “Jesus, won’t you please help us?”
At 5:00, just when we were going to have to cancel the event, the power went back on. As if the choirs of angels have burst forth with answered prayers, music machines began playing their melodies as cheers rang out among the guests.
Tony Stallone, our Master of Ceremonies welcomed our guests as we enjoyed a delicious meal provided by Catered by Design. Greg Leifel Executive Director, The Sanfilippo Foundation talked about the rich history of the Sanfilippo Collection and offered our guests an opportunity to ride the Eden Palais Carousel that was built in 1890 and lovingly restore to its grandeur by the Sanfilippo family. The carousel 46 feet in diameter has 36 hand-carved Hubner horses, four ornate rocking gondolas and a spinning lovers’ tub.
Mother Margaret Charles recounted the journey of the first Little Sisters arriving in America. She spoke of their faith, courage and reliance on the goodness and generosity of their friends and benefactors. Sr. Maria Lourdes and Sr. Amy Kristine joined her on the stage dressed in the old habits that those first Little Sisters wore. Mother Margaret told our guests, “As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Little Sisters arrival in the US, we can look back and see that we have evolved in many ways, but our work is the same. We still care for the elderly in need, and we still rely heavily on our friends. This anniversary is a time for us to thank you for helping us to keep our work alive and well.”
What looked like a disaster turned into a lovely evening with family and friends. We are very grateful for the patience (no one complained) and generosity of our guests. This special Amazing Grace Gala celebration will be long remembered.