McAuley students. Mercy Circle residents provide baskets and ‘Gifts of Hope’

  • Written by Kelly White

fran hurley photo 4-20 

Photo by Kelly White

State Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) puts together Easter baskets alongside Mercy Circle resident, Sister Jacquie Dewar, RSM, at Mercy Circle in Chicago.


Sister Marion Johnson, RSM, was born in Minnesota. She moved to several different locations before finding a place in Oak Lawn, where she resided for over 30 years, a place she holds dear to her heart.

She currently resides at Mercy Circle, a faith-based, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community at 3659 W. 99th St., Chicago, that is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest. Prior to that, she was a biology professor at St. Xavier University for 35 years, and she is still on the Board of Trustees for Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School.

Sr. Marion used her love for the community to help spearhead “Gift of Hope,”' the assembling of 60 handmade Easter baskets to be delivered to children through Margaret’s Village in Chicago.

Margaret's Village provides transitional housing for the homeless women, children and families of South Chicago and empowers the broader community.

The project brought generations together. Sr. Marion was assisted with the baskets at Mercy Circle by Chicago Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th), state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), along with Mercy Circle residents and Mother McAuley High School students.

All items used to fill the baskets consisted of plastic eggs filled with candy, stuffed animals, pencils, and tooth brushes. More items were donated by O’Shea, McAuley’s Mothers Club and Mercy Circle.

The Easter baskets were then delivered by Mercy Circle residents and Mother McAuley students and mothers last Thursday to youngsters and teens living in homeless shelters sponsored by Margaret’s Village.

“This was a really lovely event and I thought it was just wonderful to see everyone coming together for such a great cause,” Sr. Marion said. “I love working with the McAuley girls. I have developed a kinship with them over the years.”

McAuley students participated on a volunteer basis. Working alongside Johnson was McAuley freshman Carolina Duenas.

“This is my first time volunteering at Mercy Circle but I am really enjoying myself and would like to help out again in the future,” said Duenas, 14, of Oak Lawn. “I like helping other people because it makes them happy.”

“This collaboration between our students and the Sisters of Mercy was a wonderful way to reinforce our mission, which seeks to teach our young women to respond compassionately to the needs of the community, especially as we close up the Lenten season and embrace the hope that Easter brings,” said Mary Acker Klingenberger, the Mother McAuley president.

Many other McAuley students and Mercy Circle residents shared Duenas’ compassion for helping others, including Sister Jacquie Dewar, RSM.

“It’s so beautiful when people want to give,” Sr. Jacquie said. “This is a really fun event with a lot of positive energy. I enjoy the camaraderie of getting to meet other people and being able to help those in need. It’s always lovely to work with the McAuley girls, too.”

Hurley, an alumna of McAuley, enjoyed working with the girls as well and she joked with the students. O’Shea and Cunningham also took interest in the students’ studies and community service.

This was the first time Mercy Circle made the Easter baskets. However, it will become an annual tradition at the facility, according to Sheila King, public relations specialist for Mercy Circle and a McAuley alumna.

“The spirit of Easter provides the gift of hope to believers,” King said. “This is just one way to let those who are less fortunate right now know people want to support and encourage them.”

The idea for the event came from a former Smith Village resident in Chicago, Joan Guilfoyla, who died in 2014. Guilfoyla had friends within Mercy Circle who were proud to take on the Easter basket initiative. Her daughter, also named Joan Guilfoyla, of Michigan, attended the event.

“I love seeing this carried on,” she said. “It’s for such a great cause and brings so many people together.”