Rosemary Connelly, RSM

InHerWords

Howard W. Hunter said, “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by humankind.” Like most of us, every year in May I think of motherhood and what it means. For me, it’s unconditional love – the same unconditional love God has for each of us.

At Misericordia, a Chicago community for children and adults with developmental disabilities, I’ve learned what unconditional love truly is from the many loving mothers who have sacrificially asked us to share the responsibility of caring for their most vulnerable family member.

I am in awe of mothers who have accepted, with love, a person with disabilities. Until you have cared for such a person, 24 hours a day, for a long period of time, you can’t begin to understand. The entire family is changed, often for the better, as their value system becomes more compassionate and loving…not only for their most vulnerable family member, but for all people.

But is there a price to pay…especially for the mothers? Yes, there is. And it’s amazing how many mothers and families do this – and do it so well!

I witness unconditional love from mothers every day here at Misericordia. I’ve known some who, for 20 to 30, even 40 years, have treasured and loved their children who never had the capacity to respond…except on occasion with a flicker of their eyes or perhaps a smile on their face. But the mothers hold on to the hope that their children feel their love, and their hope makes it all worthwhile.

A mother’s unconditional love for her child knows no language that can express its true meaning. It involves sacrifice, beauty, courage, patience, understanding and faith. It involves acceptance, often without expectations. Mothers of children with developmental disabilities have become experts in this arena of life.

I’ve seen mothers with their adult children with disabilities who function at a level anywhere between three and five years of age. Their children will always be the ‘eternal children,’ and these loving mothers have accepted them for who they are. They will spend their lifetime advocating for the most vulnerable children. They want the best for them no matter what the cost is to them personally.

Aging mothers of older adult children often begin to live in fear of the future. Who will be the primary caregiver when they are no longer here? Understanding that this is a reality for so many mothers here at Misericordia, we are expanding programs for our aging adults. The result is that our mothers and their families have peace of mind knowing that their loved ones will be cared for when they can’t be there.

We are grateful for all mothers who walk this journey of advocacy for their sons or daughters but especially for those with special needs. Our mothers believe in our philosophy…that each one of our children and adults is a person with individual needs, feelings, aspirations, limitations and gifts. Each one is a unique gift to us today. A loving and loved person made 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.

Visit Misericordia and watch the joy with which our mothers interact with their children in an environment of dignity, challenge, beauty and respect.  I do believe you will see God’s unconditional love in action.

Above: Sister Rosemary and Misericordia resident Carolyn S. | Misericorida is located at 6300 North Ridge Avenue. To learn more, visit www.misericordia.com.

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About Sister Rosemary Connelly

Sister Rosemary Connelly is widely recognized as someone who has and is changing the standard of care for the developmentally disabled in Chicago. She has been at the head of Misericordia, a home for mentally and physically disabled children and adults, for over 40 years.