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Court of the Seven Sisters
The Chicago Sisters at prayer in the Chapel
Given the title, your first impression might be that this account takes place in the city of New Orleans. However, the setting is the city of Chicago, right off Lake Michigan rather than Lake Ponchartrain. Here, in a stately brick building, seven Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, better known as the “Chicago Seven,” call home.

Sr. Arlene Van Dusen, MSC, and Sr. Catherine Garry, MSC, members of the Provincial Council, spent a few days visiting with these sisters. They experienced - first hand - the activity and wonderful spirit of hospitality the sisters extend to anyone passing their way. The seven sisters reside in five separate apartments in a venerable brick building where activity up and down the stairs never ceases and community is found throughout! Each evening, the sisters gather to share the Word of God and to pray for the special needs of the MSC Institute and the world at large. Remembered especially are the sisters and lay collaborators who are ill or in need of prayers.

Evening is also a social time when the sisters catch up on each other’s activities and what myriad activities they are! Each sister has her own special ministry – no retirement plans spoken of here! Let’s become better acquainted with each of the Chicago Seven.

On the third floor, you will find Srs. Joaquina Costa and Antonia Lanzone. This is a sports-oriented community, where special attention is given to the Chicago Bulls and Bears teams.

Sr. Antonia Lanzone, MSC – is someone whom you will find up and about by 6:15 a.m. and in the office by 6:30 when her work day starts. She has often said “call me early before my day begins” because once it starts it’s non-stop. Sister Antonia ministers in the Fiscal Office of the Generalate where she diligently provides stewardship of the funds and investment records; a special concern is the Social Security of the sisters.

Sr. Antonia Lanzone in a quiet moment
She and Sr. Joaquina walk a few blocks to attend daily 8:30 am liturgy at St. Clement’s and are very mindful of parish activities. They maintain a strong presence in the parish and are quick to remind parishioners when there is a significant feast of St. Frances X. Cabrini or the Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Clement’s Church now has a picture of Mother Cabrini proudly displayed on one of the side altars…certainly, Srs. Antonia and Joaquina had something to do with this!

Sr. Joaquina Costa, MSC - works in the Mother Cabrini League and has recently taken responsibility for the Mother Cabrini Messenger that is published five times a year. She personally answers all correspondence that comes into the League and answers phone calls from individuals looking for someone to listen to them as they share stories of an illness, divorce or difficult family situations. Jackie, as she is fondly called, is self taught at the computer. She has made remarkable progress, learning about downloading, scanning and editing photos in a short time - quickly advancing from a novice to a very literate user. In addition to her budding career in journalism, Sr. Joaquina is also involved in parish activities as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist.

Sr. Immaculate Gough, MSC – Across the hall, we meet Sr. Immaculate Gough. Always welcoming and ready for company, Immaculate’s apartment is never without a steaming cup of tea or lively conversation.

Sr. Joaquina Costa at work in Mother Cabrini League
Occasional visitors are amazed that once they have been Immaculate’s guest, she remembers their preferences and is sure to have these favorites are on hand when they return. Thoughtfulness is her gift.

Sr. Immaculate’s day starts early also (actually, all the Chicago Seven days start early!) as she travels a far distance to the west side of Chicago to work at Programma Cielo where she ministers to a large Hispanic population. Programma Cielo, established in 1993, as an outreach of Saint Anthony Hospital, is a storefront drop-in center designed to overcome barriers to health care faced by many Latino immigrants and first generation residents. Immaculate speaks Spanish with an Irish brogue.

At Programma Cielo, she assists residents with applications and legal forms, directing them to the appropriate health care services. She also provides them with clothing and food – doing anything she can to make life in a new country a bit easier.

Sr. Immaculate Gough

Sr. Joan Marie Sariti, MSC – a second floor apartment resident, Sr. Joan Marie volunteers at nearby St. Joseph Hospital three days a week, where she distributes communion and helps Fr. Ted Ploplis, a longtime friend of the Missionary Sisters, in the chaplain’s office. Early on Wednesday mornings, she hops in her station wagon and travels about an hour to the far north side of Chicago to help at Cabrini Retreat Center in the suburb of Des Plaines.

From Des Plaines, later on in the day, she picks up donated bread and goodies and delivers them to Programma Cielo. This trip takes yet another hour. She is so committed to this work that during Srs. Catherine and Arlene’s visit, she received an invitation to attend the opera, which she declined, even though she is a serious opera buff, because it interfered with her volunteer work and her commitment to bringing food to the poor.

In addition to her activities on behalf of those who are on the margins of society, there is also Sr. Joan Marie’s “can” collection. She collects disposable soda cans to raise money for the missions – an endeavor which has netted over $39,000!

Sr. Joan Marie in the basement with her can collection for the missions

Sr. Joan Marie is very faithful in sending e-cards of “blessings” to the Provincial Council and other sisters. Her Sundays are taken up by attending liturgy at the Cathedral and later in the day, she ministers to children at an emergency shelter. One glance at the calendar in Sr. Joan Marie’s cozy kitchen tells you there is hardly a free day in the month.

Next door, you will find Sister Edvige Sommariva and Sr. Rita.Iavarone.

Sr. Edvige Sommariva, MSC - Sr. Edvige can be characterized by one word – entrepreneurial! The phrase “slow down” have never been in her lexicon. At an age when most people might be considering retirement, Edvige took lessons in flower arranging and now has her own floral design “shop” in the basement of the sisters’ building. Her floral creations are available for sale at the gift shops of St. Anthony and St. Joseph Hospitals. Monies raised from her creative work are sent to the Cabrini Mission Foundation. It is Sr. Edvige’s way of supporting the missions.

Sr. Edvige Sommariva in her flower shop
Sr. Edvige’s entrepreneurial spirit does not stop there. She is the “call upon” transporter for many of the sisters needing assistance or transportation to various places throughout Chicagoland. She will bring sisters to appointments, shopping, or whatever errand needs attention. One of the most extraordinary gifts that she gives is that of presence. Ministering to our sisters when they are ill in the hospital or recuperating at home – she makes sure that they are well attended and the refrigerator is well-stocked. A good friend is she.

Sr. Rita Iavarone, MSC - is a faithful friend and companion to Edvige on some of her flower pick-ups and service trips. She helps as much as she is able. For health reasons, Rita often remains at home, but if you peek into the chapel, you will find her praying the office, saying the rosary or just being present to the Blessed Sacrament. Sr. Rita has a ministry of prayer bringing to the Lord the special intentions of the sisters and our lay collaborators.

Sr. Rita Iavarone in the Chapel

Sr. Rita worked in healthcare as a nurse for many years in New York and Chicago until retirement. She also spent a year in the MSC mission in Guatemala at the dispensary. Sr. Rita is an avid reader. Like St. Cabrini, she reads the newspaper from beginning to end. Although engaged in a more quiet ministry, Sr. Rita, no doubt, is doing great things for the Lord and his people.

Sr. Joan McGlinchey, MSC - On the first floor you will find Sr. Joan McGlinchey, General Councillor, for the Stella Maris Province. Sr. Joan is also the Director of the Office of Religious in the Chicago Archdiocese where she has served for the past twelve years. As Cardinal George’s Vicar for both men and women religious, Joan provides pastoral services as well as serving as a liaison with the parishes, other Archdiocesan structures and the leadership of religious congregations who minister in Chicago. Additionally, Joan works with immigrant communities of men and women religious who have come to serve the mission in this local Church.

A involved and dedicated woman, Sr. Joan’s days are filled with Institute and Archdiocesan meetings and travel and she is often found on the facilitator circuit assisting other religious congregations with meetings and conferences.
Sr. Joan McGlinchey, facilitates a recent 125th Anniversary panel discussion.

At a recent Missionary Sisters (MSC) Regional meeting in Chicago, the Chicago sisters were discussing what Missionary Identity means; how they have seen it lived out in their own lives and how it has evolved. Sr. Arlene observed “when I visit these sisters in Chicago, their missionary identity speaks clearly to my heart – it is that sense of being present to the moment and trusting in the Heart of Jesus that all will be well.”

Mother Cabrini and her sisters worked tirelessly to promote and preserve the identity and dignity of all those they served. She reminded them to hold onto our MSC heritage, values and beliefs, while becoming part of a new culture. It is no different for sisters today, as MSC’s, as we forge into new times and meet the needs of our world. Surely these seven sisters have remained attentive to the needs of the times and have retooled their own skills to continue their faithful service to the people of Chicago.

Pray Sisters… Work On…
Thank you for your witness!

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