The Mother McAuley High School National Honor Society hosts a fall festival every year to raise funds for Misericordia Heart of Mercy, a Chicago non-profit organization that provides residential, training and employment services for people with special needs.

This year’s fundraiser also honored a member of the Sisters of Mercy who has dedicated five decades of her life to Misericordia and was a teacher at McAuley.

Sr. Rosemary Connelly, Misericordia executive director, was presented a framed McAuley jersey—fittingly featuring the number 50—on Oct. 17, and she joined family and friends for a day of festivities for Misericordia residents.

Connelly taught at McAuley in 1960, and she still loves the all-girls Catholic school.

“I have a very soft spot in my heart for McAuley,” Connelly said. “The Sisters of Mercy founded McAuley, and it’s a very important part of our mission. I remember fondly the mission that the Sisters of Mercy created, and now some beautiful laypeople are carrying on [the mission]. We are blessed to see that God’s work is being carried on so beautifully by so many wonderful laypeople.”

McAuley has hosted the festival benefiting Misericordia for over 30 years. Students donated money for an out-of-uniform day with a Disney theme, and the Misericordia Heartbreakers, a dance troupe, performed for students, with everyone then gathering for a party in the dining hall.

School officials said this year’s event raised over $2,100.

“The only reason that Misericordia is as good as it is today is because people believe in us enough to be involved and to be generous to us,” Connelly said. “This gift from McAuley students and faculty is an honor to receive. I know that they believe in our mission so generously.”

Connelly began at Misericordia in August 1969 and noticed that residents’ needs weren’t being addressed as they grew from being toddlers. She reached out to experts in government and academia about possible programs, then established classrooms for primary students and developed programs for self-help skills, speech and physical therapy, and recreation.

McAuley President Mary Klingenberger has known Connelly for several decades as a volunteer at Misericordia for over 30 years.

She called Connelly a “fan favorite” at McAuley. Honoring her, she said, celebrated not just her 50 years at Misericordia but her 70 years as a nun.

“She’s probably the closest thing to [Sisters of Mercy founder and school namesake] Catherine McAuley that’s walking this earth,” Klingenberger said. “Her care and commitment has just been phenomenal, and it’s just such a beautiful example for our community to have the opportunity to learn more about Sr. Rosemary. I think it’s critical for us as a school to celebrate the sisters while they are here and well and can share in these wonderful experiences.”

Connelly, a West Side native and lifelong Chicagoan, was joined at the celebration by relatives including her nephew, Joe Connelly, and grandnieces Erin and Colleen Connelly, who attend McAuley.

Connelly said the welcoming environment at Misericordia, which serves over 600 children and adults, has led to her long tenure there. She said people usually notice it right away.

“Everyone who comes and visits us and walks around Misericordia, at the end of the tour, they always say that they feel God’s love in action,” Connelly said. “And I think that’s really not only from the residents, who are so beautiful and so spontaneous and so loving, but from the staff, who are committed and love each one of these very special people as individuals and as people that they treasure.

“I think there’s a lot of love around Misericordia.”