Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy is a native Chicagoan and a valued member of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois’ Board of Directors. She is a Daughter of Charity, an order founded in 1633 by Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac and devoted to serving the poor. She has used her many skills as a registered nurse, nursing home administrator, and licensed attorney in Illinois and Alabama, in her work with Daughters of Charity.
Sr. Mary Ellen graciously recommended SOS Illinois for grant award consideration by Mission & Ministry, Inc., an organization that offers “encouragement and financial support for works of the Daughters of Charity and other non-profit organizations which serve persons living in poverty.” We were honored to receive a grant award from Mission & Ministry, Inc., toward our College Bound and Beyond Program. In light of our recent graduation celebration, Sr. Mary Ellen spoke with us about how she came to be involved with SOS Illinois, and shared her wisdom and hopes for our young graduates.
1) How did you come to be involved with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois?
It is with a love for those who are poor that I came to be involved with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. When I consider the work of SOS Illinois, I recall the gospel wherein Jesus commands the disciples to let the little children come to Him. When SOS Illinois takes the children in, embraces their vulnerability, and loves them into safety, we make them whole again. In other words, we bring the little children to Jesus. And their future moves from one of predicted chaos and restrictive poverty to one of possibilities and options; and that is a piece of the heaven on earth that belongs to every child. To play even a small part in this transformative hope is humbling. I am grateful to serve this organization.
2) Could you talk about the work of Mission & Ministry, Inc. (MMI)? What does SOS Illinois’ College Bound and Beyond program mean to Mission & Ministry? How does it align with the work they do?
MMI is a Daughter of Charity program that awards grants to organizations whose focus and mission are consistent with that of the Daughters of Charity. The grantors look to the organization’s ability to serve the most vulnerable, achieve a realistic sustainability strategy and they realize the possibility of systemic change. SOS Illinois was chosen to receive the grant because it fulfilled theses requirements and was deemed to be revolutionizing the way we deliver foster care. The children’s obvious success regarding hopefulness, high school graduation rate, and improved outlook for their futures are stand-out qualities.
The first ministry of the Daughters of Charity consisted of our founder taking into her home the local impoverished children. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who opened the first house of Daughters of Charity in the USA, is credited with starting the American Catholic School system. You could say that providing children with a loving start that promotes education and a sound basis for a successful future is at the very heart of a Daughter of Charity. To this day we can be found serving in catholic schools and social service agencies that pray and serve to heal troubled kids. The SOS Illinois mission is closely aligned with the Daughters of Charity’s love for impoverished children. SOS Children’s Villages Illinois serves God’s most vulnerable children as God would have them served. Who cannot get behind that?
3) What advice do you have for our recent graduates? And what is your hope for the children in our care as they continue their education and pursue their dreams?
My prayer for all our children is that they will always know God loves them. Even if they do not belong to a religious faith, God loves them. I want them to live the life of dignity that God intends for all of us to live. I pray they will go places and do great things for the common good. I pray that when they recall their time with SOS Illinois, it will bring them a sense of warmth, joy, and gratitude because they knew they were loved.
My advice to our graduates would be to act lovingly and kindly to others even when you do not feel like it. Resist the temptation to put yourself first all the time. Stick up for the kid/person who other people tease. Pray for the Poor. Pursue justice for those who have been left out. Rest in the comfort that God always loves you more than you can ever know. And never let life or other people steal your joy.