Sr. Rosemary Connelly
School of Social Work Commencement Address
Executive Director, Misericordia Heart of Mercy
Sister Rosemary Connelly (MSW ’66) is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. A native Chicagoan, she attended parochial schools and taught in several Chicago Archdiocesan schools while continuing her studies. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Science in 1959, a Master of Arts in Sociology from St. Louis University in 1963, and a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago in 1966.
Misericordia began providing services for persons in need in 1921. Operated by the Sisters of Mercy, it first served as a maternity hospital on the South Side of Chicago for unwed mothers. In 1954, it turned its attention to another group in need of special care—children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Sister Rosemary was appointed Misericordia’s executive director in 1969. At that time, there were no services for children with disabilities, so she started a variety of programs designed to help the children achieve the highest level of independence possible. In 1976, Sister Rosemary, 39 children, and 36 dedicated staff members moved to the former site of Angel Guardian Orphanage on the North Side of Chicago at 6300 North Ridge.
A visionary who has devoted 47 years to the Misericordia community, Sister Rosemary oversees a far-reaching program that includes 600 children and adult residents, an Outreach Program serving more than 140 families, 1,000 employees, and thousands of volunteers both on and off campus. More than 400 people are on Misericordia’s waiting list. Her leadership has established Misericordia as one of the nation’s leading communities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is a model for others, providing a wide range of residential options, educational programs, vocational training, therapies, social and recreational activities, health and fitness resources, and opportunities for spiritual growth.
In addition, Misericordia provides a full continuum of care to meet the diverse needs of the population it serves. In 2015, it opened four on-campus Quinlan Terrace Homes designed to address the evolving health care needs of its aging residents. It also is making plans to introduce a new Adult Enrichment Program for 100 young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are living at home with their families.
As Sister Rosemary continues her leadership of Misericordia, she remains steadfast in her commitment to provide opportunities for all those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live lives that are as fulfilled, meaningful, and independent as possible.
On behalf of Misericordia, Sister Rosemary has received seven honorary doctorate degrees along with numerous awards and honors throughout the years. More recent awards include an Honorary Doctorate of Letters, St. Mary’s College Notre Dame, IN (2015); a Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band Dinner Dance Honoree (2014); the Robert E. McLaughlin Faith Foundation Award (2014); a Christ Brings Hope Award: Relevant Radio (2013); a Marquette University Honorary Degree: a Doctor of Humane Letters (2013); a Catholic Woman of the Year Award from the Catholic Daughters of the Americas (2012); and an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Dominican University (2011).