About Sister Rosemary Connelly, RSM
Chairman, Misericordia Foundation

USML is proud to honor Sister Rosemary Connelly, RSM, Chairman of Misericordia with the 204 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin In Service of One Another Catholic Humanitarian Award at this year’s Rector’s Classic golf event this September.

Sister Rosemary is a member of the Sisters of Mercy.  A native Chicagoan, she attended parochial schools and taught in several Archdiocesan schools while continuing her studies.  In 1959, Sister Rosemary earned a B.S. in Social Science.  She then earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from St. Louis University in 1966 and a Master’s in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago in 1969.  She was appointed Administrator of Misericordia in 1969.  She has also received nine honorary doctorate degrees – from the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame, Loyola, DePaul, Lewis, St. Xavier, Marquette, Dominican and MacMurray Universities, as well as numerous awards and honors.

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. 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 35 dedicated staff members moved to the former site of Angel Guardian Orphanage on the North Side of Chicago at 6300 North Ridge. It was an abandoned campus with dilapidated buildings.

A visionary who devoted more than 50 years to the community that has become the Misericordia of today, Sister Rosemary’s leadership over the years has led to a far-reaching program that includes 600 children and adult residents, an Outreach Program serving more than 200 families, 1,100 employees and thousands of volunteers both on and off campus. Nearly 400 people currently are on Misericordia’s waiting list. Sister was integral in establishing Misericordia as one of the nation’s leading communities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It has become a model for others in providing a wide range of residential options, educational programs, vocational training, therapy and medical services, social and recreational activities, health and fitness, and opportunities for spiritual growth.

In addition, Misericordia provides a full continuum of care to meet the diverse needs of the population it serves, including four on-campus Quinlan Terrace Homes designed to address the evolving healthcare needs of its aging residents.  Misericordia also has 14 homes off campus in various neighborhoods called CILAs (Community Integrated Living Arrangements). It also has introduced a new Adult Enrichment Program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities living at home with their families. The program offers job training, work opportunities, and a variety of social and recreational activities. In an effort to reach out to families on its waiting list, Misericordia is planning to build initially up to 10 new homes on three acres of land directly south of its main campus. It also is opening a new, drive-thru Hearts & Flour Bakery and Café on Ravenswood Avenue two blocks south of its main entrance.

On December 8, 2021, Misericordia announced major changes in its fundraising and leadership roles. The Misericordia Foundation was established and is responsible for the fundraising efforts to support Misericordia Home.  Sister Rosemary transitioned from Executive Director of Misericordia Home to Chairman of Misericordia Foundation. 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. She holds strongly to the belief that Misericordia’s children and adults not only have the right to life, but to one worth living.

Sister Rosemary has received numerous awards and honors throughout the years.  She has gratefully received all of them on behalf of everyone who is involved with Misericordia. 

  • University of Notre Dame 2023 Laetare Medal (2023)
  • Recognized by the City of Chicago for Women’s History Month (2022)
  • JP Gallagher Audax Award (2019)
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Resolution Recipient for 50 Years of Service with Misericordia (2019)
  • De La Salle Founder’s Award (2019)
  • Catholic Charities Centennial Award (2018)
  • Mater Dei Award, St. Joseph College Seminary (2017)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Social Work, MacMurray University (2016)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Letters, St. Mary’s College Notre Dame, IN (2015)
  • Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band Dinner Dance Honoree (2014)
  • Robert E. McLaughlin Faith Foundation Award (2014)
  • Christ Brings Hope Award:  Relevant Radio (2013)
  • Marquette University Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (2013)
  • Catholic Woman of the Year by the Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA) (2012)
  • Honorary Doctorate Degree from Dominican University (2011)
  • St. Francis Hospital “Cares” Award for Community Service (2010)
  • The Society of St. James the Apostle Honoree (2010)
  • Honored at the Palmer House, Chicago for her 40th Anniversary as Executive Director of Misericordia and 60 years as a Religious Sister of Mercy  (2009)
  • Women with Vision Award from The Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (2008)
  • Invited to present invocation for the State of the State Address in Springfield at the State Capitol (2006)
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s “Speaking of Women’s Health” Conference Honoree (2006)
  • St. Ignatius College Prep Women’s Council “Women for Others” Honoree (2006)
  • Honored as the Grand Marshall for the Northwest Side Irish Parade (2006)
  • The Jane Addams History Maker Award for Distinction in Social Service from the Chicago Historical Society (2006)
  • Honorary Degree from St. Xavier University (2006)
  • PATH (People Are Everyday Heroes) Award (2006)
  • Caritas Christi Urget Nos Award from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago (2005)
  • Sacred Hearts Goal Award from Sacred Heart Schools (2005)
  • One of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago by the Chicago Sun-Times (2004)
  • Order of Lincoln Medallion, the State of Illinois’ highest award for lifelong outstanding achievements (2003)
  • Illinois Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Ernst & Young (2002)
  • Lumen Tranquillum Award from Fenwick High School (2002)
  • Joseph Cardinal Bernardin “As Those Who Serve” Award (2001)
  • Respect Life Person of the Year from the Catholic North Shore Parishes (2000)
  • Dr. Richard Rovner Award from the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago (2000)
  • Network of Women Entrepreneurs Achievement Award (2000)
  • Cook County Unsung Heroines Award (2000)
  • Doctorate of Humanities, Lewis University (1998)
  • Doctor of Laws, University of Notre Dame (1997)
  • International County Mayo People’s Award in Castlebar, Ireland (1996)
  • Catherine McAuley Leadership Award from Mother McAuley High School (1995)
  • Doctor of Humane Letter from DePaul University (1995)
  • Ridge Avenue renamed (honorary) Sister Rosemary Connelly Drive (1994)
  • First Woman to Serve as Grand Marshal of the City of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade (1994)
  • Youth Inspirational Award by Boy’s Hope (1994)
  • Communicator for Christ Award from The Daughters of St. Paul (1993)
  • Distinguished Service Award from the Catholic Theological Union (1993)
  • Sancta Crux Award from Notre Dame High School (1993)
  • Professionals of the Year Award from the Young Irish Fellowship of Chicago (1993)
  • Sword of Loyola from Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine (1992)
  • President’s Cabinet Award from the University of Detroit Mercy (1992)
  • Mary Potter Humanitarian Award from Little Company of Mary Hospital and Healthcare Centers (1992)
  • Daniel A. Lord Award from Loyola Academy (1991)
  • Loveland Award from the American College of Physicians (1990)
  • Cor Mariae Award, the highest non-academic award by the Faculty and Board of Trustees of Immaculate Heart of Mary High School (1989)
  • One of the Most Caring People in America Award (1989)
  • Honorary Membership given by the Chicago Pediatric Society (1988)
  • Best Friend Award by the Friends of Handicapped Riders (1987)
  • Chicago Special Olympics’ Ann McGlone Burke Olympian Service Award (1987)
  • Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Field of Social Work from Lourdes High School (1986)
  • Guttenberg Award from the Chicago Bible Society (1985)
  • The Coordinating Board Award for Outstanding Christian Service to the Chicagoland Community from the Association of Chicago Priests (1984)
  • Doctor of Humane Letter from Loyola University (1982)
  • National Caritas Award from the Kennedy Foundation (1982)