Waif's Messenger - Spring 2006 - Fr. Close Commemorative Edition


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Waif's Messenger - Spring 2006 - Fr. Close Commemorative Edition

  1. 1. Special commemor ative iSSue S p r i n g 2 0 0 6 • Vo l u m e 1 0 6 , N u m b e r 3 T h e Messenger Waifs’ of Merc y hoMe for Boys & gir l sInsIde: a close look • Father Scott reflection • a legacy of miracles • alumni reminisce • the value of education
  2. 2. A close look a I knew this was going to be hard. fter all, it’s been thirty-three years. But this isn’t goodbye. And i have to admit, i was a little instead, think of my retirement embarrassed when i was told as a necessary change—because they wanted to dedicate an entire change, after all, is one of the issue of The Waifs’ Messenger to reasons Mercy home has been my life here at Mercy home. able to succeed for over 119 years. But seeing some of the pictures on i’ve learned many lessons in my pages 6–11 of this issue of The Waifs’ time at Mercy home. And learning Messenger did bring back fond memories. to embrace change is one of the most crucial of them all. And reading some of the gracious comments from caring friends like you you see, kids today face challenges on pages 18–19 warmed my heart. drastically different from the challenges kids faced five, ten, on pages 16 and 17, you’ll see warm twenty or thirty-three years ago. messages from some of our kids who have gone on to lead productive And that’s one of the things we do so and successful lives. i’m not afraid well here at Mercy home—we adapt to tell you, when i first read them, to the changing needs of our kids. i got more than a little choked up. When i first came to Mercy home in i am truly touched by—and proud 1973, childcare organizations across the of—this issue of The Waifs’ Messenger. country were being closed down—and But i don’t think i deserve special even Mercy home was nearly bankrupt. recognition for anything i’ve done. i’ve just followed my calling in life Most of our kids didn’t go on toFor over three decades, and traveled along the path god has college then—and few stayedFather Jim Close has been shown me. it’s been a wonderful with us beyond the age of 18.committed to providing journey working with kids—and And the truth is, i didn’t really knowlove, shelter and guidance friends like you—over the years. what to do when i first came toto God’s neediest children. Mercy home. But i did know that if i surrounded myself with the brightest, most compassionate people i could find and relied on god’s guidance and the kindness of gracious friends like you, we could turn Mercy home around. And i knew that the children in our care would always be what mattered most. Mercy home is more than a building, and more than me. our goal through the years has always been to make a significant and lasting impact in the lives of our children.2 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  3. 3. And the memories of the lives we’ve you are the past, the presentsaved—together—will stay with and the future of Mercy home.me long after i’ve left this earth. friends like you are the reasoni was shocked at the stories i heard thousands of children couldwhen i arrived at Mercy home. i had come to Mercy home in searchjust come from st. John Brebeuf Parish of new lives—and the reasonin niles, illinois, and i had no idea thousands more will continuewhat to expect from the kids at this to find hope, comfort and loveBoys’ home in a rough part of the city. long after we have all passed on.The hurt and sadness in the eyes i will always cherish yourof every child who came to our friendship and the blessings youdoor shook me to the core. have given me. And when i look back at that young priest who cameBut when i realized that, through to Mercy home thirty-three yearslove, affection and prayers, we could ago, unsure of what the futuremake a profound difference to every might hold, i have to smile.child in our care…well, it truly wasthe best feeling in the world. he couldn’t have seen the challenges that lay ahead. he couldn’t haveWhen i look back, i’m proud of the known the friendships he’d find.work i’ve done—but i also know we And he couldn’t have guessed at thecan always do better. There are still lives that would be saved thanks to Contentsmany more girls and boys who need so many kind and faithful friends.our help, children who live in poverty A Close Look 2without real families, hope or love. And most of all, he couldn’t have done it without you. Father Scott Reflection 4But Mercy home rests in goodhands. Just knowing that our home Thank you again for helping save 33 Years of Caring 6will have a tremendously qualified our children’s lives—and thank youleader in father scott Donahue for bringing a purpose to my own. A Legacy ofgives me enormous comfort. Miracles 12 Know that you always remainof course, the success of Mercy in my most heartfelt prayers. Mercy Homehome doesn’t really rest in father Alumni Reminisce 16scott’s hands…or my own. And please remember, this isn’t goodbye. Donor Messages toAnd it didn’t rest with father Kellyor father campbell, either. god bless you, Father Close 18It rests with you. The Value of Education 20you are the reason Mercy home It’s the Thoughtis a model of childcare—and That Counts 22has been for over a century. t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6
  4. 4. father scott reflection Words. They’re so powerful, but rarely t do we feel that they are enough. his is definitely one of those occasions. And just as important as father Jim’s i feel a wealth of words coming to me generosity is his ability to see and as i think about father Jim close’s inspire it in others. father Jim has impact on Mercy home, the kids and truly touched the hearts of people our own relationship—but nothing around the world with stories of his that captures his spirit in its entirety. efforts. But he wasn’t just writing with the hope of getting a donation Generous back—he was inviting folks to join not only has father Jim given himself with him in this compassionate work. fully to his work from the first day Humility he walked through Mercy home’s heavy oak door, but he has always father Jim has helped Mercy home been willing to give that something go from a simple housing facility extra when needed. he won’t turn for lost kids to one of the nation’s away a child, a friend or a colleague leading organizations in providing when the clock strikes five. his door care, therapy and opportunities is always open to those in need of for kids in need. And he’s done it counsel or those just looking for through all these years most humbly. a friendly dinner companion. i can say with absolute certainty that Personally, i’ve benefited from his father Jim will even be embarrassed wealth of knowledge, both studied as he reads this special issue of The and hard earned, that he’s passed Waifs’ Messenger—one dedicated on so freely. father Jim has done solely to him and not this mission. so much to make me a part of this home—he’s helped me grow as a InspiredFather Scott, just person and a priest and has opened i know that the most importantnew to Mercy Home, my eyes to the many complexities words to father Jim are the wordslearns the ropes of this very special ministry. of our lord and the lessonsfrom Father Jim. of his son, Jesus christ. it is father Jim’s conviction in the gospel that has given him the strength and inspiration to do this mission work for all these years. it has taken great faith to see his dream for Mercy home realized. As practical as father Jim is, he’s never been one to shy away from dreaming big. god’s word propped him up when he was tired, encouraged him when others turned their backs and gave him light when he needed direction. Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  5. 5. As for me, i am eternally grateful for all that father Jim has done to help me better understand my own calling, for the number of lives he’s invited me into, and for the fact father Jim that even though he’s retiring he’ll still be here with his door open. truly sees father Jim now considers himself god in the the grandfather of this Mercy home hearts of family, meaning he has the freedomAs friends and colleagues, Father Jim and to dote on the kids, all the while the childrenFather Scott have worked together to sharing his wisdom and supportbring healing into the lives of countless with me behind the scenes. under hisboys and girls over the years. Honor stewardship. This is mine alone, as it has been a truehe told me when i started here at honor to work with my brother priestMercy home that the gospel of at Mercy home. Thank you fatherMatthew (25:35-40) has been the great Jim for all you’ve done for the kids, forguiding lesson in all he has done. this community and for me. you’ve leftin that passage we learn from Jesus behind some mighty big shoes to fill.that “Whatever you did for one ofthese least brothers of mine, you didfor me.” father Jim truly sees god inthe hearts of the children under hisstewardship. he recognizes them forwhat they are, his brothers and sistersin christ, and treats them with all ofthe love and respect they deserve.Gratefuli know father Jim is grateful forthe mission he’s been given, forthe many friends who have helpedhim in this crucial work and, mostimportantly, for those kids whotrusted him with their lives.i know that our kids—generationsof them—and our extended Mercyhome family are grateful for hiswork, friendship and limitless love. t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6
  6. 6. 33 years of caring1973 In 1973, Father James J. Close, a young parish priest from St. John Brebeuf Parish in Niles, 1981 Father Close’s compassion for kids in need extends beyond the walls of Mercy Home. In order to expand the level of care offered to Mercy Illinois, was sent by Cardinal Home’s children, in 1981 Cody to accept a position as Father Close established the head of Mercy Home. Father the Aftercare program to Close had never worked with offer guidance and services abused and abandoned children, for children who no longer but Cardinal Cody admired Father reside at Mercy Home. Many Close’s intelligence, enormous organizations offer guidance dedication and endless compassion and comfort to desperate and knew that he would be an and troubled children—but exceptional and committed leader. Father Close wanted Mercy Although he was hesitant, Father Home to be different. The Close accepted the position creation of the Aftercare and embarked on a path that program sent a message to would change the course of his Mercy Home’s children and told them that no matter where life—and the lives of countless they went in life, or how far removed they were, they could suffering children—forever. always turn to Mercy Home for help, guidance and love. 1973 1975 1977 1979 1972 1974 1976 1978 1980 1975 After working with hurting kids for two years, Father Close recognized that there are many ways to help needy children heal. In 1975, he started the “Meet the Wilderness” program for Mercy Home’s kids—a chance for them to go camping, hiking and enjoy the beauty of the natural world. Most importantly, Meet the Wilderness was a chance for needy kids to find comfort in God’s creation, and leave the trauma of their pasts behind.6 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  7. 7. 1987 At Mercy Home’s centennial celebration, Bishop Kane, Vice Chairman of Mercy Home’s Board of Directors, announced: “Father Mahoney and Father Campbell responded to the challenge of abandoned kids 100 years ago and brought Mercy Home into being. They were the Founders. In every generation, the Home has been founded 1987 again and again.” With these words, Francis Kane bestowed Mercy Home’s first Founders Award to Father Close for his unparalleled achievements in childcare, and his passionate commitment to save hurting kids. It was a sign In 1987, Mercy Home’s “Friends First” began, a program of the incredible esteem Father Close commanded, and that paired adult mentors and role models with at-risk children another indication of the impact of his enduring legacy. in the community. Father Close wanted to take a proactive, preventative approach to childcare. He recognized that Mercy Home’s residential programs provide desperate children with the family structure they need, but by pairing at-risk girls and boys with mentors and role models, kids could be helped— and saved—before they ever came to live at Mercy Home.1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1982 1984 1986 1988 1987 For many years, Mercy Home was a haven 1988 for troubled and abused boys. But in 1987, Father Close recognized Father Close established the Girls’ Home on that there was no single, Chicago’s South Side so that young girls from correct way to care for broken pasts could find the same support as abused and desperate the boys who came to Mercy Home in search of children. In order for comfort, guidance and love. It was a ground- Mercy Home to continue breaking moment in Mercy Home’s history, and to be a leader in childcare, yet another example of Father Close’s enormous it would have to adapt to the changing needs of the children. compassion and extraordinary vision. While In 1988, Father Close restructured the counseling and youth- other organizations were struggling to meet care programs so that all of Mercy Home’s kids met directly with the needs of their kids, Father Close was taking their youth care workers and therapists in a comfortable, family- measures to ensure Mercy Home could care like setting. Father Close realized that this more personalized, for more children, girls who had few, if any, family-structured form of care would be crucial to giving our places to turn for comfort, safety and security. kids the greatest attention—and the best guidance—possible. t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6
  8. 8. 33 years of caring 1990 In 1990, Mercy Home formally changed its name to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. This subtle but essential change signified that Mercy Home was a place for all hurting children—a true Home where hurting and neglected girls and boys could finally turn their lives around. 1991 1993 1990 1992 1992 For many years, Mercy Home had been known as a leading childcare organization. In 1992, thanks to Father Close’s vision and leadership, Mercy Home was acknowledged by the Council on Accreditation for its pioneering efforts for hurting kids. Mercy Home was one of the first organizations of its kind to be recognized in the region, and has been recognized by the Council ever since. Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  9. 9. 1994 Father Close continued enhancing 1996 In 1996, with the support of the scope of care offered to hurting Joseph Cardinal Bernardin children. In 1994, Mercy Home opened (pictured), Father Close its doors to younger boys, ages 11 asked Father Scott to 13, increasing an already exemplary Donahue to join him as commitment to saving suffering kids. the Associate President of Mercy Home. This was the beginning of a strong partnership—and friendship— between two men who would take Mercy Home to unprecedented levels of success…and save more homeless and abandoned kids than ever before. 1995 1994 1996 1995In 1995, Father Close orchestrated a similar 1996 Father Close wanted to offer incentives for our kids that encouraged them to work hard in school and in the community.change on the Girls’ Campus, and added a In 1996, the Leadership Allprogram to care for young girls in need. Stars program was created at Mercy Home to honor leaders among our kids and help them earn rewards for their achievements, such as group trips to Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York City. To this day, becoming a Leadership All Star is a great honor for Mercy Home’s kids, and a powerful motivational tool for them to excel in school, at home and in their jobs. t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6
  10. 10. 33 years of caring 1999 1997 Father Close continued to As a testament to his remarkable leadership, in 1999 Father Close was given the extraordinary honor of Grand Marshal of the 1999 Chicago Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. He was recognized as a visionary and pioneer for his long history of philanthropy and compassion. expand Mercy Home’s programs in 1997 by adding a home for girls 17 years old and older. Once again, Father Close demonstrated his intention to help as many children as possible. Mercy Home’s ability to tailor its unique level of care to kids of all ages once again set it apart as one of the premier childcare organizations in the country. 1997 1999 2001 1998 2000 1997 One of the first steps in saving a 2000 In 2000, Father Close and Father Donahue unveiled wounded child is simply getting them Mercy Home’s Strategic Plan for the 21st Century. In into Mercy Home. Father Close knew conjunction with this announcement, the “Legacy that the longer a hurting child was of Miracles” campaign was launched to raise left on the streets, or in an abusive $10 million for the expansion and renovation of home, the more difficult it was to the Boys’ Home, now named the Hay Campus. help them heal. In 1997, Father Close restructured the admissions process at Mercy Home, in order to welcome as many kids as quickly and efficiently as possible, knowing the sooner they were part of a new family, the sooner they could heal.10 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  11. 11. 2005 In October 2005, Mercy Home dedicated the Tichenor 2006 Family Chapel, a tranquil place for comfort, solace In February 2006, after and prayer for the entire Mercy Home family. an unprecedented legacy of achievements, Father James J. Close retires from Mercy Home. Countless children owe their lives to his consistent compassion, and his indelible mark on Mercy Home—and on its children’s futures—can never be forgotten or erased. 2003 20052002 2004 2006 2003 In 2003, construction was completed on the Father Close Building—a brand new building with added space and expanded facilities, a place of hope, help and love for even more of God’s neediest children. As part of Mercy Home’s “Legacy of Miracles,” the Bosco Home opened at Mercy Home the next year, to offer care and assistance to some of the most hurting and neglected kids in our family. t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6 11
  12. 12. A legacy of Miracles …an exemplary history of achievement i n 1973, father James J. close didn’t Then, in 1973, father close was know much about running a home summoned to a meeting with cardinal for hurting and troubled kids. cody—and his life changed forever. Thirty-three years later, he is cardinal cody told father close about retiring from Mercy home, leaving a position as head of Mercy home behind an exemplary history of (then known as father Kelly’s home achievement and success. for Boys). father Kelly, who had served as President of the home for thirty- James Joseph close, the son of irish nine successful years, was retiring. immigrants, was born in 1936 on Although he was flattered, father the north side of chicago. even at close was somewhat taken aback at a young age, father close knew he the thought of working with kids. was being called to do god’s work. he attended st. Mary of the lake “i didn’t think i could do it at first,” seminary in Mundelein, illinois, father close says. “What did i know and was ordained in the priesthood about running a home for kids? so i in 1963 by cardinal Meyer. went to the cardinal, told him i had prayed about my decision, and i wasn’t father close began his career in the sure if Mercy home was right for me. priesthood at st. John Brebeuf Parish cardinal cody answered me, ‘i prayed in niles, illinois. for ten about it last night, too. And i decided years, he dedicated himself you should go to Mercy home.’” to his parish and helped to orchestrate many landmark Though he was hesitant at first, at events, including the Mercy home father close found his building of a new church true mission—and began a legacy and the creation of a parish that would bring hope and healing to athletic department. thousands of shattered young lives. But times were tough for childcare agencies in the 1970s. father close remembers that “many places were forced to close down in those days because their funding was being cut, and Mercy home was nearly bankrupt. i tried going to Father Close’s parents, springfield, illinois to get more Catherine and Sylvester help, but it was not forthcoming. (pictured above in 1930 so i turned to our friends for help.” and later with their two our generous friends responded to youngest daughters), father’s strong spirit and his passion for instilled in him the values helping kids in need. inspired by father of humility, faith and love.12 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  13. 13. and success close’s determination and leadership, friends from all over the country helped to turn Mercy home around. And as the home began to improve, life for our kids began to change as well. reflecting on the changes throughout the years, father close recalls that The Reverend James J. Close “things were different then, even the “We’ve always wanted to give our was ordained at University setup of our home. our kids slept in kids the best education possible, of St. Mary of the Lake large rooms, like dormitories, and the but initially it was difficult. Seminary on May 1, 1963— cots were all lined up, one after another, over time, we began setting and began a vocation that camp-style, with a small metal bed- up more meetings between our would ultimately save stand between each cot. All our kids kids and their therapists and the lives of thousands of woke to a bell every morning, and the counselors to get them the best desperate and needy children. lights were shut off at 9:00 every night.” education at the school that suited their skills and needs.” Though the layout of Mercy home may have changed drastically over the years, After he brought Mercy home back Father Close was sent the commitment to healing the whole from the brink of bankruptcy, by Cardinal Cody to child—mind, body and soul—has father Jim was also able to focus Mercy Home, where he never wavered. even when father close on more dramatic improvements transformed a dilapidated first came to Mercy home, the kids over the years. As President, he boys’ orphanage into one were given more than food, shelter and oversaw some of the most profound of the most successful— clothing—they were taught skills they changes in Mercy home’s history. and loving—Homes for would use for the rest of their lives. children in the country. The creation of Mercy home’s “one thing that hasn’t changed at Aftercare program in 1981 Mercy home is that we’ve always illustrated father close’s deep encouraged our kids to find commitment to caring for kids and employment. even when i first his understanding that helping came here, many of our kids had hurting children can never be a part-time jobs, and they all worked quick fix—but requires a long- after school and on saturdays.” term investment in their success. “Mercy home is a true home, and in fact, many of Mercy home’s kids that means that we don’t stop worked in our own printing press, caring for our kids at any age, and often for an entire summer, and over keep the relationship for as long time they could gain experience as they need us,” father says. toward a career in printing. As Mercy home changed, father in addition to providing our kids with knew that he, too, had to adapt. jobs and life skills, Mercy home has in 1981, in addition to creating always stressed the value of education. Continued on next page t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6 1
  14. 14. A legacy of Miracles Continued from previous pageMercy home’s Aftercare program, father close alsoreceived his master’s degree in business from theUniversity of notre Dame. he realized that as aleader he had to be as familiar with as many of theday-to-day details of Mercy home as possible. Themore he knew, the better he could help our kids. Thanks to Father Close’s vision, hurting girls now would have a place of safety, security and love.But father close also recognized that eventhough Mercy home was a pioneer in childcare, expand Mercy home to care for desperate anda new direction was needed. for 100 years, hurting girls was considered bold, even risky.hurting boys had found comfort, hope and But father close knew that hurting girls wereshelter at Mercy home—and thanks to father being overlooked, and their numbers continuedclose’s hard work, in 1987, a new building was to increase. he was driven to help all kids—girlsopened for girls on chicago’s south side. and boys—in every way he possibly could.There were few organizations around that But there were setbacks, too. father close remembersprovided intimate, personalized care to both boys having to restructure Mercy home’s programs toand girls. At the time, father close’s decision to better fulfill the kids’ needs. currently, our kids meet with their youth care workers and therapists together. Both the therapists and the youth care workers spend as much time with the kids as they can—they interact with them, they participate in activities with them, they listen to their stories and their problems—and the better they know our kids, the easier it is to help them heal. for many years, our kids met with their therapists and care workers separately—and therapists often saw the children only once a week, in their offices. Because they were removed from the kids’ day-to-day activities, and didn’t get to see them truly being themselves, the therapists weren’t able to completely understand the pain the kids were feeling or the anger and frustration they were experiencing—andMercy Home has changed they weren’t able to give them thedramatically since its early level of attention they deserved.years, but the compassion and remembering the changes,dedication of its leaders and father says, “nobody has a bookstaff have never wavered. on how to care for kids, at least not one that covers everything. The quality and methods of1 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  15. 15. care are constantly changing—and one of thestrengths of Mercy home throughout the years hasbeen its adaptability. you have to learn that thereis no perfect recipe for helping children heal—you have to be open-minded to new things.”And the unique, personal care we give our kidscontinues to be a cornerstone of our home today.Thanks to father close’s innovations, abandonedand neglected children who came to Mercy home more wounded and Through part-time jobs—wounded and withdrawn learned to discuss their desperate than any such as working in Mercyproblems and share their concerns with their before—kids who come Home’s own Mission Pressyouth care workers and therapists. And the more from backgrounds of in the 1970s—our kids learnthey opened up, the more they began to heal. terrible abuse, kids who the value of hard work and have never known an discipline that helps themAlthough father close overcame numerous setbacks ounce of love in their develop into productiveas President and ceo of Mercy home, the most entire lives. father and successful adults.difficult news came in 2000, when he was diagnosed close’s tireless effortswith cancer. in spite of the physical strain, father throughout the yearsclose’s commitment to helping homeless and have helped transform aabandoned kids never faltered, and he remained crumbling boys’ home on the edge of financial ruintireless in his dedication to the future of Mercy home. to a nationally recognized leader in childcare—a true home, where abused and homeless kids cansince his diagnosis, father close has overseen the find the loving family they so desperately need.largest expansion in the history of Mercy home,with the addition of a new home to care for kids father close’s legacy will never be forgotten, and the true testament of his work—the impact he’s made in the lives of countless children— can never be measured. Words cannot do justice to his humble spirit, his unshakeable faith or his boundless compassion. “if only there could be a hundred, or even a dozen, homes like Mercy,” father has often said. it’s a remarkable thought—a dozen Mercy homes would be an incredible thing. But there will still only be oneThroughout the years, Father Close has been more father close.than a leader—he has been a mentor, a father figure, acounselor and a friend to all of Mercy Home’s children. t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6 1
  16. 16. Mercy home Alumni reminisce …his priority has always been the kids f ather Jim’s accomplishments at Mercy home—like the expansion of the Boys’ home and the opening of the girls’ home—can be seen and admired by any passerby. They stand as a testament to his hard work and vision as the home’s President. But, as father Jim would be the first to remind you, his priority has always been the kids. everything a special place in their hearts for father Jim. This close relationship is the basis of the lifelong affection father Jim shares with his kids. he has accomplished has been in the interest of giving kids who lacked hope a better life. “father close is always talking about roots and wings. Well, my There are thousands of boys, girls, roots are at Mercy home while “he is bigger men and women out there—from my wings have taken me all over,” than life itself ages 11 to 50—who’ve had their lives shaped by father Jim’s work. said robby. “But i’ve kept coming back to Mercy ever since i left.” and someone he’s been their caregiver, parish robby had bounced around from priest, mentor and, more often i’ll never than not, their only father figure. relative to friend and back, before finding a stable home at Mercy forget.” home in the early 1980s. he’s since Kellie, who recently started her own gone on to graduate from stanford, family, really appreciated father’s earn his MBA from harvard and guidance, “you volunteer with the Peace corps in helped us learn the costa rica. he now lives in california importance of life with his wife and two children. and its many roles and responsibilities.” “father close was there for me each A sentiment shared time i graduated from school, he by so many of this presided over my wedding, invited Mercy home family. my wife and me to chicago where he baptized our son and he even And that’s just what it flew out to california to baptize is—a family. each and our daughter when she was born. every one of Mercy you know, i still send him father’sFather Jim has been giving our kids both home’s children, past Day cards every year. he’s thespiritual and fatherly guidance over the years. and present, keep closest thing i have to a real dad.”16 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  17. 17. robby has always received full nice. he’d laugh and joke withencouragement and support from me before and after mass whichfather Jim. he particularly remembered made me feel like a friend.”father’s enthusiasm when robby haddeveloped an interest in photography. “i in that time, Matt came towas so excited, and father let me know appreciate the lessons father could Robby and Father Jim share ahow much he, too, liked photography. teach him and really embraced the special bond that will last a lifetime.he even loaned me several different opportunities he found at Mercylenses to try out on my camera. When home. “he got me off the ground.i went away to college, father wanted There’s no way i can thank himme to keep them because i told him i enough for all he’s done. i hopewanted to be on the yearbook staff.” to give back by taking psychology and therapy.Many of the young men and i want to deal with kids that werewomen who grew up under in my position. But my job as anfather Jim’s supervision can easily altar boy at Mercy home has stillrecall some similar episode or been my favorite vocation so far!”time that they still hold dear. like Matt, so many want to givematt, who just recently left Mercy back or find some way to share “father closehome, has fond memories of the their thanks with father Jim. is alwaysfour years he spent at father Jim’s But behind their expressionsside as altar boy for the sunday Mass of gratitude is something even talking aboutprogram. he was always impressed greater, more personal. Mercyby father’s generous spirit, “i didn’t home alumna ellen probably roots andreally know what to expect. he waskind of intimidating at first—he came closest to capturing the unspoken best when she wings. Well,seemed so large to me at the time. But said, “father close, i love you my rootsfor such a big guy, he was always so a lot. Thanks for everything.” are at Mercy Mercy home will be around for many years to come, but father home while “he got me Jim’s true legacy is in the hearts of my wings those who’ve known and benefited off the ground. from his devoted care—those have taken who’ve gone on to live happily There’s no way and successfully in the world. me all over.” i can thank or as Dan, another Mercy home him enough for alumnus, would like the world to know, “he is bigger than life itself all he’s done.” and someone i’ll never forget.” t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6 1
  18. 18. Donor Messages to father close ‘…you became a father in the real sense m ercy home for Boys and girls is so blessed to have the assistance of generous and loving friends—people who have opened their hearts to father Jim’s request for assistance in caring for hurting, lost or abandoned children. father Jim invited these good folks to make his mission—god’s work—their own. And from down the block to the other side of the world, they’ve responded with overwhelming kindness and warmth. There is something in father Jim’s humble and generous spirit that inspired these friends to take a chance on Mercy home. And as they came to know more about the home, about the kids and about father Jim, the closer they felt. They became more than friends, they became an extended family. This a unique and loving Father Close W e want to wish lthy retiremen t. Just relationship is the happy and hea ome’s achievements reason the children of cy H following Mer Mercy home continue for the la st dozen years or so has been ife, F ather Jim, I w ill ber your to heal, grow and f itself to my w always remem our a ble ssing in and o e for us s, y succeed in life. e. Taking tim way with word y Susan, and m he has had so many man idually, when a, smile and the Who are these indiv s on his agend ays in which y ou’ve more im portant matter d thoughtful w for friends? They are gracious an alwa ys been there you, dear readers. has made the to us an hono r to u are truly om Father Jim re the Vatican those kids. Yo every day, father letters fr of the finest m . en me long befo one Jim writes notes of receive. In a ti ing, St. Paul addressed is earth be God put on th gratitude to you ever came into llow believers and is fe his letters to h ll as “the saints.” Bill hart a addressed them m is already one chicago, il er Ji So to us, Fath all the years o f too an d we applaud nd rvice above a ded ication and se en to uty he has giv beyon d the call of d exhibited y this he has M ercy Home. B Christian lov e ng you are retiri for all who know him k our Lord in tended it to b e. T he news that ept. You are le aving as we thin portant role m odel is hard to acc Close is an im to follow. You Father that we have av ery tough act ith we thank God onderful job w for all and r have done a w rs and everyone are a bit of ou m, yea been privileged to sh you, Father Ji kids for many were, er. God bless not easy. You lives togeth ys! knows that is ve retirement da onal. Lots of lo in yo ur well-earned an d are, excepti re. lth for the futu n Valet and better hea gene susa l d, f l Amelia islan eileen Pretze chicago, il1 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  19. 19. of the word’ F or several dec as well as ma ades the child ren of Mercy ny others hav H And rightly so e called you “F ome and gives thanks for you in his . For the child ather.” many still are ren prayers. some friends decided to , a father in th you became, and for For others ad e real sense o share their thoughts and wishes dressing you a f the word. priesthood an s Father recog with him, in return. We share d the respect nized your important to that comman us h ds. But them with you on these pages. years we have as been the fact that over th more been privileged ese many So Father, ou to call you “fri father Jim is so grateful for the kind r dear friend, end.” wonderful me we thank you words and warm wishes he’s received mories and a for of working wit lso for the opp the since he announced his retirement. h you and for ortunity ministry that you in the ma Though he feels incredibly honored has been your rvelous Our grateful life at Mercy and humbled, he cannot say he’s heart says tha Ho nk you and G me. surprised. he’s not surprised because evely n and r od bless you! ay he already knows that those who Bradenton, f hentges have befriended the children of l Mercy home are possessed of truly generous souls—friends who let god work through them to bring healing to those in need. Although I never met Fath Jim in person er , we through our co became friends rres Because of him pondence. , hundreds of Now that the time has co children have Jesus and a n found our Lord to retire, it is me for you ew life. They with both sad found love, fr have that we wish ness and joy iendship and you well. It is ability to cope the no one will be sad because with life. It is able to do wh an easy task no have done. It is joyful becau ou at y to give meanin t be enjoying yo se you will to life for child g ur retirement ren who were that you have kno lost before he really accomp wing found them. everything th lished Father Jim ha at God wante s giv d you to do. Jesus, your m years of his life en the best to ento on earth to pro r, spent 33 years Jesus. I’m sure them and to claim the goo the Lord has to us all. You d news been smiling d have spent 33 own on him fr nurturing Go yea above. He wil om d’s forsaken ch rs l be greatly m issed. ildren. Katherine M It has been m eech y pleasure an Tonawanda, to know you a d hon nd to be a part or ny your family a of t Mercy Hom e. frank Denn y escondido, c A t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6 1
  20. 20. The Value of education ‘…he pointed us in the right direction’ f ather Jim knows that today’s challenges college. it was my top priority—a goal are different than yesterday’s and will i would do anything to accomplish.” be nothing compared to what kids he was also the very first kid under face ten years from now. That’s why in father close’s watch to do so. caring for the children at Mercy home, he has made education a top priority. carl and his twin brother, Michael, made Mercy their home at the age now, all of Mercy home’s kids are of 14, after escaping a string of different and are capable of different abusive foster homes. “We never degrees of personal success. some are knew our real parents. father close ready for the world once they get out embraced us with open arms.” of high school, while others flourish in trade school or go on to college. After arriving at Mercy home, carl faithfully pursued his academics carl Allen was one of those kids throughout high school. he earned destined to go to college. “no matter honor roll and dean’s list recognition what else i did, i knew i had to go to semester after semester, eventually being named “student of the year 1976” “We never as a junior. By senior year, he was the only student allowed to leave school knew early to go to work for half of the day. our real carl’s counselors at Mercy home encouraged him to look around at parents. colleges. Although carl had always been an exceptional student, he was father unsure of the exact path he wanted to close take in life. carl decided to “do what embraced us with open arms.” Carl Allen in high school—his future secure thanks to the loving support he received at Mercy Home. He remembers those years fondly and still has his jersey from the Mercy Mission All Stars.20 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  21. 21. the rest of the pack was doing,” andpursue a business degree at a universityin northern illinois. The separationfrom Mercy home was difficult, soafter two years carl transferred tonortheastern University, where hewould be closer to those who caredabout him. he eventually graduatedfrom northeastern with honors andin the top 5 percent of his class.After graduation, carl went intorestaurant management for aboutfive years. it just didn’t seem to be agood fit, however. “i knew it wasn’twhat i really wanted, so i looked forwork in accounting, my high schoolpassion.” his love for numbers wasactually something that was inspiredby his mentors at Mercy home. Now a proud father, Carlcarl Allen is now the comptroller for of course, none of this could be is passing on the love anda manufacturing company. he credits accomplished alone. Without the values he learned at Mercyhis success to his Mercy home family. support of friends like you, the Home to his son, Kenny.now a father himself, he realizes children of Mercy home would notthe financial and emotional strength have the chance to take advantagenecessary for raising children. “What of such life-building opportunities.father close did for my brother andme is immeasurable. he will live in Though the cost of education continuesmy memory forever, but not just for to climb, the cost of not receivingwelcoming us, feeding us and educating an education would be far worse.us. he pointed us in the right direction. if you’d like to help in educating someThere’s a reason he’s called father. he very deserving girls and boys, youis, and always will be, our father.” might want to consider sending a gift to the father Jim close scholarshipAnd like a father, father Jim continues fund—a resource father scottto help kids—hopeful boys and girls Donahue established in honor ofjust like carl was—to find their path father Jim’s 30th anniversary at Mercyto a happy and successful adulthood. home. Please feel free to call Anngenerations past have benefited from Kisting at (312) 738-4381 to discusshis dedication, just as generations to this and other ways you can helpcome will benefit from his legacy. prepare a child for the future. t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6 21
  22. 22. father Jim close It’s the thought that counts i didn’t grow up in the lap of luxury. There were many, many lessons i Times were tough in the 1930s and learned growing up. But perhaps 1940s, and you often wondered the most important lesson of all was where your next meal was coming that in being poor, god seemed from. it’s funny, though—i never closer to me than he ever has. it was thought of myself as poor. That’s there that i found my life’s calling. probably because almost everyone was in the same boat as i was. i met some wonderful priests as i followed my vocation to the We lived in public housing for a while. priesthood—first at our lady of We had to. so not only did i learn my lourdes parish where i grew up, and lessons at school, i learned a few after then later at Quigley and st. Mary as well, at the school of hard knocks. of the lake seminaries. These were good men who genuinely loved god But i also learned the meaning and the priesthood, and inspired that of sacrifice and i learned the key love in others. i wanted to be like importance of family. sometimes them—who wouldn’t want to follow family is all there is, and they help in their footsteps? After all, i was you through the tough times. i also named after my uncle, Monsignor learned to work hard. first there James J. close of Belfast, ireland. was the newsstand, then the paper route, and later i pumped gas. What i particularly admired how they i earned went to my family. i did gave their life for others. in addition what i could to help us to survive. to saying Mass and their other sacramental responsibilities, they got involved with us and took a great interest in our lives. Whether it was playing ball or listening to a problem, they always seemed to i learned the key care. i pray i’ve been able to do that in my life—i’ve always tried to show importance of our kids that whatever problems they family. sometimes had, i was always there for them. People ask what i think my legacy will family is all there be. i’ve never really thought about my is, and they help life in those terms, but i hope when people look back on my days they you through the will remember that i always tried to give a kid a second chance. everyone tough times. makes mistakes, especially kids, and everyone deserves to be forgiven and the chance to try again. That’s whatFather Jim with his Mercy home has always stood for.mother in 1986.22 Speci a l com me mor at i V e i S Su e
  23. 23. you see, years ago i made the decision girls in your Will. As i mentioned,to include Mercy home for Boys and i, myself, have taken those wordsgirls in my Will. i know the estate to heart. you should also know thatof a priest doesn’t compare to most. each day in my prayers i rememberBut i find tremendous satisfaction in those who have so generously madeknowing that whatever good i was that decision. My successor, fatherable to accomplish will continue scott, will continue to do the same.on in more children’s lives throughthat gift. And it’s really true: it’s Upon my retirement, i would like tonot the amount that matters, what ask you to consider including Mercycounts is the thought. Why wouldn’t home in your Will. remember, it’s noti remember those whom i believed the amount but the thought that counts.in so deeply during my lifetime? if you would like to include Mercyi just want to be remembered as home in your Will, call Dansomeone who did everything he could Pritchard at (800) 378-8266.to help hurting children find a new Thank you for all that you have helpedhome and the promise of a better future. to accomplish as you stood at my sidei have often asked you to please as we cared for these children of godremember Mercy home for Boys and over the past thirty-three years. May god continue to bless you. everyone makes mistakes, especially kids, and everyone deserves to be forgiven and the chance to try again. That’s what Mercy home has always stood for. Jesus asks us to forgive 70 x 7 t h e Wa i f S ’ m e S S e N g e r • S p r i N g 2 0 0 6 2
  24. 24. Mercy begins in God and is His response to the bad things that sometimes happen in life. God longs that His passionate mercy become a regular practice. Mercy needs a home! God ’s mercy is always looking for a place to call its own. God’s mercy has found a home at Mercy Home for Boys Girls! G His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Bernardin • 100th Anniversary, 1987 G 1988 2003 Present 1973mercy Home for Boys Girls • 1140 West Jackson Blvd. • chicago, il 6060 • www.mercyhome.org • (12) 8-80