Sr. Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M.: 2023 Laetare Address

Author: Sue Lister

Good morning. Congratulations to you graduates, parents and most dedicated faculty on this wonderful accomplishment you've achieved in being here today at the 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

I hope you're able to take a moment to feel the pride you so richly deserve. The world is sure to be a better place because of your diligence and commitment in making it to this day. 

I'm truly honored to have been invited to join you and to accept this prestigious award. Receiving the Laetare Medal and becoming a part of its history is not something I could ever imagine. When I look at the list of previous recipients, I'm very humbled to be included in such an outstanding group.

I was born on the west side of Chicago to Irish immigrants who prayed and dreamed of a better life for themselves and their children. My mother and father traveled thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to achieve their goal. We were raised to work and study hard; to love and honor God our Father in every aspect of our lives. We were raised to always be grateful for God's many gifts. 

My parents came to America for a better life and they never let us forget or take for granted the wonders of being born in this country. If they were still with us today, being honored by the University of Notre Dame would bring them such joy as Notre Dame means so much to our Irish community.

I was 18 when I told my mother I wanted to become a Sister of Mercy. At 19, she and my father allowed me to join the community. The Sisters of Mercy are an Irish religious order founded by Mother Catherine McCauley. Our lives as Sisters of Mercy are focused on responding to unmet needs through direct service and by seeking ways to change unjust systems. I joined this religious community thinking I would live a nice quiet contemplative life but soon learned that God had other plans for me.

My life has never been quiet and to this day even as I slow down I am still quite busy. God has been with me every step of the way. I was always given the right people at the right time and in-step with my religious vows, we always set forth to meet unmet needs for God's most vulnerable people. We dreamt of creating a home with a full continuum of care for our residents. A place where living arrangements and programs could evolve as their needs changed.

We put our faith in God and those hopes and dreams came to life. Today, Misericordia cares for more than 600 children and adults. Thankfully, God continues to send good and generous people who believe in our mission enough to help us achieve our goals.

I humbly accept the Laetare Medal on behalf of all those who brought me to this moment. In honoring me with the Laetare Medal, you honor our community of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families who deserve no less than the best care possible. You help fulfill their prayer and dream of a beautiful life and a bright future worth living for their family.

Please know I will spend the rest of my life trying to honor you in gratitude for your acknowledgment of the special role children and adults of Misericordia and others with intellectual and developmental disabilities hold in our world. Thank you