Chicago's Sister of Mercy

Chicago's Sister Rosemary Connelly runs Misericordia, Heart of Mercy - a home for people with developmental disabilities.
CBS
Sister Rosemary Connelly is a Catholic nun - with 560 children. As executive director of Misericordia, Heart of Mercy -a home for people with developmental disabilities - she's spent 41 years watching them grow.

CBS News anchor Katie Couric reports when Sister Rosemary came to Misericordia in 1969, the home only accepted children under 6 years old.

"Just before I came everyone older than 6 were discharged to the state institution," Rosemary said. "And I went out there and saw the service that was given to them and just decided that we would ignore the license and keep them longer."

The idea to give these men and women a community to live in was inspired by Sister Rosemary's nephew Brian, who became brain damaged after birth.

"We did not begin adult services until 1983, so he was always older than the children were able to serve but in 1983 he came to Misericordia," Rosemary said.

"Rosemary wanted to help him," said Brian's mom. "And others like him and thank God she did."

Under her leadership, Misericordia began accepting older children and adults like Craig Miller, who has cerebral palsy.

"He's developed skills at Misericordia we would have never dreamed possible for him," said Craig's mom Jean.

Craig now has a social life, work, and friends. He likes to work in the garden and play his guitar.

On the sprawling 31 acres of Misericordia, there's the Hearts and Flour bakery,a restaurant, and art classes. There's therapy and hospice for those for who need it. And there's a lot of love for Sister Rosemary.

One resident, Lauren Axelrod, has epilepsy.Her dad, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod, says Rosemary made Lauren happy, independent and productive.

"She has made enriching the lives of people with developmental disabilities," Axelrod said, "the mission of her life. She has made a huge difference so, to me, that makes her a saint."

Sister Rosemary doesn't feel like a saint. She does consider herself very blessed.

"I think what the children and adults really have taught me in such a strong way is that some happenings in life, there are no answers," Rosemary said. "But there are answering people, and those answering people are a reflection of God's love."

That love comes from a heart of mercy.