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UPDATED: Village Settles with Sisters of Mercy

After a four-year battle against the Sisters of Mercy, Trustees voted Monday to settle with the group and allow the building of a continuing care retirement center at 99th Street and Central Park Avenue.

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“It’s been very long and very tenuous, and it appears like we got back to where the decree started, and that is to be used for educational purposes,” said Mayor James Sexton.

Trustees unanimously voted to approve the construction of Mercy Circle at 10024 S. Central Park Ave., land given to the nuns by the village almost 60 years ago, after three proposals.

The plan allows for a center about half the size of the original proposal given in 2008 that would be built for women and men of religious orders. Lay people would not be allowed to live in the center, as they were under the first two development proposals.

The village of Evergreen Park filed a lawsuit against the nuns that same year, because the proposal didn’t adhere to the original intent of the land. In 1954, the village gave the land to the Sisters of Mercy under the condition that it would be used for "religious educational purposes."

Two drafts later, the plans have made their way back to the original intent, said Sexton. “It was always, at least from what I can read, in my opinion, a place where the clergy expected to retire and live out their remaining years,” according to Sexton. “It still needs to be used for educational purpose, but it appears that from the original agreement, that this was planned, to have nuns and clergy retire on the premise.”

Village attorney Joseph Kainkar added “so it’s not educational purposes solely…we see it’s broader than that, and we think the court certainly would have interpreted it broader than that, because the nuns had always lived on there and received health care.”

The new 110-unit,267-square-foot independent-living and assisted-living facilities will stand three-stories tall. The plan allows for 10 nursing care rooms and 12 assisted living memory care rooms. Parking spaces have been reduced from 108 to 82, and the 99th Street setbacks were increased to allow more space from the curb.

The October, 2010 plan proposed a 146-unit, 173,833 square-foot facility that would be open to lay people after a certain amount of time, but under the condition that the sisters would have to petition the village to request that. Trustees Jerome Bosch and James McQuillan voted against the majority of the board. 

The 2008 draft proposed a 212-unit a five-story, independent-living building; and a four-story, assisted-living building that would be 307,180 square feet.

According to John George, the attorney representing the nuns, the sisters were in dire need of more living space, so about eight years ago, they expanded their cell-like rooms. However, they moved from accommodating 70 nuns to only 35 nuns.

“The women that had to move out of there are now living in the various communities here,” said George, “with the hope that this building gets put up, they’d move back in and occupy this space here.”

George says that the current facility “will probably be used for green space” once the new development is built.

According to Sister Judith Frikker, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas West Midwest Community, many religious order members have expressed interest in living in the center.

Some residents who were against the development remained opposed after seeing the newest plans. president Kathy Rohan insisted that “there is just no educational benefit” to the retirement center. “It’s the use of the building that’s the main concern. Once this is built, there is no going back,” Rohan said.

According to Frikker, “There will be an interaction with the students from Mother McAuley (High School), but also, I would think with the students in various programs from Saint Xavier University” she said. “Education is more than what you get from a textbook.”

Amy Fitzgerald continues to be concerned with possible environmental effects associated with unearthing soil that had been treated with chemicals for nearly six decades. She requested to see a complete environmental study on the land.

Resident Cathy Manahan, who has been opposed to the development since the sisters gave the original proposal, had little to say about the agreement, but assured that she and Beth Amado will continue to pursue their suit against the city of Chicago. “If there’s a valid course of action, we will definitely take it," said Manahan.

To update yourself on the Sisters of Mercy Litigation, READ:


Kathleen McClelland February 07, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I agree with the way the trustees voted. Sisters lived at Saint Xavier before the University needed the convent space for an expanded nursing department. They lived at McAuley Convent and gave that space to the school for additional offices, boardroom, etc. The entire east end of McAuley was built to house and educate women entering the order. There must have been close to 200 women living on that campus in the early 60's. If they want to be together to enjoy their later years in life, they deserve that opportunity as long as the Sisters of Mercy can afford to build the place. Kathleen McClelland
R. Pogue February 07, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Like most of public, I agree that the elderly clergy should have a nice facility to retire into. My concern is only the location and the impacts on the surrounding community. Since I am not an expert, nor have I done extensive research, the points I am to make here are merely questions or points to make one question the descision of the village board. I understand an initial traffic study was done, but what of the trucks needed to supply the facility, remove trash, and emergency vehicles? A 110 unit care facility uses large amounts of energy. Can our infrastructure handle this or will it also require a power sub-station? In the close proximity to Southwest Elementary, Mother Macauly High School, Brother Rice High School, and Saint Xavier University, there will be further reaching impacts: Dramatic increase in Bio-hazardous refuse, loss of green space, addtional flooding potential, and increased truck/emergency vehicle traffic. I can't help but believe that this facility will decrease our property values that have already taken a hit from the economic downturn. I am not pleased that my daughter and her friends will have to deal with the loss of green space and be exposed to the environmental impacts of both the construction and the operation of a care facility encroaching on her elementary school. Thank you Village of Evergreen Park Trustees for reducing the value of my property and violating our trust in your decisions.
Stacey E. February 07, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good. This is a commercial medical facility and does not belong sandwiched between a grammer school and high school on a residential street. It is a sad for the elementary kids and for all those parents that pay top dollar to the sisters of mercy to send their girls to McAuley. I did not grow up in this area and when I moved hear I used to wonder why people had so much mistrust for the sisters of mercy - hearing them referred to as sisters of No mercy or sisters of money. But now I know why.I
Bob D February 13, 2012 at 07:26 PM
For those of you who care enough about this issue, make sure you vote during the next Village election. I know I will.

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