Hope of Bethany Award Presented to the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, USF

Joliet, Ill. – The Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate and the University of St. Francis (USF) were recently presented with the 2022 Hope of Bethany Award from Bethany House of Hospitality for their support of a Bethany House resident with four years of tuition, room and board at USF. The award was presented at the 5th anniversary celebration of Bethany House of Hospitality at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Oakbrook, Ill., on Sunday, October 23.

“We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. Those receiving the Hope of Bethany Award have also proven it takes both a sponsoring religious community and a university to provide a four-year college education! The Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate (Joliet Franciscans) and the University of St. Francis gifted one of Bethany House’s young women with just that— a four-year college education,” said Sr. Joyce Shanabarger, OSF, Bethany House of Hospitality board member.

Accepting the award at the event were Sr. Jeanne Bessette, OSF, president of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate; Sr. Dolores Zemont, OSF, founding member of Bethany House; Arvid C. Johnson, Ph.D., USF president; and Sr. Mary Elizabeth Imler, OSF, vice president of for mission integration at USF.

About Bethany House of Hospitality

Since its opening on October 2017, Bethany House has welcomed more than 72 women and 22 small children. They come from 18 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South and Central America. The average length of stay is 10 months. Most arrived in this country as unaccompanied children seeking asylum. They have ‘aged out’ of the children’s detention centers. Most take ESL, GED or high school classes. Several women at Bethany House have been helped to attend local colleges.

Visit http://bethanyhouseofhospitality.com/ for more information.

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USF Says Goodbye to the Three Oaks

Sister Dolores Zemont prays over the Three Oaks before they are removed from campus after approximately 145 years.

Around 1875, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Mary Immaculate purchased property in Joliet upon which they eventually built a motherhouse that allowed them to take in orphans and boarding students, staff parish schools, and welcome new members into their novitiate. It was also around that time that the Sister Sponsors planted three oak trees on the property. Over the years, the trees grew together as a symbol of relationships and community. Together, the trees became known as the Three Oaks and, beginning in 1920, became a favorite landmark on USF’s beautiful campus for the next 100 years.

During those years, the Three Oaks stood tall and endured many challenges presented by time, weather, and changes to campus. However, recent years and associated challenges took their toll on the Three Oaks, prompting the need to remove them in a proactive measure of campus safety.

On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, representatives of the Sister Sponsors said goodbye to the Three Oaks as these beloved trees were removed from campus, ending a chapter that spanned approximately 145 years.

“My predecessor, Sr. Rosemary Small, told me that the Three Oaks stood guard to the ‘convent yard’ as our Sister Sponsors continue to stand guard over their USF. This really is the close of USF’s first 100 years and the planting of the three new oak trees in front of Tower Hall will help us to pass into the university’s next century,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth Imler, OSF, Vice President of Mission Integration and University Ministry.

Three Oaks
Sisters of Saint Francis of Mary Immaculate
Three Oaks
Three Oaks
Three Oaks

USF to Host Live Production on First African American Priest

Joliet, Ill. – The Anti-Racism Committee of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate is sponsoring two live productions of Tolton: From Slave to Priest, the live theatrical one-man drama performed by actor Jim Coleman and directed by Leonardo Defilippis of Saint Luke Productions, as part of Black History Month. One production will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27, at the University of St. Francis in Sexton Auditorium (main USF campus located at 500 Wilcox Street in Joliet), and a second production will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28, at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park and Theatre, which is located at 201 West Jefferson Street in Joliet.

Tickets to the event are free but must be acquired in advance at either eventbrite.com or ToltonJoliet@gmail.com.

Tolton: From Slave to Priest is a powerful new live production based on the life of Rev. Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest. This compelling true story of courage, forgiveness, and reconciliation resonates deeply with modern American audiences. Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, postulator for Tolton’s canonization cause, is calling Tolton a production that will “inspire a new era of peace, hope and forgiveness in America.”

The production runs 75 minutes, and is suitable for middle school ages and up.

To characterize Tolton’s life as remarkable is an understatement. He was born a slave on a Missouri farm in 1854, and his mother risked everything to reach freedom in Illinois with her three small children. After settling in the town of Quincy, Ill., the family continued to experience hardships and prejudice. In spite of this, he persevered in his deep desire to become a Catholic priest. When every seminary in the United States rejected him, Tolton did not give up, and he was finally ordained in Rome. Upon his return to Illinois, Tolton worked tirelessly to serve people of all races, especially the former slaves who flocked to Chicago.

Tolton saw the Catholic Church as the antidote to the discrimination and rejection that he experienced in his own life. “It was the priests of the Church who taught me to pray and to forgive my persecutors,” he said. “We should welcome all people into the Church, not send them away.”

At the young age of 43, Tolton died after collapsing from heat exhaustion in Chicago. Now his cause for sainthood is moving forward, as more and more people are beginning to recognize the humble perseverance, courage, and compassion of this extraordinary man.

Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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