ROCKFORD – The Running Nun helped raise more than 1.4 million US dollars for the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago.
Now she’s trying to fund a group of nuns in her hometown of Rockford.
Boylan Girls Basketball Coach Paul Perrone hired Sister Stephanie Baliga to publicize his fundraising campaigns for Poor Clare Colettine’s nuns as well as her home mission. The 27 nuns stay away from the outside world at Corpus Christi Convent, which is clearly visible at 2111 S Main St., but has remained largely anonymous since it was built in Rockford 105 years ago.
“The Poor Clares are Rockford’s best kept secret,” said Perrone.
More:Sister Stephanie Baliga, “The Running Nun”, is breaking down barriers to help those in need
That’s because they’re closed off from the outside world and rarely see visitors, but pray every day for Rockford’s needs.
Baliga, a four-time NIC-10 cross-country MVP in her high school days in Rockford Auburn, said that makes her even more important.
“In our world today, closed-door living is an anomaly to everything most people understand about life,” said Baliga, 33. “It’s the opposite of anything people think is” successful “or” normal ” .
“However, religious life in seclusion is the most radical and beautiful way to show the world the love of God. These women have dedicated their lives entirely to praying for you and me, every day. They gave up everything in order to give their whole life completely to Jesus, their life as an offering for us and the whole Church. “
Baliga finished 63rd at the 2006 NCAA cross-country meeting as a freshman at the University of Illinois, but broke her second year and was never like a college runner. But her injury set her on the path to becoming a nun.
“I was raised Catholic, but that wasn’t a significant part of my life until I was in college,” she said.
Baliga got to know the Poor Clares in second grade. She went to her monastery in second grade to buy her first communion veil.
“Those were the only sisters I ever met before college,” she said. “I believe the effectiveness of your prayers was very important to my calling.”
When she made her decision to become a nun, Stephanie Baliga decided that she was a perfect fit with the newly formed Franciscans of the Eucharist who lived and served in the mission of Notre Dame of the Angels.
“I knew I wanted to become a Franciscan because I wanted to live a life of poverty,” said Sister Baliga. “I also wanted my life to be centered on the Eucharist.”
Their mission home, like that of the Poor Clares, is dependent on “divine providence”.
“We don’t buy our own food,” said Sister Baliga. “We don’t buy our own things. The things we receive are the things we use to live. However, through Divine Providence, we receive 250,000 pounds of food a month and can support 3,000 families. “
Perrone also helped make the Poor Clares his “mission”. He and the Boylan basketball players helped raise $ 16,000 for the Poor Clares two years ago and $ 8,000 last year to pay for a new elevator. This year’s funds will be used to finance roof repairs.
“Besides coaching, that is my mission now,” said Perrone. “There are a lot of coaches who can set up good Xs and Os, but I believe, as a coach, I also have a duty to help the children and the community beyond the pitch.”
Sister Baliga is not as fast as she used to be because she doesn’t have much time to train. “I mainly move food,” she said. “This is my main training at the moment.”
But she continues to raise money by running with creative ideas. During COVID, she ran a highly regarded marathon on a treadmill and even briefly set the treadmill marathon world record. Two weeks later it was broken.
Nevertheless, this event brought in a lot of money. So also ran to 26 churches on a 23-mile layout in August – “Churches in Chicago are close together, so it wasn’t a complete marathon” – and stop in each of the 26 churches and pray for donors. She also runs the Chicago Marathon each year, which Our Lady of the Angels has as one of its official charities.
The Chicago Marathon offers Our Lady of the Angels over 100 guaranteed entries. Baliga recruits a team every year and has 75 spots left for the race in October 2022. She said anyone who wants to join should log on to missionola.com.
“Anyone in Rockford can run for Our Lady of the Angels,” said Sister Baliga. “I’ll even coach you.”
Both the Poor Clares and the nuns of Our Lady of the Angels rely solely on donations.
“Your total devotion to Jesus in the radical way of life, in which you are separated from everyone all the time and give up everything for God, should be a testimony for us to live in our own radical way,” said Sister Baliga. “Not everyone is called to be a religious or a priest, but we are all called to live a radical life for Jesus. Our heart, our mind, to give everything to Jesus, in whatever situation you are called. “
Matt Trowbridge: [email protected]; @matttrowbridge
How to give
To donate to either the Poor Clares or Our Lady of the Angels, send it to the ASCA (All Saints Catholic Academy) at 409 N. 1st St., Rockford, IL, 61107. Note if the donation is to either the Poor Clares, or addressed to Our, is the Lady of the Angels.
And how to run
Visit missionola.com to join Sister Baliga’s team and run next October in the 2022 Chicago Marathon.