WITH JUST 1 NUN, NEAR N. SIDE CON­VENT’S FU­TURE UNCER­TAIN

Chicago Sun-Times - - NEWS - BY STE­FANO ES­POS­ITO, STAFF RE­PORTER ses­pos­ito@sun­times.com | @sle­spos­ito

For years, the nuns had prayed for God to bring them a sis­ter.

A young woman from France came to the creaky, dimly lit brick con­vent on the Near North Side three years ago, but she didn’t stay. Ear­lier this year, a call came in from a woman in an­other part of Illi­nois. She was in­ter­ested but had strong reser­va­tions about tak­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal test to see if she would be a good fit for the life.

Then Sis­ter Bar­bara Drell died Aug. 11, leav­ing just one nun, and per­haps sig­nal­ing the end of the 110-year-old Or­der of St. Anne’s pres­ence in the city.

“Very pos­si­bly,” said the Rev. John Heschle, the re­cently re­tired rec­tor of St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake in Rogers Park and still St. Anne’s spir­i­tual ad­viser. “It will re­main un­til Mother Ju­dith [Man­drath] either dies or there’s a new vo­ca­tion. We get in­quiries but, to tell you the truth, we don’t get a lot of real po­ten­tial any­more.”

It’s been par­tic­u­larly quiet at the con­vent since 2009 when the for­mer mother su­pe­rior died and two other sis­ters later re­tired, leav­ing just Drell and Man­drath. The or­der, founded in 1910 on the East Coast, was never meant to be a large con­vent. The Chicago chap­ter has eight bed­rooms. There have never been more than six nuns liv­ing there.

It re­mains to be seen what will hap­pen to the 3,600-square-foot house, at 1125 N. La Salle Drive, in one of the city’s most ex­pen­sive neigh­bor­hoods. Man­drath, in a brief con­ver­sa­tion last week, said no one has asked her to leave.

Six years ago, the bishop of the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of Chicago did a ti­tle search for the prop­erty be­cause the fu­ture of the con­vent was “loom­ing,” the Rev. Pa­trick Ray­mond, rec­tor of the ad­join­ing Church of the As­cen­sion, said in 2018 when the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about the con­vent’s plight. The church’s name is on the ti­tle, but at the time, Ray­mond said he knew of no plans to shut down the con­vent. Heschle said he’s not privy to those plans. “Be­cause they know of my strong con­nec­tion with the sis­ters, they won’t tell me what their plans are for the build­ing, but I’m sure they must have plans,” Heschle said. Ray­mond said noth­ing has been de­cided. “It’s been less than a month since Sis­ter Bar­bara’s death and the church board has had only one meet­ing, and the mat­ter was not ad­dressed at that meet­ing,” Ray­mond said Thurs­day.

Peo­ple are still griev­ing for Drell, who was 88, Ray­mond said.

“I re­ally re­spect Mother Ju­dith’s faith. When the time comes, we will be pray­ing to­gether and won­der­ing what’s next,” Ray­mond said.

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES FILE

Sis­ter Bar­bara Drell (right) died in Au­gust, leav­ing just one nun, Sis­ter Ju­dith Man­drath, at St. Anne’s Con­vent on the Near North Side.

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