In 1981 it was realized that people are hungry and in need at all times of the year, not just during the holidays.
Sister Ann Ellen Quirk of St. Rose Parish in Wilmington, Illinois began a food pantry and named it Kuzma Care Cottage.
What started in the music room of a small school by Sister Ann Ellen, has since moved into a house converted solely to distribute food. Our operation expanded, even more, when we added a two-story garage-type building for storage of food and supplies. We operate each day for the benefit of all the people and with the support of all the churches and civic organizations in our area.
We seek to nurture those who must live outside the mainstream society because of their lowered economic status. We wish to give voice to their needs and continue to provide bodily necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. At the same time, try to help them find a way to improve their social-economic conditions.
We have all the social problems here that are prevalent in big cities. Violence such as child abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, are all abounding in our area. Family crises are always present. There are so many single-parent and grandparent-led families, all needing special care.
Sister Ann Ellen Quirk BVM
(Courtesy of the Free Press Wilmington)
Sister Ann Ellen Quirk, BVM who entered into eternal life on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018.
A 59 year resident of Wilmington, Sr. Ann Ellen since 2015 had resided in the Caritas Center at Mount Carmel, which is located along the beautiful bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in Dubuque, IA. Mount Carmel is the spiritual home of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin.
Born Feb. 8, 1931, in Milwaukee, WI, Mariellyn was a daughter of William James and Margaret Mary (Roe) Quirk. She attended the local Catholic grade school and graduated from Holy Angels Academy High School, where she was inspired by her teachers, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) Order.
Following high school, she entered the BVM congregation on Sept. 8, 1949, from St. Augustine Parish in Milwaukee. She went on to earn her undergraduate degree in music from Mundelein College and a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry from Loyola University Chicago. On March 19, 1952, Sr. Ann Ellen professed her first vows; arrived at St. Rose Parish in Wilmington on March 20, 1952, and professed her final vows on July 16, 1957.
In keeping with the core values of the BVM Order (Freedom, Education, Charity, and Justice), Sr. Ann Ellen provided and taught artistic values to children through piano and music instruction at St. Rose School for 33 years. In addition to teaching music, Sister initiated a food pantry out of her music room in 1981, and soon thereafter in 1982 created and organized the Christian Help Association.
This organization brought together all of the churches in the community, regardless of denomination, with a mission of serving the less fortunate during the holidays.
As Sister’s vision and ministry continued to grow, it was in 1984 that Fr. Mark Fracaro gifted her with the keys to 635 South Main Street. This was the beginning of Kuzma Care Cottage, which she named after Fr. George Kuzma who brought the BVM Sisters to Wilmington to teach at St. Rose School.
Today Kuzma Care Cottage continues to operate each day for the benefit of all the people and with the support of all the churches and civic organizations in our area.
A woman of Irish descent, Sr. Ann Ellen loved her Irish Heritage. She loved to sing, had a beautiful voice, and started the ‘Good News Singers’ choir at St. Rose Parish. She had a love of family and enjoyed sharing pictures and stories with them. A community which she dearly loved, Sister also considered the people of Wilmington her family, and was fortunate to have a BVM family who enjoyed their visits.
Sister Ann Ellen was humbled to have been recognized by the United States Senate, State of Illinois, Will County Board, Catholic Charities, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the Wilmington V.F.W., and the Ladies Auxiliary of the V.F.W., the Gleaners, and the Wilmington Pastors Association, among many others. The Council of Catholic Women gave her the Community Activity Appreciation Award; Lewis University extended their prestigious De LaSalle Award which honors leadership and community service.
Sister was also honored as an Outstanding Citizen in the City of Wilmington through a proclamation dated the 7th day of September 1999, and September 1999 was proclaimed “Sr. Ann Ellen Month”. In addition, the City of Wilmington named the 600 block of North Main Street between Wabash and Laurel Streets, “Sr. Ann Ellen Quirk B.V.M. Parkway”.
Through her efforts, Sr. Ann Ellen Quirk, BVM made our world a better place. She will be remembered for the comfort, solace, and friendship she provided for those who were suffering and less fortunate. Her legacy will also continue to live on as we continue her mission of coming together as a community, regardless of religion, to help others, just as God wants us to do.