MOUNT GREENWOOD — Priests, nuns and other religious will soon be joined by lay people at Mercy Circle, a retirement community in Mount Greenwood.
The Village of Evergreen Park Monday voted to lift the restriction placed upon the Sisters of Mercy, a group of nuns who opened the 110-unit facility in October 2013. A judge is expected to sign off on the deal in the coming days.
Mercy Circle sits on 13.6 acres, surrounded by Brother Rice and Mother McAuley high schools as well as Saint Xavier University. The facility includes both independent and assisted living apartments for seniors, as well as a few rooms for those with dementia and others needing more skilled care.
"All indications are Mercy Circle has been a good and thoughtful neighbor,” said Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton, adding that the revised agreement does not include any new construction.
A restriction limiting the facility to aging religious dates back to June 22, 2012. It followed a four-year legal battle between the Sisters of Mercy and the village over the use of the land given to the nuns more than 60 years ago.
The nuns originally wanted the facility to be twice the size. But Evergreen Park trustees objected, saying the village gave the land to the Sisters of Mercy under the condition that it would be used for "religious educational purposes," according to published reports.
Neighbors in Evergreen Park also worried that the facility would negatively impact the quality of life in the surrounding communities, contributing unwanted traffic and noise, according to Frances Lachowicz, who's been executive director of Mercy Circle since March 2015.
"The only call we’ve received about noise since Mercy Circle opened was one regarding a loose belt in our air conditioning system. We fixed it right away and appreciated the heads up," Lachowicz said.
There are 143 Sisters of Mercy living in Illinois, and 91 live at Mercy Circle. Of the remaining 52 sisters, only seven are younger than 70, said Sister Susan Sanders, who is on the leadership team for the West Midwest community of the order. This area spans from Michigan to California and includes the Chicago region.
The long-term concern is that there will not be enough religious men and women to keep Mercy Circle full, said Sanders, adding that the facility is now 85 percent occupied though industry standard is 95 percent.
Furthermore, there seems to be demand from the community. In fact, more than 140 lay families have called looking to place an elderly relative at Mercy Circle. These calls came despite the facility having never advertised nor even having a website, Lachowicz said.
So the Sisters of Mercy began the two-year process to lift the restriction on the facility that employs 115 people, she said.
"We only can assume people in the area think we can be helpful to them, and we are eager to welcome them to our community," Lachowicz said.
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