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Chicago street renamed in honor of the late Sister Patty Fillenwarth

On Oct. 8, the City of Chicago honored the late Sister Patty Fillenwarth by renaming a portion of North Monticello in front of the former Maternity BVM Convent Sister Patty Fillenwarth Way.

Sister Patty Fillenwarth

Chicago resident and former member of Providence Family Services Board of Directors Maggie Martinez, who was also a longtime friend of Sister Patty, spearheaded the campaign for the name change.

Sister Patty ministered in the City of Chicago for approximately 40 years as a teacher, principal and founder of Providence Family Services.

The name change for the street is two blocks long and begins in front of the former convent. Sister Patty’s biological sister, Sister Joseph Fillenwarth, was given a replica of the sign.

Sister Lisa Stallings (left) and Sister Denise Wilkinson (right) with Liz Deligio, a very good friend of Sister Patty Fillenwarth.

Here is a copy of what was submitted to the Office of Alderman Roberto Maldonado. Maldonado read this submission to the Chicago City Council, which approved the measure.

Sister Patricia Fillenwarth, SP, was a Sister of Providence and ministered to the people of the Humboldt Park community for 42 years. Sisters of Providence had ministered in the Maternity BVM parish or school for 108 years. Sister Patty was the last Sister to leave when she retired to the SP Motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, in 2018. Sister Patty was a fixture in the community. Everyone knew Sister Patty; she had wide community support. She opened Providence Family Services, a center providing bilingual family counseling in 1994, to serve the people of Humboldt Park.

While a teacher at MBVM school, Sister Patty encountered children exhibiting negative behaviors – bullying, lack of respect for teachers and other students, poor grades and attendance. As principal, parents would come to her fearful and anxious that they couldn’t meet their children’s needs. Sister Patty knew that these families would be well-served with access to bilingual family counseling. At the time, there were no such services in the community. One of the tenets of the sisters of Providence is … “if you see a need, do something about it!” Sister Patty saw a need and she did something about it!

It had long been a dream of Sister Patty’s to open a bilingual family counseling center that was affordable for the people of Humboldt Park, many of them poor. During the Sisters of Providence annual assembly of 1991, she brought her dream to the Sisters. It took little discussion before the Sisters unanimously endorsed her to begin this new project. Sister Patty resigned her position as principal and enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University which offered a master’s program that prepared her to become a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor – LCPC. She already had two master’s degree in education. Sister Patty spoke fluent Spanish having ministered in Peru, South America, for six years earlier in her ministerial life.

Sister Patty opened Providence Family Services. Soon after opening the center, she had so many clients she had to hire another family counselor. Because of community input, over time Providence Family Services added an after-school tutoring program for the children, adult English-as-a-Second-Language classes, computer literacy classes for adults and children, and Sister Patty taught citizenship classes. No one was turned away because of an inability to pay. Anyone was welcome no matter their faith tradition, race, life-style or socioeconomic status. Providence Family Services was an anchor in the community, serving all who came.

The center operated on small fees for services, grants, appeals to its large donor base and the annual rummage sale. It had a 14-member Advisory Board with most members from the local community. In its 24-year history, Providence Family Services served almost 10,000 people.

Everyone knew they could come to Providence Family Services and find a warm and welcoming environment. Everyone knew they could trust the staff to provide quality care and absolute confidentiality. Part of the Providence Family Services mission statement said, “Providence Family Services provides support and direction to assist individuals, couples and families to make changes that will allow them to achieve wholeness and an awareness of their personal gifts.”

For 24 years, Sister Patty was true to that mission. Everyone loved her and believed in her. She was compassionate and gentle, funny and a powerhouse of energy. She would help anyone who needed help. For her retirement party, bakeries, restaurants and businesses in the area provided funds and food free of charge. Most everyone could not believe she was actually leaving.

After her retirement to the SP Motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Sister Patty became a companion and driver, taking Sisters for doctors’ appointments or on errands the Sisters needed. Even though she was battling her own illness, she accompanied Sisters until two weeks before her death. Many of her friends from Humboldt Park made the four-hour journey to her wake and memorial services. On Jan. 7, 2020, the Sisters of Providence lost one of its finest; the people of Humboldt Park lost a kind, giving and loving soul.

Below is a copy of the proclamation that was read during the ceremony on Oct. 8.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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