Sugar Grove Associates are “Living the Charism”

Gary and Kathy Scott, ASBS

Many area Catholics knew nothing about St. Katharine Drexel when the Diocese of Rockford, some 30 miles west of Chicago, Illinois announced the formation of a new parish in 2008 and named it after her.  They quickly became inspired in a big way by St. Katharine’s spirit and charism.  On April 20, 2013 seven members were commissioned as Associates of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (ASBS) of the brand-new Sugar Grove Associate Faith Community.  Curious about St. Katharine, “Very quickly we knew this was a saint we could all love,” Kathy Scott said.  “I guess you’d have to say (the Sugar Grove Associates) all started when we decided we were going to go to the shrine in October 2010 in order to attend the 10th anniversary celebration of St. Katharine’s canonization.”


The commissioning ceremony in Sugar Grove involved the pastor, the associates and the congregation. “The harvest is ready. Whom shall I send?” asked the priest.  “Send me God, I am ready to serve you all the days of my life,” responded the associates.  “Get into the workplace, and into the streets, and reveal God’s saving spirit through the quality of your life,” said the congregation.  Since that first day, the ASBS faith community has grown to include thirteen associates, and five have recently entered into formation for commissioning in 2015.


The Associates recently completed our first service project, collecting and providing over 650 lbs. of school supplies to the St. Francis Indian Mission serving the Native American Lakota on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.  It is one of the oldest Indian missions, with a school dedicated in 1886 financed by St. Katharine Drexel.  The St. Francis Mission continues to grow to this day, now serving nine (9) Native American Catholic parishes.


In September 2013, the Mission began the Sapa Un Academy based on the Jesuit Nativity model of schools.  This school model has a proven track record among high-risk populations of producing students who are able to graduate from colleges and universities.  This school will produce Lakota leaders within the Tribe and within the Catholic Church. 


The Sapa Un Academy at St. Francis is unique in that it requires students to learn Lakota language and culture in a Catholic context.  Saint Katharine Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament stress in their apostolate to the Native American and African American peoples that their culture should never be separated from the educational process; that an individual’s heritage and culture are an important part of who they are as sons and daughters of Christ.

Most recently, Bishop David Malloy celebrated Mass and blessed an outdoor mosaic on Aug. 31 depicting St. Katharine Drexel surrounded by children of varying heritages took place following the Mass.  Sister Pat Downs, Director of the National Shrine of St. Katharine Drexel, attended the dedication and blessing representing the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.  Bishop Malloy commented that the art “encapsulates the mission she had” to the poor, including to Native and African Americans.  “It is a reminder to each of us to reach out with our faith,” he said. “This is your patron saint,” and her patronage is more than a nickname for this church. “You have a saint to whom you are able to have the right to call on for assistance”, he said. “You should have a devotion to her and have knowledge of what she has done.”


“You surely have the spirit of Mother Katharine here”, said Sr. Pat when speaking to the congregation at all previous weekend masses.  Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament have been present at several historic dates for the parish; Sr. Gilda Marie Bell at the official groundbreaking and Sr. Mary Norbert Moline at its dedication.  We look forward to the next visit from the Sisters with faith and friendship.