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Barrington-area nun known for her outreach to the poor
Sister Lorraine Menheer ~ 1933-2010
By Eileen O. Daday | Daily Herald Correspondent

Sister Lorraine Menheer in 2007


Sister Lorraine Menheer, left, was a founding director of Project Hope, which uses a bridal dress sale to raise money for emergency assistance to local families in crisis. This bride got her dress, originally tagged $1,400, for $50. Sister Margaret Eisele is at right.


Courtesy Project Hope

At Sister Lorraine's 60th jubilee six days before her death, St. Anne's parishioner Patricia Kolasinski presented her with a replica of a treasured quilt Sister Lorraine had given away years before to someone in need.


Courtesy Project Hope

Sister Lorraine Menheer, seated, is surrounded by the Project Hope Leadership Trinity of, from left, Diane Barrett, Peggy Sobolewski and Dianne Jones.


Courtesy Project Hope

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Published: 4/20/2010 11:04 AM

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Parishioners at St. Anne's Church in Barrington recently celebrated the 60-year jubilee of a nun on staff who began their outreach ministry to the poor.

Sister Lorraine Menheer sat for nearly three hours greeting about 1,000 well-wishers at the April 11 event. Six days later, she died from pancreatic cancer at age 77.

The ministry she started at the parish in 1986, Project Hope, will continue to provide emergency assistance to residents of all denominations, said volunteer Kate Hauk of Barrington.

"We are honored to have known her and are privileged to carry forward her work," Hauk said.

Hauk said volunteers grew in numbers over the years, drawn by Sister Menheer's simple yet powerful motto: "Every kindness builds hope."

"She made us see that simple acts can, in fact, change a life," Hauk adds. "She witnessed to those little needs, day in and day out, for years, and we began to see how powerful a woman she was in making a difference in the lives of thousands of people."

Each month, St. Anne's Project Hope office draws more than 400 calls - up 35 percent over the last year, Hauk says - for help with everything from groceries and small household items, to medical support, transportation and emergency housing.

Sister Menheer deliberately chose as the ministry's symbol a lighthouse, which she felt signified its mission to serve as a beacon of hope for those in need.

The Rev. Fred Licciardi, an associate pastor at St. Anne's, described Sister Menheer as a "tireless and devoted religious sister," who believed in her work.

"Her commitment to the poor, the marginalized and the hopeless reached across social barriers, racial divides and class distinction to work tirelessly for everyone who sought her help and assistance," he said. 

She started the ministry after serving as principal of St. Anne School from 1966 to 1983, where she saw firsthand there were families with needs that were not being met.

Sister Menheer was a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis, which she had joined at the age of 17 in Milwaukee. Previously she taught at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview and St. William School in Chicago.

Sustaining Project Hope are two major sources: the resale shop in downtown Barrington, which holds special events like the Bridal Faire, Holiday Open House and Sidewalk Sale; and the annual Annie's Attic Garage Sale.

"Annie's Attic is a really great example of how Sister reached out beyond the St. Anne community to draw in the wider Barrington community and the Northwest suburbs," Hauk said. "Nearly one-third of its volunteers come from outside the parish."

The three-day sale draws thousands of people over the course of one weekend each June to the St. Anne parish campus in Barrington.

Today's Tuesday's services for Sister Menheer will begin with a 1:30 p.m. Mass for the St. Anne schoolchildren, followed by visitation from 3-8 p.m. at St. Anne Church, 120 N. Ela St. in Barrington.

On Wednesday, visitation will be held 1-8 p.m. and the funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday, both at the church.