LEFT: Marie Wilkinson helped launch more than 60 charitable organizations.
RIGHT: Wilkinson at one of the preschools she helped found for the working poor in Aurora, Illinois.
"God Chose Me Not to Sit Around"
Marie Wilkinson, who was 92 when she received the Lumen Christi Award, was honored for her dedication to feed, clothe, serve and fight for the needy in Aurora, a diverse city 40 miles west of Chicago. A devout, lifelong Catholic, Wilkinson took the call to do God’s work in the world literally, helping launch more than 60 charitable organizations. “Marie’s house” was so widely known by everyone in Aurora – those dropping off donations as well as those picking up – that a bigger building became necessary, and led to the founding of Aurora’s St. Vincent DePaul Center. To commemorate this achievement, the city renamed the street where the center is located to Marie Wilkinson Boulevard.
She also started a Feed the Hungry campaign, which became the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, and in 1970, recognizing the need for single mothers to work, she raised $46,000 to open a child development center. She fought injustice, especially for those who felt marginalized because of race or ethnic origin, and was instrumental in helping pass Illinois’ first fair housing act. “God chose me not to sit around, but to help people,” said Wilkinson. “As long as I’m living on this earth, I’m going to keep doing what I have to do.”
Postscript: Marie Wilkinson died in 2010.