LEFT: Sister Ann Connolly was a fixture at Catholic Urban Programs, which served the community of East St. Louis, Illinois.
RIGHT: Sister Ann aboard the “Soup Bus,” which fed up to 150 people a night.
"If a Person is Afraid, They Should Do Something Else"
Sister Ann Connolly, a fixture at the diocese’s Catholic Urban Programs agency, was honored for serving the poorest of the urban poor in East St. Louis, Illinois. When manufacturing jobs moved out and “white flight” left this town of 30,000 boarded up and struggling, drugs, crime and hopelessness took hold. But Sister Ann didn’t give up on East St. Louis. She embraced it. At St. Regis Church, a predominantly African-American parish there, she became godmother to more than eight children, and she created the St. Regis After-School Program.
Working with Joseph Hubbard, who received the Lumen Christi Award in 1983, and other staffers at Catholic Urban Programs, sister also helped create the “Soup Bus,” which made rounds four nights a week, feeding 50 to 150 people a night. At Christmas, this sister with an infectious “joie de vivre” turned the “Soup Bus” into the “Santa Bus,” bringing gifts and cheer to bleak neighborhoods. Underneath her joyful demeanor, though, was an iron will. When her home was ransacked and her car was stolen by assailants who forced her to lie on the floor at gunpoint, she still showed up for work the next day. “If a person is afraid, they should do something else,” she said.