Dinner Catches National Attention
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
November 16, 2023
ROCKFORD—The more than 200 people attending the second annual benefit dinner for the Madonna Renewal Center (MRC) on Nov. 11 were ‘warned’ as they arrived that they might be part of a Knights of Columbus video.
“This year the Knights of Columbus international organization has contracted with Spirit Juice from Chicago to video the event, and they are also visiting the MRC earlier Saturday to film there,” said Mark Funfsinn, member of the Holy Family Parish Knights of Columbus Council #13123 who chaired the event for the second time this year. 
Madonna Renewal Center
The MRC was begun by the IHM Nigerian sisters who are often called Blue Nuns for their bright blue habits.
They arrived in the Diocese of Rockford in 1998 at the invitation of Bishop Thomas G. Doran, and they established their regional house in Freeport. They have served in a variety of work (mostly health care and education) in the Freeport/Rockford area, and have sent their sisters to serve across the U.S.
The MRC is located in a former hospital in Freeport. Its services include housing for up to two years, pastoral care, child nurturing and self-sufficiency skills. Since its opening in 2018, the MRC has served 47 women for lengths of time ranging from one week up to the entire two years, according to its director, Sister Mary Nesta.
Its goals for the women served, according to its website, include helping the women to: be able to expand capacity to handle difficulties, rediscover the beauty of life, giftedness and one’s role in life, rediscover the values of family, marriage, and the dignity of human life, review one’s impact in the world, gain clarity on societal role and grow stronger in ability to reshape one’s future.
For more information, see the website: https:madonnarenewalcenter.org; or 815-616-9672; or email: [email protected]
The international KC organization, he added, was “especially interested in documenting this because it is part of the ASAP (Aid and Support After Pregnancy) program that was started by the K of C last year. They learned of the success of the dinner and the ministry of the Blue Nuns and wanted to make a video about it this year.”
The two videographers also conducted a few interviews during the dinner in a separate room. Those included Sister Mary Nesta, executive director of the MRC, Past Grand Knight Funfsinn, and the current Grand Knight of the council, Charlie Balmes.
The filming throughout was one more piece of an already packed event filled with food, camaraderie, song, slides, prayers and games, beginning right after the parish’s 4:30 p.m. Saturday vigil Mass. 
The evening is one of the larger annual fundraisers for the MRC. The buffet pasta dinner raised funds from ticket sales, sisters and others spoke about the ministry, a “Heads or Tails” game joined a silent basket raffle and a 50/50 drawing to raise additional funds for the ministry, and the Blue Nuns — members of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ (IHM) — shared their thanks and sang several songs in English and in their native Nigerian language.
“I feel like God put me here” for a purpose, said event speaker, Stephanie, one of the current residents at the MRC.
Sister Mary Nesta, director of the MRC, provided an update of the center, outlined current challenges and called for volunteers. She also expressed her thanks to the many people who have raised funds, performed renovations and cleaning, and otherwise have helped make the MRC a reality.
Last year’s dinner hosted just over 200 guests and raised over $38,000 for the MRC, Funfsinn said. This year’s event ticket sellers reported slightly more attendees, filling the room close to capacity.
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