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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Few Words About Water and World Water Week 2013

Plaque as seen on the Chicago Water Tower on Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL

As a Healthy Waters enthusiast I was reminded via email today by Melanie Guste, rscj that this week (Sept 1- 6, 2013) is World Water Week in Stockholm.

Yesterday, as I walked up Michigan Ave., I took the above photo, so today as I think about some of the important questions that are going to be discussed at WWW in Stockholm, I wonder how each of us would respond to these important questions about our water supply.  I am aware that since the late 19th century educational and religious institutions here in Chicago have been exempt from paying tax for their water supply. However, I also know that when my mother's water bill came in at ten times the usual cost due to a toilet constantly running the solution was easily fixed with a new flapper.  Since then, I have become more aware of water usage and as I get older I hope the little bit I do will help.  I try not to run the water while brushing my teeth and do not flush the toilet every trip to the bathroom. And, I have become extremely conscientious about a running toilet.

The more I thought about the issue of water and its importance, I recalled that in my exhaustive research of Sacred Heart history some years ago, I came across a newspaper article written in August of 1904.  The article states that as the newly constructed Convent of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, IL now known as Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart was about to open its doors, the newspaper headline in the Chicago Tribune read: "BIG SCHOOL IS DRY... Sacred Heart Nuns Find New Convent Lacks Water Supply". Yes, apparently after Mother Marie Van den Abeele, rscj had finished supervising construction of the new Convent of the Sacred Heart boarding school at a cost of $300,000 there was no water!  

As the story reported in the Chicago Tribune states: "The big building was completed; every gleaming white bath tub and nickeled water faucet was in place. So the nuns gave the order. 'Turn on the water'."   However, it was soon discovered that the school had no water!  Apparently, there was no water main in the street that connected to the property.  As the story was told: "Negotiations now are being carried on with the Lake Forest municipal authorities to secure the extension of the main.  This, the nuns expect, will be done at once, although if a special assessment for the work is necessary property owners may protest.  The members of the order, however, are determined to have the building ready for school next month, whatever the cost."  Thus a series of negotiations ensued and eventually enabled the municipal authorities to agree to secure an extension to the main supply. 

To read the rest of the history of the Convent of the Sacred Heart also known as Barat College in Lake Forest, IL.,  go to Sr. Martha Curry, rscj website ( for details on how to order her book, BARAT COLLEGE: A LEGACY, A SPIRIT AND A NAME.  

And, to view a live stream of World Water Week 2013: opening plenary - click here

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