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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Rosemary Reeves

By Gordon Nary

You are one of the most talented people that I know.  My guess is that Merriam-Webster may have coined the word multitalented as a synonym for Rosemary Reeves. You have volunteered many of these talents at Assumption Church,

Most impressive was when I read about the 2012 Annual Mass and Dinner with the late His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, OMI, KGCHS for the Knights and Ladies of The Equestrian Order of The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem  That is when I learned that both you and your husband hold titles in the order in that you were referred to as Lady Rosemary Reeves, LHS., and your husband was referred to as Sir Morris Reeves, KHS.

The Equestrian Order of The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a fascinating organization.  When were you and your husband invested in the organization and what aspects of their mission are most important to you?

Rosemary: We were invested in the organization in.2009. There are three primary reasons:

  • To sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with which the Order maintains its traditional ties.

  • To support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in those lands, and promote interest in this work not only among Catholics scattered throughout the world, who are united in charity by the symbol of the Order, but also among all other Christians.

  • To uphold the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

Gordon: You are a member of the Assumption choir, a founding member of Assumption's Order of Secular Servants of Mary, and volunteer for many other Assumption programs and events.  When and why did you join Assumption Church?

Rosemary: Morris and I were married at St. Thomas of the Apostle Church in 1972. We never thought of leaving this parish. However, after we moved in 1982.We were going to different churches downtown. One day Morris found Assumption and went in to pray. A visiting priest from Africa was there. Morris felt this was a sign that Assumption was to be our new parish. I just wanted to be at a church where I could do God’s work any way I could.

Gordon: You have founded several organizations ART (Art Reaching Teens), a program to teach life style changes through art, Women-Eye (Women Owned Manage Empowered Network) EYE which means (Empower Yourself Everyday ™) and Women on Fire Building Global Leaders. Where and how did you gain you experience in these diverse organizations and your passion for economic development?

Rosemary: For one thing, I’m a woman and happen to be a black woman, I have always wanted to do great things but was always told that I was a “no body” and that I should be happy being a housekeeper or learn how to do domestic work because of my disabilities.  I was told this from age twelve.  I saw how poorly women have been treated all over the world and realized that it was not just me. I started my first program for girls when I was twelve while living in Chicago Public Housing at the The Robert Taylor Homes)  .  I did this to show others that God has given them all the same power. I wanted to help them understand that each of us has to decide whether they will use that power or just throw it away. I have always had that unstoppable drive and always will, so I know that if I have it, everyone else must have it as well, I have always had a child-like spirit remembering what it was like to be with God. I always think out of the box all the time!  Pray for me!

Gordon: Could you tell us something about the organizations that you founded?

Rosemary: HOPE (Help Other People to Excel) is a program designed to give people hope and show them that there is hope - no matter what they are going through at the moment. We all need to keep moving forward.  God will show us the way. 

Women-Eye WOMEN means (Women Owned Manage Empowered Network) EYE means (Empower Yourself Everyday ™) Women-Eye is a 501c3 non-profit based in Chicago with the help of some great women at Assumption Church as Board members.  Nancy DeBiasi has been on the Women-Eye Board since 2006.  The goal for Women-Eye is to build a bigger Board and be able to hire a new Executive Director.  At this point, I’m an army of one due to a loss of funding since Women-Eye lost its city grant in 2014 after I ran for office.

After working with kids and teens for over forty years; I learned that no matter how much we try to help and save our children from all the violence, meet their educational needs and other challenges; they often have to go home to a dysfunctional mother. I had a light bulb moment. We must first save the mothers so they can save their own children.

I believe that, as people of God, we must do whatever we can to help disadvantaged mothers and children. Above all, we must give them hope. I learned this at a very young age. When I was twelve my mom had to get welfare after my dad lost his job and had to move out of our home.  There was very little help for her. I soon learned that I needed to look to God to pilot my life. I believe that no matter if we are rich or poor, we always have power to effect change in our lives. We have to find a way to feed our spirit every day. That is the only way that we will be able to keep going and reach our goals. 

ART (Art Reaching Teens) is a program of Women-Eye to teach life style changes through art. I am an artist and I have always been able to overcome challenges because of my art. This is something that makes me feel very strong. It lead me to understand that all people have value and we all have something to offer the world, often in different ways. Our mission is to work with teens showing them that we are all great and we all learn differently. We have used art to teach teens principles, balance and control. Once they learn these things through artistic expression; they will learn self-control, time management, and power.

I decided to create Women on Fire Building Global Leaders to have women meet once a month for breakfast to talk about how we can make changes happen first in their neighborhood and then around the world.  After a while, it developed into us women wanting to tell our stories to others so we can learn about the women doing great things to change the world.  So, now, we write about these women and their stories in the Women-Eye Magazine.

Gordon: You are also a great artist and designer. When and how were these talents initially developed? 

Rosemary: I started my first business at age twelve making and selling art, and showing people in my neighborhood how to dress and decorate their homes. My father was always involved in business.  But being a black man, it was very hard for him. But he would always tell us that we could create our own world and make it work for us.  My mother and dad had nine children seven girls and two boys. I was in the middle and was always the one that was different. I was the only one that could not read due to a learning disability, so art was my life and my world. That was the way I learned.

Because Welfare rules demanded that no man live in the home my mother was left to raise nine of us alone.  I was in the middle of nine kids and I was never getting the attention that I needed or wanted. So making and selling art and showing people in my neighborhood how to dress and decorate their home gave me some of the attention that I needed.

My heart was broken when my father had to leave our home and I came to see how it was the beginning of the end for my dad. His soul and spirit were broken and then he started to drink. He died at age fifty-five.  I had to tell my story in a book called: There Is No Room On Your Lap For Me.

As a child I was always treated very differently by my teachers, I had a learning disability, which no one understood in those days.  Dyslexia interferes with an individual's ability to learn and results in impaired academic skills. Dyslexia is thought to be caused by difficulties in processing and integrating information also called Learning Difference. I always saw words as art, and found meaning in shapes and colors and not words.  It took me twice the time to learn by reading.

After working in the medical field as a Med Tech with a BA in Medical Technology for twenty years, I went back to school to obtain a degree in fashion design from the International Academy of Fashion  and started a new career.  After serving as a designer and image consultant with several consulting companies, I turned my zeal and passion for helping people to look their best into a design and consulting firm, which offered motivational speaking and image consulting. 

When I helped a colleague in redesigning her wardrobe style and image, the result was her enhanced self-esteem. I realized the Lord was inspiring me to transform women's lives both internally and externally.  I mastered sales, marketing and personal shopping into a fashion design business, Rd. Design, where I sold my designs to over hundred stores around the world. In 1988 I opened Road Design Specialty Designer Store on the Gold Coast in Chicago, Illinois; which was retail store. I also owned and operated Rue Galleree, art gallery in Chicago.

Gordon: One of the major challenges that you have to address in your work with local women and children is the epidemic of violence that affects them on a daily basis.  Chicago was named by The Daily Beast as America's Mass Killing Capital.  What recommendations do you have for us individually as Catholics, and as Catholic parishes that could reduce these senseless crimes against our children in Chicago?

Rosemary: One mother that I know; this woman has four children two girls and two boys.  Her oldest daughter spent four years in prison, and her youngest son is now in prison.  Her oldest son just got killed one month ago and her eight-year-old daughter said with her hands on her hips, "they killed my brother but we will kill them before my brother is put in the grave".

That little girl was not born that way. She had to learn this from her mother. Something must be done to help these mothers to learn what is right so they can teach their children. Going to prison is almost a rite of passage in many neighborhoods. It is an incomprehensible tragedy for the whole family when one member goes to prison.  But this is becoming more and more common. We must make it possible for these families to have jobs and hope.

As Catholics and as Catholic parishes, we are asked to love our neighbor. That love requires us to give the mothers and children in our violence-laden communities hope.  We need to work with our city officials to create jobs for our teens and also for those who are released from jail.  We also need to support the community organizations and churches of all faiths that are dedicated to reducing violence, and that are dedicated to giving our neighbors at risk hope. These people need to believe that there are others who love and care for them and their futures.

Gordon: If you would have won the election in 2014 when you ran for Cook County Commissioner for the 3rd District, you could have had a significant impact on reducing this violence as well as improve economic development, and the creation of new jobs for the disadvantaged in Chicago. That seems to be part of your genetic makeup. I hope that you will consider running again and that some of our readers may share your vision for Women-Eye and send in a membership to support your critical work and give our local mothers and children the hope that they have a future.


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