Thursday, September 3, 2015

Homelessness Activist Selected For Top Joliet Franciscan Honors

Press Release......................................................................................................For Immediate Release

[Naperville, IL] Despite all the trouble Diane Nilan caused the Joliet Franciscan Sisters, they will present her with the Mother Alfred Moes Award, their highest honor, for her decades of work with homeless children and adults. The presentation will be made during the Franciscan Autumn Fest, Oct. 25, at the Patrick C. Haley Mansion in Joliet. 

Nilan, with her long, speckled history with the Joliet Franciscans, credits them with her moral fortitude that galvanized her spirit to work on behalf of homeless children and adults. The Sisters taught her from 3rd grade through college, and for a time Nilan considered joining their ranks.  She is now founder and president of HEAR US Inc., a national nonprofit giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth.

In the mid-80s, Nilan spearheaded the Joliet’s first homeless shelter, Will County PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), now Daybreak. After leaving Joliet, Nilan ran the PADS shelter at Hesed House in Aurora for many years, leading efforts to start the Rainbow Clinic and spurring legislative advocacy campaigns that gave Illinois homeless persons the right to vote, established the IL Housing Trust Fund, and guaranteed access to education for homeless students, in Illinois then nationwide.
According to Nilan, the only thing she and Mother Alfred Moes, a woman who didn’t hesitate to respond to desperate needs around her, have in common is that both taught at St. John’s School in Joliet. 

Not surprisingly, the Sisters disagree. The Mother Alfred Moes Award “honors the pioneering spirit that exists in an individual…one who is a visionary just as Mother Alfred was.” Along with Nilan, the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic will be honored for their work with the medically underserved.

According to the Sisters, “The foundress of the Joliet Franciscans, Mother Alfred Moes, was a woman ahead of her time. She was a pioneer, a visionary, who used her own dowry to transform her vision into service.  Mother Alfred responded not only to the needs of the people of Joliet, but wherever the need of communities across the country called her.”

For the past 10 years, Nilan has been living in a small motorhome, traveling over 225,000 miles in 48 states, chronicling the plight and promise of homeless families and youth under the banner of her unconventional one-woman nonprofit organization, HEAR US ( She’s made several documentaries and short videos of those experiencing homelessness sharing their stories. Her latest was just released, Worn out Welcome Mat - Kansas

Nilan learned  RVing and videography on the road. She relentlessly pursues audiences from Congress to California, exposing them to little-known realities experienced by millions of invisible homeless families and youth. 

“When all is said and done,” said Nilan, “the Joliet Franciscans have shaped me more than I’ll ever realize. Franciscan values have affected my life choices. For that I’ll be eternally grateful.” 

For reservations or more information about the event, 815-725-8735, x116.

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