A young woman has completed a Chicago half-marathon in a fundraising campaign to help eliminate her personal debt so she can enter religious life.
Alicia Torres, a 2007 graduate of Loyola University Chicago, began “The Nun Run” campaign with the support of friends. She and five companions ran the 13.1-mile Chicago Half Marathon on September 13 to raise funds to help pay down her debt.
In a Thursday e-mail interview with CNA, Torres said she plans to be a part of a new Franciscan community at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angles in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. The community is under obedience to Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George and will be under the oversight of Fr. Bob Lombardo, CFR.
“It is a great joy and honor for me to be part of this beautiful work for God,” she said.
Torres said the Chicago Half Marathon went “tremendously well” despite an ankle injury two weeks prior to the race.
“This was my first distance run since freshman year of high school when I ran cross country. I was able to finish 13.1 miles on Sunday in 2:40:03 (Thanks be to God!).”
Though “extremely exhausted,” Torres said it was motivating for her to offer a specific intention for each mile.
She reported that she has raised at least $28,000, not including donations sent to the Laboure Society within the past two weeks. The Laboure Society, an organization dedicated to eliminating debt for prospective entrants to religious life or the priesthood, is helping the young woman.
According to Torres, her initial debt of $94,000 was due to some “very bad interest rates,” adding that she works full time and has paid down over $12,000 of her debt with her own money. Torres presently works for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Respect Life Office.
Her “very positive” interactions with the media have assisted her cause. The Chicago Tribune’s Manya Brashear was “such a delight” and spent nearly six hours with her and her community, Torres told CNA. The Catholic New World, where her friend Joyce Duriga is an editor, has also been helpful as has radio host Drew Mariani.
Torres reported that the first day she was on Mariani’s show she received about $4,500 in donations.
She said she was “absolutely shocked” to be interviewed for the National Public Radio show “All Things Considered.”
“I had wanted to pursue a career in journalism before I became serious about God's call and will for me, and so all of this just proves God is not outdone in generosity,” said Torres.
She told CNA that a “vocal minority” has doubted the authenticity of her mission, an attitude which she attributed to a lack of understanding of the nature of religious life and how it differs from the life of a lay person working with the poor.
“I am humbled by the support of absolute strangers,” she added. “I've had several checks for hundreds and even $1,000 from people I don't even know. An anonymous donor sent $10,000 to help me. As I said, God is just not outdone in generosity.”
Torres said she has been invited to be a guest speaker at a local Catholic elementary school for an all school assembly, where she will participate with the schoolchildren in their school's Fun-Run.
“My vocation to religious life is not just for me,” she told CNA. Though her vocation is her path to holiness, she said it is also for “God's people.”
“It is so beautiful to see so many--married couples, families and single people, priests and religious--come together to support, encourage, and above all pray for me! I am honored. And I owe it all to our Lord Jesus Christ through the intercession of His Mother Mary.”
Writing on her website, Torres explained that her vocation was nurtured through her faith life and her family. She and her siblings were homeschooled for some of their education and the focus of their family activities was St. Benedict’s Chapel. Torres said her mother would lead the children in daily prayers for vocations.
She described her parish priest Fr. Damien as a great influence and also praised the “motherly spirit” of Sr. Marie-Jean of Immaculate Heart of Mary School.
After college, her correspondence with a priest named Fr. Mercer and the invitation of Fr. Lombardo helped lead her to commit to religious life.
“I’ve finally been quiet enough to hear what God has been whispering in my heart for years, and now that I have experienced that Joy that only comes from God, I know there is nothing else that could complete me other than giving myself fully to my Beloved.”
Torres’ website is at http://www.thenunrun.com.