Chicago Nun Prepares For 10th Marathon

Lisa Fielding
September 25, 2019 - 2:00 pm
Sister Stephanie Baliga

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Sister Stephanie Baliga has been running since she was 9-years old. She was competitive runner in high school and in college, but was sidelined by an injury when she was a sophomore.

"It ripped reality from underneath me. I had really defined myself by running and academics and who I was was defined by achievements and the things that I did. When those things were taken away, I didn't know who I actually was," she recalls.

It was recurring injuries that eventually determined her path, when she said she got the call to serve the church.

"I got involved with the Neuman Center, the Catholic Church on campus. I went on a retreat when my foot was still broken and I had a very powerful experience at Adoration. At that point, that was the beginning of my calling to religious life." 

Soon enough she arrived at Mission Our Lady of the Angels, but she wanted to keep her passion for running alive.

"When I arrived at the Mission, I gradually started running again. I soon organized a charity team on behalf of the mission. We have this extremely successful charity team now with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon," she said.

Sister Stephanie Baliga
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Baliga trains three to four days a week, running on the treadmill or in Chicago neighborhoods.

"I'm going to join you sister," said Miguel Munoz, who works construction next door. 

"Sister you are amazing. She inspires all of us. She runs every day from building to building. God gives her the strength."

Sister Stephanie Baliga said she always knew she wanted to run a marathon. 

"I've been able to train minimally and run very, very well. One of our other sisters is running with me."

Sister Stephanie Baliga
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

The pair is leading a team of 103 people who are running on behalf of the mission.

"This year we hope to raise $200,000" she said.

The money will go toward the renovation of the school building, the site of the tragic fire that killed 92 children and three nuns in 1958. 

"The new outreach center for the poor will dramatically improve our ability to serve people here in Humboldt Park," she said.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

When people hear about her marathon running, she said she sometimes gets surprising responses.

"People say 'really?' and I say, yeah, we do normal stuff, like normal people," she laughed.

Baliga said she never could've predicted she could combine her love for running with her life in the church.

"This journey from being injured to pretty much exclusively running for these charity teams has been this journey of transforming running into the selfish thing to glorify myself into this complete gift. I hope that's what my whole life is doing."

Sister Stephanie Baliga
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

As for the future, Baliga said she has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

"Team Mission of our Lady of the Angels is going to be running until after the point where I can't run anymore," she laughed. "Eighty years from now, we'll still be rocking out there."

Mission Our Lady of the Angels provides community outreach, after school and senior programs and a weekly food pantry, that serves 1,000 families a month.