Lois Gates: Celebrating 50 Years

by Linda Buchalo

As part of our series covering the Misericordia Executive Team, this article highlights Lois Catinella Gates, who is celebrating her 50th year as a staff member at Misericordia Home.

In 1970, Lois volunteered at Misericordia while waiting for her acceptance as a stewardess. When called to follow her originally chosen profession, she declined and chose to remain at Misericordia, thus beginning her life-long love affair for Sister Rosemary and the residents. She officially became a staff member in 1971.

One of the reasons Misericordia is near and dear to Lois is that her brother Fred lived there for 16 years before he passed away in 2001. Lois is forever grateful to Sister Rosemary and the staff who nurtured, cared for, and loved Fred, and provided him with a life of dignity. Fred often told her “Sis, Misericordia is Heaven on Earth!”

Lois has worn many hats over the years, including Direct Support Professional, Licensed Practical Nurse, and Charge Nurse. For several years she split her time between Misericordia South and Misericordia North. In 1978, Lois joined Misericordia North full-time, when Sister Rosemary appointed her to the payroll department. She then served as Director of Auxiliary services including the Greenhouse Inn restaurant and shops. Today, Lois serves on the Executive Team, where she is the Co-director of Development and Public Relations. Among her many duties, she coordinates the hundreds of volunteers who collect donations in the Loop during Candy Days. She has been instrumental in coordinating many of the special events and fundraisers for Misericordia. Lois and her team also provide leadership and guidance to the many auxiliary groups that support Misericordia, including the Women’s Board, Women’s Auxiliary, and Women’s League.

In 1993, Lois co-founded Sharing Involvement with Brothers and Sisters (SIBS), the Misericordia Siblings Association. In 2007, she co-founded the Misericordia Junior Board, which supports Misericordia’s mission through volunteering, recruitment, and fundraising. And in 2015, she co-founded the

Misericordia Young Professionals Council, which promotes fundraising for Misericordia and networking opportunities for its members.

Lois is an innovator in her field, working to raise awareness and resources for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A graduate of DePaul University, Lois has been a valued staff member, helping to shape the past, present, and future of Misericordia. She was a lead member of the Capital Initiative Team that worked to expand the campus community to welcome more residents and their families.

While Lois’s contributions at Misericordia are immeasurable, her investment in the community reaches far beyond its campus. Early on, Lois served as a board member at Mercy Hospital Women’s Board and Trilogy Mental Health Services Board. These experiences helped her to gain an outsider’s perspective on fundraising efforts. Her volunteer experiences throughout her son’s school years were the impetus to develop the Junior Board at Misericordia. Lois also worked with her husband—Dr. Dennis Gates, an orthopedic surgeon—on mission trips around the world, including in Africa, Brazil, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

She shared her proudest accomplishments both in and outside of Misericordia:

  • Finding a loving home at Misericordia for her brother Fred
  • Developing the Sibling Group, out of which was born The Artist in All—a favorite event hosted annually at the Art Institute
  • Having the privilege to work with Sister Rosemary and her incredible staff
  • Marrying her husband and accompanying him on mission trips all over the world
  • Being the proud mother of David Londen Gates, a kind, caring, and compassionate man who is devoted to the mission of Misericordia
  • Nurturing a loving relationship with the members of both the Gates and Catinella families
  • Walking the Misericordia journey with so many families, cherished friends, and people who have helped her become the person she is today

Lois says that when she first met Sister Rosemary, “she had me at hello.” She recalled their trip to Washington D.C. for the Caring Awards and meeting the President of the United States. Lois summarized her time together with Sister: “Walking this journey with Sister Rosemary for the past 50 years has been an honor and privilege. I am in awe of her unwavering faith in God and in others. Sister Rosemary truly is a role model and an inspiration to all who care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Lois, we are happy that you decided to change your career path and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground!

Author’s Note: I asked Lois if she’d share her secret for staying and looking forever young. She credits this to the residents at Misericordia: “where else in the world do you get told ‘I love you!’ every day you go into work. When they smile, you smile. And when they are happy, you are happy. . . and they are almost always happy. . . they are some of the happiest people on Earth. That is what keeps [me] young... and maybe a smidgen of Oil of Olay.”