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Nun-to-be, former Illinois track star to run Chicago Marathon

Stephanie Baligis process becoming nun Holy Angels parish also will be running marathnext month. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

Stephanie Baliga is in the process of becoming a nun at Holy Angels parish, and also will be running the marathon next month. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 2, 2011 2:12PM



Her nun’s habit is too long to run with, so Stephanie Baliga won’t wear it when she runs in next month’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

But you still might be able to pick out Baliga from among the thousands of runners by the rosary beads that she’s thinking she’ll bring along on the 26.2-mile run Oct. 9. Oh, and there’s also the special running skirt, designed for modesty.

Baliga, 23, is a former University of Illinois track star who’s in the process of becoming a nun for the Franciscans of the Eucharist, a new Catholic community based in West Humboldt Park at Our Lady of the Angels Church.

Now known as Sr. Stephanie, she considered joining a different group of nuns, but it didn’t allow running.

Baliga, who grew up in Rockford, found her calling with a running-friendly order that works to feed about 700 families a month and provides an after-school program for about 900 kids. She runs 40 miles a week, usually early in the morning near the lake or in Humboldt Park.

“I’m able to have a blank mind while running — it’s one of the only times I can do that,” she says. “I feel closer to God when I run, there’s a rhythm and a peace.”

Baliga says she realized what she wanted to do with her life in college, when she hurt an ankle and couldn’t run.

“I realized running was too big a part of my life and began to ask what God was asking me to do with my life — and, eventually, felt called to become a sister,” says Baliga, who will formally become a nun on Tuesday.

“I’ve found the correct balance of God and running,” she says. “I’m not using running for any selfish means any more. I use it to glorify God and help promote what we’re doing at our mission...If the Lord wanted me to give up running, I would do it, but he ended up giving it back. And that makes me happy.”

Baliga is running the Chicago marathon to raise money to renovate Our Lady of the Angels church.

“We need more space to do our ministries for the neighborhood,” she says. “The original estimate was about $2 million. We’re almost there. We’re only $40,000 short.”



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