35 Years of Hope: Marge Nykaza
In 2000, Marge Nykaza was completing her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies at Loyola. As part of the program, she was tasked with a summer project, working with women in a shelter. Marge was then a teacher of Peer Ministry and the Liturgical Music Director at Brother Rice High School. She reached out to Sr. Therese and asked if she could work with the women at St. Martin de Porres House of Hope for her project. “I told Sr. Therese that I would do anything ” talk with the women, stock shelves “but because I was a singer, choir director and music educator, I really wanted to start a choir. Sr. Therese said ‘Of course, let’s try this.'”
The choir and music program Marge developed became an integral part of St. Martin de Porres House of Hope. It grew to include a women’s program, a children’s program and a mother/child class, which “facilitated bonding and taught parenting skills through the non-threatening vehicle of music,” said Marge.
“The women and their children were beautiful, recovering and moving forward. It was an incredible experience,” Marge recalls. Word spread throughout Chicago about the choir and music program at St. Martin de Porres House of Hope, and Marge was asked to launch the program at another shelter, and another.
Ultimately, Marge created Harmony, Hope & Healing, which achieved nonprofit status in 2003, with a mission to create a safe environment where vulnerable individuals and families heal and rebuild through the restorative power of music. Today, Harmony, Hope & Healing partners with ten social service agencies and serves fifteen sites. The HHH Choir and Ensemble performs throughout the city, and includes numerous residents and alumnae of St. Martin de Porres House of Hope. Several alumnae have learned leadership, group facilitation and public relations skills through Harmony, Hope & Healing’s paid internships and assistantships.
“It all started with the women and their children at St. Martin de Porres House of Hope,” Marge says. “It’s a blessing to serve there!”