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The Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago, formerly known
as the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda, was officially founded
on December 8, 1894, in Chicago, Illinois, with the approbation of Archbishop
Feehan. The first Sisterhood founded in the city of Chicago, the Congregation,
whose membership currently numbers 249, is a pontifical institute having
obtained its final approval in 1939.
The Congregation was established by Josephine Dudzik, a young immigrant
Pole, who came to Chicago with her parents in 1881, and settled in the
vicinity of the celebrated St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on Chicago's
densely populated Near Northwest Side. A woman of gentle sympathy, staunch
piety, and boundless trust in Divine Providence, Josephine felt compassion
for the poor, aged, crippled, and abandoned whom she encountered in the
St. Stanislaus Kostka district. She was inspired to befriend and shelter
many of them in the small flat which she shared with her widowed mother
at 11 Chapin Street.
In 1893, during the labor unrest and severe economic depression which
added to Chicago's miseries, Josephine Dudzik embarked on a more concrete
plan of action to relieve the conditions of her distressed neighbors.
Aided by her loyal friend and associate, Roselie Wisinski, she urged
her companions of the Third Order of St. Francis, a religious fraternity
at St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, to join her in a common life of prayer,
labor, and service to the aged, abandoned, and crippled of the area.
Although Josephine and her companions had no plans to establish a religions
congregation, Father Vincent Barzynski, C.R., the renowned pastor of
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and Josephine's spiritual director, urged
the young women to adopt the structure of a formal religious community
to insure the permanence of their initial zealous dedication. The women
the names given them as tertiaries of the Third Order of St. Francis, and Josephine
Dudzik was called Sister M. Theresa. On May 21, 1899, Sister M. Theresa and her
three companions, Sister M. Anna Wisinski, Sister M. Angeline Topolinski, and
Sister M. Agnes Dzik, received the religious habit and began their formal novitiate.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 1900, the Sisters made their first profession of
vows according to the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi. Upon the death of
Barzynski in 1899, Rev. Andrew Spetz, CR.. assumed spiritual direction of the
infant Community and guided it for the next fifteen years.
For the first two years of the Community's existence, the Sisters and several
aged immigrants continued to reside at the home of Sister M. Theresa on Chapin
Street. When it became obvious that the growing numbers of Sisters and the aged
could not be properly accommodated, they moved to larger quarters at 1368 Ingraham
(now called Evergreen) Street. In 1897, aware of the dire need for even larger
accommodations, Sister Ni. Theresa initiated construction of St. Joseph Home
for the Aged and Crippled (now called simply St. Joseph Home for the Aged [q.v.])
at Hamlin and Schubert Avenues. At its completion in 1898, St. Joseph Home also
served as the motherhouse of the Congregation. When, in 1899, the Sisters undertook
the care of orphans, St. Vincent was built next to St. Joseph Home on 1-lamlin
Avenue to house them. The Sisters exercised responsibility for over 500 dependent
and neglected children of the Chicago area until 1911, when the orphans were
transferred to the newly-erected St. Hedwig's Orphanage in Niles, Illinois, and
placed under the supervision of the Felician Sisters. St. Vincent Orphanage was
then converted into living quarters for the Sisters and the aged. By 1903, the
continued lack of adequate space and facilities at St. Joseph Home necessitated
the purchase of five small cottages on Ridgeway Avenue to accommodate the aged
and the crippled who sought shelter.
In 1928, the continued need for proper housing for the aged and the Sisters who
ministered to them led eventually to the construction of a new, spacious St.
Joseph Home on Ridgeway and Schubert avenues. In 1976, a massive renovation of
St. Joseph Home took place. Today, St. Joseph Home of Chicago, as it is now called,
accommodates 174 aged and incapacitated residents. Throughout the years, mindful
of the aim of heir foundress, the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago have expanded
their ministry to the aged. Outside the Archdiocese of Chicago the Sisters maintain
several homes for the aged. Within the archdiocese the Sisters also operate Mother
Theresa Home which opened in 1964 in Lemont.
The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago entered the field of education when pastors
appealed to the young Congregation to supply teachers for the children of immigrant
Poles. The Sisters accepted their first school, SS. Peter and Paul, in 1901.
Located in Spring Valley, Illinois, in the Diocese of Peoria, it was relinquished
in 1918. Three other schools in the dioceses of Peoria and Springfield were subsequently
accepted and relinquished. The apostolate of teaching began in 1901, spread beyond
Illinois to the states of Texas, North Dakota, Missouri, and Alabama. Eventually,
the Sisters left the schools in those areas and today, outside of the Archdiocese
of Chicago, they staff schools in Gary, Indiana; Cleveland, Campbell, and Youngstown,
Ohio; and Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Within the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Sisters accepted and continue to staff
the following parish schools: St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr (opened 1902);
St. Florian (1908); Five Holy Martyrs (1912); St. Pancratius (1924); and St.
Louise de Marillac, La Grange Park (1956). In 1949, Madonna High School was opened
in the Congregation's old motherhouse on Hamlin Avenue with an enrollment of
four students. Within a two-year period, the enrollment grew to 400 students
and the Congregation purchased the Ephpheta School for the Deaf on Belmont Avenue
and Pulaski Road from the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, to accommodate
the many students who sought enrollment. The phenomenal growth of the student
body necessitated the construction of the present Madonna High School on Belmont
and Karlos Avenues in 1958. The school today has an enrollment of 902 young women.
The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago entered into another field of labor in 1904,
when the Congregation of the Resurrection petitioned the Sisters to take charge
of St. Elizabeth Day Nursery on Ashland Avenue and Blackhawk Street in the vicinity
of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. Connected with the nursery was a free dispensary
for the poor, a catechetical center, and a home for unwed mothers, the St. Margaret
Maternity Home. The St. Elizabeth Day Nursery was closed in 1960 and razed a
few years later. In the Town of Lake area on Chicago's Southwest Side, the Sisters
assumed charge of Guardian Angel Day Care Center and Home for Ladies on 46th
Street and McDowell Avenue in 1917. The institution provided day care for children
of working mothers, a residence for homeless working girls, and a free medical
center. Today, Guardian Angel Day Care Center and Home for Ladies serves approximately
sixtyfive children daily and provides a home for twenty women. At the present
time, the Congregation is drafting plans for the establishment of the Holy Family
Child Center, associated with St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, Indiana.
For over sixty years, the first St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled on
Hamlin Avenue served as the motherhouse for the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.
When, in 1959, it was judged hazardous and beyond repair by the Chicago Fire
Department, Mother M. Beatrice Rybacki, O.S.F., and her General Council, proposed
building a new motherhouse that would adequately meet the Congregation's needs.
The site selected for the new motherhouse was in Lemont, about twenty miles southwest
of Chicago and ten miles northeast of Joliet. As early as 1926, the novitiate
for the Congregation, except for a few years, had been situated in Lemont on
Archer Avenue and McCarthy Road in the historic Walker mansion which the Sisters
In 1935, additional land was purchased in Lemont at the southwest corner of Joliet
and Walker Roads, and Our Lady of Victory Convent tie for the aged and infirm
Sisters was built. In 1963, with the erection of the new and functional motherhouse,
also called Our Lady of Victory Convent, at 1220 Main Street, the former convent
for the aged and inEn firm Sisters was converted into the Mother Theresa Home
for the Aged Id of Lcoiont and surrounding communities. The motherhouse is the
loca-tion of the novitiate and the central government of the Congregation, which
since 1978, has been administered by Sister Martha Joan Semit poiski, O.S.F.,
superior general; Sister M. Antonissima Jamruk, O.S.F., assistant general; Sister
M. Hugoline Czaplinski, O.S.F., councilor; Sister hi. Gabriel Lazarski, O.S.F.,
councilor; Sister M. Ralph Stawasz, 3SF., treasurer general; and Sister M. Alvernia
Groszek, O.S.F., secretary general.
Since 1970, the Sisters have been engaged
in works new to the Congregation. An extension of the Sisters' teaching ministry
includes developing, organizing, and administering the religious education program
at St. Genevieve parish in Chicago, and Our Lady of Ransom parish in Niles. A
Franciscan Sister of Chicago is engaged in parish ministry at St. Rose of Lima
Church in Chicago. Sister M. Antonissima al Jamruk, O.S.F., the assistant genera!
of the Congregation, serves as vicaress for Religious women of the Archdiocese
of Chicago. Several a Sisters meet the emotional, social, and spiritual needs
of patients and their families as members of the Department of Pastoral Care
at the d Villa de Sante, the Congregation's total health care complex in Crown
Point, Indiana. In 1980, the St. Francis House of Prayer, with three Sisters
comprising the core group, was established in a separate house on n the grounds
of the motherhouse in Lemont.
The eighty-six year history of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago reveals the
names of the noteworthy women who have inspired the Congregation by their leadership.
The first to serve the Congregation in the capacity of mother superior was its
foundress, Sister M. Theresa Dudzik, 0.S.F. (1894-98; 1909-1910). She was succeeded
by Sister M. Anna Wisinski, 0.S.F. (1898-1905), and Sister M. Vincent Czyzewski,
O.S.F. (1905-09). The first General Chapter, held in 1910, established the Congregation's
autonomy and created the new title of superior general. The following women have
guided the Congregation in this office: Mother M. Anna Wisinski, 0.S.F. (1910-16);
Mother M. Aloysia Holysz, 0.S.F. (19161922; 1928-1934); Mother M. Vincent Czyzewski,
O.S.F. (1922-28; Mother M. Antonia Osinski, O.S.F. (1934-1940); Mother M. Mechtilde
Zynda, O.S.F. (1940-46); Mother M. Jerome Dadej, O.S.F. (1946-1952; 1952-58);
Mother M. Beatrice Rybacki, O.S.F. (1958-1964; 1964-1970); Sister M. Hugoline
Czaplinski, O.S.F. (1970-79); and Sister Martha Joan 4 Sempolski, O.S.F. (1978-
Although Mother M. Anna Wisinski, O.S.F. holds the distinction of being the first elected superior general of the Congregation,
the title of "
Mother" was accorded Sister M. Theresa Dudzik by the sixth General Chapter
of the Congregation held in 1940. The vision, courage, and love for humanity
evidenced in the life of Mother M. Theresa Dudzik, who died in Chicago on September
20, 1918, led to the first official step in the process of her beatification
and canonization. The exhumation of her body at St. Adalbect Cemetery in Niles
took place on October 13, 1972, The remains of Mother M. Theresa were brought
to the motherhouse in Lemont on October 15, 1972, and were interred and sealed
in a granite sarcophagus at a side altar in the Sacred Heart Chapel while further
proceedings in her Cause continued. In the summer of 1979, the Sacred Congregation
for the Causes of Saints in Rome released the decree to open the cognitive process
toward the beatification of Mother M. Theresa. Cardinal Cody appointed a diocesan
tribunal to investigate the documentation concerning her life and to interrogate
witnesses who knew her personally. On September 8, 1979, the Most Rev. Alfred
Abromowicz, auxiliary bishop of Chicago and Most Rev. Joseph Imeach, bishop of
Joliet, joined Cardinal Cody in celebrating a Pontifical Mass in the Sacred Heart
Chapel in the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters formally opening the process
of beatification of the Servant of God, Mother M. Theresa Dudzik, O.S.F.
From "A History of
the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions of the Archdiocese of Chicago" -
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.