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January 20 - February 2, 2013

Polish sisters in Lemont work on founder’s cause

Franciscan Sister of Chicago Mary Alacoque Czartoryska rides through a small museum in the memory of her community's founder Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik at Our Lady of Victory Convent in Lemont on Oct. 20. Born in 1860 in the village of Plocicz, Poland, Josephine Dudzik, later Mother Mary Therese, came to Chicago with her family at the age of 21 in 1881. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

By Alicja Pozywio

STAFF WRITER

Once she is beatified, Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik, founder of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago, will be teaching Chicago and the entire world forgotten virtues and values such as honoring the elderly, practicing humility, simplicity, modesty and obedience. While these strongest virtues of Mother Mary Theresa can be considered signs of weakness in today’s world, they are in fact the most needed qualities for Catholics to emulate.

The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago, located in Lemont, opened the cause for canonization for Mother Mary Theresa in 1940 and, if canonized, she, like Father Augustus Tolton, would be one of the first Chicagoans to become a saint following in the footsteps of Mother Frances Cabrini.

Born in 1860 in the village of Plocicz, Poland, Josephine Dudzik came to Chicago with her family at the age of 21 in 1881. “Josephine was of average height with brown hair and blue eyes … reserved and shy by nature,” wrote Sister Anne Mary Knawa, the congregation’s historian, about the future religious sister in the book “As God Shall Ordain: A History of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago 1894-1987.”

Josephine didn’t seek to improve her own life but the lives of the poor, the aged, the orphans and abandoned found on the streets around St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, where she settled with her family.

“She was bringing the elderly into her family home,” said Sister Mary Alacoque Czartoryska, who conducts tours at Heritage Hall at the congregation’s Lemont motherhouse. Knowing Josephine’s charism, Father Vincent Barzynski, the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka, encouraged her to found a new community of women religious.

On Dec, 8, 1894 the religious community originally known as Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda was born. A few years later the community and its ministries grew, staffing orphanages, schools, health and child care facilities and shelters.

The process of canonization, laid out in the Catholic Church’s canon law, has been actively pursued for Mother Mary Theresa. Her cause was officially opened on Sept. 11, 1963, according to “As God Shall Ordain,” and Mother Mary Theresa was declared a servant of God in 1977. There are four stages in the process: servant of God, venerable, blessed and saint. In 1994 she was declared venerable.

To be named a blessed through beatification there must be a documented miracle through Mother Mary Theresa’s intercession. In 2003 the Archdiocese of Chicago submitted to the Vatican a possible miracle attributed to her in the case of Jerry Lisiecki. An 18- year-old Lisiecki was one of 300 people injured in an October 1972 train crash and he sustained massive injuries to his head, arms and leg. He languished in a coma and was not expected to live.

“Roseann Lisiecki claimed that her son, Jerry, was cured after she visited the sarcophagus,” said Knawa in her book. Unfortunately the miracle wasn’t accepted.

Bishop Andrew Wypych, Cardinal George’s liaison to the archdiocese’s Polish Catholics, says that Mother Theresa is a good role model for Catholics today. “She calls us to live our lives in a more Christian way, “said Bishop Wypych.

The influence of Mother Theresa’s charism is still present in the work of the Franciscans of Chicago. Based in Lemont, they minister in senior housing, continuing care retirement communities, pastoral care, education and social services. Various ministries sponsored by the Franciscans are active in the states of Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana.

Every day there is someone, somewhere in the world asking God for a miracle. The old Polish folk belief says that if you pray for a miracle, pray through the intercessions of the candidates to the altars. They need to prove themselves. Mother Theresa might not be any different. On June 23, 2004 celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Franciscans convent in Lemont, Cardinal George said: “Mother Theresa shows that God’s grace can operate anywhere — even here in Chicago.”

A Mass for the intention of the beatification of Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik is celebrated on the third Saturday of every month in the Sacred Heart Chapel of Our Lady of Victory Convent in Lemont. All are welcome to participate in the Mass. For information, visit marytheresadudzik.org/English or call (630) 243-3600.