In 1881, a young woman, Josephine Dudzik, and her family emigrated from Poland and settled in Chicago near St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on the city's Northwest Side. A generous, compassionate, and devout woman, Josephine was moved by the condition of the aged, poor, and orphaned whom she encountered in her neighborhood. She came to their aid spiritually, physically, and financially, even sheltering some in her own home. During Chicago’s financial crisis of 1893, Josephine formed a religious community to help her aid the distressed residents. Thus, on December 8, 1894, the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago was born, and Josephine Dudzik was called Mother Mary Theresa.
For more than 120 years, imbued with the spirit of Mother Mary Theresa, the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago have responded to the needs of God’s people and have served in various ministries: the care of the sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes, providing housing and services for residents in independent, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, operating child care centers, teaching in schools and universities, pastoral care, social service work, and sheltering victims of domestic violence.
Mother Mary Theresa died in Chicago on September 20, 1918. Because of the heroic virtues in her life, she is now a candidate for sainthood. The Cause for her Beatification and Canonization is actively being pursued. We pray that Venerable Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik will be recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church and serve as a model for all Christians.
Sister M. Bernadette Bajusick, General Minister of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago reflects on our foundress Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik.