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The Franciscan Federation, a national organization founded in 1965 to promote Franciscan evangelical life, held its annual conference on June 16th through June 19th in Buffalo, New York. This year’s theme was called, “Bonaventure’s Journey into God: Franciscan Inspiration for the 21st Century” in honor of the 800th anniversary of the birth of Saint Bonaventure. Saint Bonaventure was an Italian Franciscan theologian and philosopher who was canonized a saint in 1482.

Throughout the conference the attendees enjoyed various presentations on St. Bonaventure, his historical works and how his writing and sensible approach to God can inspire people today in the 21st century. St. Bonaventure’s The Soul's Journey into God, the Tree of Life, the Life of St. Francis served as inspiration for the conference’s logo artwork and for the beautiful centerpieces that were displayed on the banquet tables. Along with the presentations, the Peacemaker Award was presented.

The Peacemaker Award is an award presented at the Franciscan Federation conference to honor one member of each congregation. This award has a different set of criteria every year. This year’s requisites for the award are for a Sister or Brother who embodies the best of the Franciscan Third Order teaching tradition and also one who embodies the values of being incarnational, personal and communal. The Brother or Sister is also transformative, and one who engages the heart and development of servant-leaders. This year, thirty-one Sisters and Brothers of Franciscan member congregations were honored and the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago honored General Minister, Sister M. Bernadette Bajuscik.

Sister M. Bernadette Bajuscik entered religious life in 1961. Over the years she held teaching positions at Holy Trinity Elementary School in Gary, Indiana and St. Louise Elementary School in La Grange, Illinois. She later served as Director and Administrator at Guardian Angel Day Care Center in Chicago, Illinois. Sister then became the Vice President of Administrative Services at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, Indiana where she developed their mission integration program and managed many essential departments such as Human Resources, Environmental Services, and Rehab. During this time, she also helped establish the St. Clare Health Clinic in Crown Point for people who lack health insurance. Later, Sister would serve as Vice President of Development at St. Anthony Medical Center until 2003.

Over the years, Sister served as a board member on various boards including St. Joseph Home, Franciscan Home Care Services (Chair since 2015), Franciscan Elder Services, Addolorata Villa (Chair, 1999 - 2001), Francisan Village, Mount Aleverna Hom, St. Anthony Home, and Guardian Angel Day Care Center (Chair, 1983 - 1984). Sister has also been a team member of the FSC Associates since 1988 and the FSC Associate Director since 2003. Sister was the General Vicar of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago from 2008 until 2013 and has been General Minister since 2013.

In all of the various positions in education, and leadership that Sister M. Bernadette has held over the years, she has always served as a true inspiration to others and a wonderful example to her fellow Sisters and Associates. Sister Jeanne Marie Toriskie, who is a member of the FSC Leadership Council writes, "Sister M. Bernadette participated in the pilgrimage to St. Francis's birthplace, Assisi, Italy and has incorporated the Franciscan value of servant leadership into her daily life. As General Minister of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago she is approachable, leads by example, and encourages the Sisters by the spoken word, written word, and by providing Community Day reflections and other techniques to help the Sisters be faithful to their Franciscan life. In her past ministry at the St. Anthony Medical Center, Sister M. Bernadette had developed and implemented a formal program to develop servant leaders. She has moved that initiative forward and invested her personal time and whole heart in continuing to do so with the members of the Sponsorship Council and, over many years, with the FSC Associates. With the lay leadership of Franciscan Ministries, she practices prudent mentoring and regular faith sharing on the practical ways to act as a servant leader without relinquishing one's proper authority. Sister M. Bernadette thus embodies the best of teaching traditions - being the very thing one is seeking to teach others to be,"

Congratulations to Sister M. Bernadette Bajuscik for being this year's Peacemaker Award recipient.

Here are the previous Peacemaker Award honorees:

  • Sister M. Francis Clare Radke (2015)
  • Sister Doloria Kosiek (2014)
  • Sister M. Gabriel Lazarski (2013)
  • Sister Georgeann Kinel (2012)
  • Sister M. Andrea Puchalaski (2010)
  • Sister Theresa Mary Obremski (2007)
  • Sister M. Claudiana Jachimowicz (2005)