On December 9, 2019, we lost Sr. Juanita Ujcik, OSF. She was a mentor to me, a long time friend, just an amazing woman.
Where do you start to describe and honor Juanita?
I first met her in the mid 80’s to early 90’s when another amazing person, Jack Nordgaard networked with people all over Illinois who were involved in ministry to people in prisons and jails and gathered us together periodically. She was always a vibrant part of our meetings.
Sr. Juanita ran programs for prisoners, educational, spiritual, social service, for 30 years in two Illinois county jails. She wrote and published a book for families offering them all kinds of information about how to deal all of the issues that families of prisoners confront. She networked with anyone she thought might collaborate with her in serving the imprisoned and their families.
Sr. Juanita was on the board of Companions and offered us wise counsel. She found us resources and worked hard at all of our fundraisers. I remember her bringing a car load of items for a garage sale we were having, buying lots of gift wrapping supplies and worked long hours wrapping gifts at the Christmas fund raises we held at the Chicago Ridge Mall. I have a table runner that she tatted (yes, she tatted) as a silent auction item for another of our events.
And then there were her stories. She was an only child but had lots and lots of cousins whom she talked about often. She also shared stories of her mother who lived over 100 years. She would poke fun at herself or tell us stories of her years of ministry. She would laugh with us. It was always fun to be around Sr. Juanita.
Sr. Juanita was very wise. She knew how to get things accomplished, and she shared willingly what she had learned from her many years serving others. She mentored so many of us.
She was involved in all kinds of projects and served on all kinds of committees. I am very certain she had friends and peers all over Illinois especially in the Joliet and Wheaton areas.
Thank you God for giving the world Sr. Juanita. Thank you, Sr. Juanita for becoming such a powerful woman and for all you gave to so many of us.
Companions Journeying Together
Photo is courtesy of Joliet Franciscan Sisters. Used with permission.