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At a young age, Sister Juliana Sienko heard the calling to serve God and committed her life to the order of St. Francis. Now 100 years old, she said her faith is stronger today than it was when she dedicated her life to servanthood.
On Friday, one day after her 100th birthday, Sister Juliana said, “I know God exists by what happens. It is a belief in the heart.”
Sister Juliana sat at the Rosary Care Center, located at the Sister of St. Francis Mother Grounds at 6832 Convent Blvd., recalling her younger years living in Minneapolis. Born to Polish immigrants, she had four sisters and one brother. She was strongly influenced by her parents, who prayed and lived a faith-filled life, leading by example for their children, she said.
At age 14, she joined the Sisters of St. Francis, a year after her sister Danielle, who was 17, joined the same order.
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“I felt the calling in my heart,” she said. She and her sister spoke of joining the convent. “I said to my sister ‘wait for me.’ ” She had to complete the eighth grade. Once done with junior high school, she attended high school on the Mother Grounds in Sylvania at St. Clare Academy, one of the few buildings on the property. Soon their other two sisters joined them.
She lived a cloistered life shut off from the Sylvania community, only leaving the Mother Grounds to go to the doctor or post office. Today, the Sisters are very much part of Sylvania and the grounds include Lourdes University.
In 1936 she professed her final vows to live in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, and for more than 66 years she fulfilled a ministry in education, teaching French, Polish, ethics, and speech at what was then Lourdes College, St. Joseph School, and other schools in Ohio, Minnesota, and Michigan.
Her happiest memories from her teaching days were from Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Mich., a school she founded with other sisters. She taught there for 23 years, and the school has a hall dedicated to her.
Her advice to the younger generation is “know what you are about and know your purpose, your reason.”
Sister Juliana followed her heart and has no regrets.