Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Little Falls nun, advocate for orphans, to celebrate 100 years


Sister Justina Bieganek
Sister Justina Bieganek

LITTLE FALLS — A Franciscan nun known for her leadership in orphan train reunions will celebrate her 100th birthday this month.

Sister Justina Bieganek, OSF, will celebrate with an 11 a.m. Mass and an open house from 2-4 p.m. Jan. 15 at St. Francis Convent in Little Falls.

Bieganek came to Avon on an orphan train when she was 22 months old. She was among more than 250,000 children from New York City who traveled west by train to adoptive families between 1854 and 1929.

Bieganek’s original name was Edith Peterson, and she learned that she was born to a widowed mother who was unable to care for her. John and Mary Bieganek adopted her when she came to Avon; she also helped the Bieganeks’ son and his wife raise their 13 children.

Justina Bieganek went to St. Francis High School in Little Falls and entered St. Francis convent in 1929. In her 82 years as a Franciscan sister, she has served as an advocate at the St. Cloud Orphanage, office worker, parish visitor, CCD instructor, sacristan and organist. She continues to work daily at St. Francis Music Center, where she has been a clerk for 31 years.

One of her greatest passions has been her effort to tell the story of the orphan trains and organize reunions for the orphans and their descendants. The 51st reunion was Oct. 1 in Little Falls. St. Cloud Times

My great-grandparents adopted a brother and sister off of an Orphan Train in the 1890s In Negaunee, Michigan. Sadly we have lost contact with them over the years.

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