‘Always with love’
Publication Date: April 13, 2015 Page: 1 Section: A Edition: DAILY
MOUNT CARMEL — “Always more, always best, always with love.” These words, which have been identified as Mother Maria Kaupas’ motto as she lived her life of service to others, are inscribed on the wall inside the front door of the new center that was dedicated Sunday in her honor.
The Mother Maria Kaupas Center, located in the former St. Peter’s Convent on West Avenue, has been established as a ministry of Divine Redeemer Church. The center, which has been in the planning stages for many months, became a reality at noon Sunday with a ribbon-cutting and short dedication program held in its front yard.
The program and a Mass that preceded it were attended by Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg and a delegation from the now Chicago-based Sisters of Saint Casimir (SSC), the religious community that Kaupas founded. Also participating prominently in the dedication ceremonies were representatives of four other religious orders that served the Mount Carmel community or had strong relationships with the SSC.
The date of the dedication was not selected by accident. It was scheduled to coincide, practically to the day, with Kaupas’ death from cancer 75 years ago — April 17, 1940 — in Chicago. It was 108 years ago — in 1907 — that Mother Maria (born Casimira Kaupas), who fled from czarist-controlled Lithuania, came to Mount Carmel to establish Holy Cross School for the children of Lithuanian immigrants.
When he announced plans for the center late last year, the Rev. Martin Moran III, pastor of Divine Redeemer Church, said he envisioned the Kaupas Center as a focal point for learning and community volunteerism by college students. Since then, a partnership has been finalized with Bucknell University, which has agreed to establish a field station at the
Kaupas Center for faculty/student research projects and volunteerism opportunities in the community. Students and staff from Bucknell are expected to be at the center this summer. Moran formerly served as Catholic chaplain at Bucknell.
Promoted for sainthood
At the beginning of the Mass, representatives of the SSC briefly described Kaupas’ decision to come to America to work as a housekeeper for her brother, who was a priest in Scranton. The story continues with her arrival in Mount Carmel with two fellow sisters, the growth of Holy Cross School, the establishment of the order’s motherhouse in Chicago, her trip to Lithuania to establish a congregation there and the order’s eventual ministries in 14 states and Latin American countries.
The sisters today are vigorously promoting the cause of sainthood for Kaupas. She has already been declared “venerable,” the first step in the process. Sister Margaret Petcavage, who is the order’s vice postulator for the cause of Mother Maria’s beatification (the second step), said in a reflection given to worshipers prior to the Mass that Kaupas’ life can be a valuable inspiration to people today because of her willingness to take risks, her openness, her concern for others and her trust in God’s will.
Main celebrant of the Mass was Gainer, with concelebrants Moran and the Rev. John Kemper, a Kulpmont native who was recently elected provincial superior of the Sulpicians, a society of priests. In addition to the Sisters of Saint Casimir, the Mass and dedication program was attended by Felician Sisters, the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary based in Scranton and Philadelphia.
Warm spot for Mount Carmel
Sister Regina Marie Dubickas, general superior of the SSC, said during the dedication that it is the sisters’ hope that people who visit the center are inspired by Kaupas’ example. She said the sisters are especially pleased the new center will be so welcoming and supportive to young people.
Although the SSC has not been assigned nuns to Mount Carmel since 1973, Dubickas said they still consider Mount Carmel “home” because it was the religious community’s first mission. She recalled a visit to Mount Carmel in the 1980s in which she and another sister were walking along South Poplar Street in the neighborhood where Kaupas lived and worked.
“As we were walking down the street, a woman looked out the window and yelled, ‘The sisters have returned,’” Dubickas said, adding that a joyous conversation on the street quickly ensued. Dubickas said that was just one example of classic coal region hospitality. She added that all Sisters of Saint Casimir retain a warm spot in their hearts for Mount Carmel and its people.
Carl Milofsky, a sociology professor at Bucknell and a member of the center’s soon-to-be-formed advisory board, said he looks forward to the opportunities students and staff will have to develop relationships with people and institutions in Mount Carmel and other coal region communities.
Also introduced was Herman Weimer, advisory board chairperson. Moran acknowledged others who have agreed to serve on the board, including Milofsky, Wendy Boland George, Christopher Raia, Jonathan Herndon, Karen Morin-Olivetti, Brendn Green, Sister Fran Fasolka, who is an area native, and, from the Mount Carmel area, Walt Kozlowski, Charles Lucas IV and Jake Betz.
Bishop’s predecessor played role
Gainer said he is proud that one of his predecessors, Bishop John Shanahan, sponsored Kaupas’ new congregation. It was Shanahan, Gainer noted, who encouraged Kaupas and her two nun companions to go to Mount Carmel and gave them the religious names they used as sisters.
Moran recalled that the former St. Peter’s Convent was built in 1950 on land provided by the Visintainer family. He paid tribute to the Felician Sisters, who lived there for more than five decades, for their many years of service ¬in Mount Carmel — first at St. Peter’s School and, after 1964, at the consolidated Holy Spirit School.
At the conclusion of the program, representatives of the Sisters of Saint Casimir, Sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scranton), Felician Sisters and Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius carried portraits of their orders’ respective founders for placement on the walls in the center.
Those attending the dedication had the opportunity to tour the center.