Bucknell and The Mother Maria Kaupas Center

MOUNT CARMEL — Building relationships in the community, developing solutions to local problems and conducting research to determine what prompted European immigrants and their descendants to live and remain in the coal region are the main objectives of students and professors at Bucknell University this summer.
The Mother Maria Kaupas Center in the 400 block of West Avenue, which was dedicated April 12 in honor of the founder of Holy Cross School for children of Lithuanian immigrants in the borough, will serve as the field station for their volunteer work.
“We are here to study individuals and the community. We want to get to know as many people as we can from different walks of life and hear their stories about what brought them to Mount Carmel and why they still live here,” commented Jen Silva, a sociology professor at Bucknell who is coordinating the summer action research project.
Silva is being assisted by Bucknell sociology professor Carl Milofsky, Russian studies professor Nick Kupensky, environmental studies professor Ben Marsh and interns Jessi Scheimreif, Erin Frey and Adam Bishop.
They are all working in conjunction with the Rev. Martin Moran III, pastor of Divine Redeemer who helped spearhead the affiliation between Bucknell and Mother Maria Kaupas Center.
Scheimreif is a sociology and psychology major. He is serving as Silva’s intern and will conduct most of his interviews with the younger generation in the community. He lives in New Columbia.
Frey, a resident of Frederick, Md., is majoring in comparative humanities, creative writing and economics and is serving as Kupensky’s intern.
She plans to study the history of all the ethnic churches erected in Mount Carmel and interview current parishioners including those of Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Slovak, Italian and Irish descent. Frey intends to research the lives of coal miners and interview present-day miners who have maintained the same solid work ethic as their predecessors.
Frey’s interviews will also focus on how the borough’s demographics have changed over the years.
Bishop is serving as Milofsky’s intern. He is a native of Linden, Ind., and is majoring in sociology.
Silva added, “We want to identify problems in the community and see how we can help solve some of them. We want to learn about the history of the town by talking to different generations of people who live here.”
The sociology professor, who has written a book on the history and politics of different communities and the struggles young people face in today’s society, plans to comprise a historical booklet based on her team’s findings that will be available at Mother Maria Kaupas Center and Bucknell University.
Milofsky said he and Marsh have worked on various studies in Shamokin, Sunbury and Centralia over the past 30 years and is confident the Mount Carmel project will be successful as well.
“We approached Father Marty last year about the partnership and it has worked out well so far,” Milofsky said. “This is the first real field station that we’ve established.”
Milofsky said he’s looking forward to the opportunities students and educators will have in developing relationships with people and institutions in Mount Carmel and other coal region communities.
Moran, who formerly served as Catholic chaplain at Bucknell and is the dean of the Northumberland Deanery, thanked students and professors at the university for showing a keen interest in Mount Carmel and establishing a presence in the area.
“We wanted to recommemorate the life of Mother Maria Kaupas on the 75th anniversary of her death by establishing the center,” Moran said. “This is a way to revitalize the area by developing a living history from the people who are here today.”
He added, “It’s incredible what has been happened in the past eight months and we want to continue moving forward.”
The priest praised the efforts of everyone who contributed financially to the center and specifically commended the Chicago-based Sisters of Saint Casimir, the religious community founded by Kaupas that donated $50,000 toward the center.
“This is all about building relationships and we hope to expand our efforts in the community,” Moran said.
In addition to securing grants for the center in the future, the pastor hopes to receive donations from Bucknell graduates from the Mount Carmel area, including those who earned Deppen scholarships to attend the prestigious university.
The action research project is one of three different units involving the field station. In the fall, a service learning project will begin. Managing for Sustainability, a three-year pilot program between Bucknell University and Mount Carmel Downtown Inc., also is part of the initiative.
For more information about the summer projects and Mother Maria Kaupas Center, please call 570-339-3450, ext. 319, 320 or 321.