The News-Item, Shamokin, PA December 8, 2014 edition
MOUNT CARMEL — A little over a century ago, Mother Maria Kaupas, founder of a new religious order, ministered to Lithuanian immigrants in Mount Carmel.
Today, the pastor and parishioners of Divine Redeemer Church are hoping Kaupas’ example of service to others will inspire present and future generations to embrace a new spirit of evangelization and recommit themselves to the task of revitalizing the Mount Carmel area and surrounding communities.
That is why the former St. Peter’s Convent on West Avenue is being renamed the “Mother Maria Kaupas Center,” the Rev. Martin Moran, pastor, explained. Moran, who announced the impending name change at Sunday obligation Masses two weeks ago, told parishioners that in addition to housing vital spiritual and charitable initiatives, programming will be established there to give college students an opportunity to participate in local community service projects.
Moran, who is a former national executive director of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, is particularly excited about prospects to have institutions of higher education involved in the center’s work. Divine Redeemer, with strong support from Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg, is working, Moran said, to finalize a partnership with a nearby college.
The college, using the Kaupas Center as a base of operations, would conduct a study to identify pressing community needs, and then would hopefully help to address these needs. Prospects for the partnership are very good, Moran said, but he declined to name the college pending final approval by officials there.
The former convent, which once housed religious sisters who taught in St. Peter’s School and later, Holy Spirit School, can comfortably provide overnight accommodations for 10 to 12 college students and their faculty advisers while they are working on Mount Carmel area projects.
According to a plan developed for the center, the building could be used to encourage volunteer efforts by college students from throughout a wide area. Moran noted there are more than 24 colleges, among these five Catholic colleges, within a 70-mile radius of Mount Carmel.
In addition to the college component, the Kaupas Center would be used for ongoing outreach efforts of the parish’s St. Vincent dePaul Society, for an annual outreach project by confirmation students and their parents and a monthly outreach program, which is already under way, for high school students from the seven Catholic parishes in the Northumberland Deanery.
Representatives of the Sisters of St. Casimir, the religious order for women Kaupas founded, are expected to be in Mount Carmel April 12, along with Bishop Gainer, for an official dedication and opening of the Kaupas Center. The event is scheduled to take place on Divine Mercy Sunday, which is observed the Sunday following Easter. The dedication will take place approximately 75 years after Kaupas’ death.
Moran said when efforts to obtain a $50,000 grant from a foundation as seed money to fund the initial three years of the Kaupas Center proved unsuccessful, the Sisters of St. Casimir, which are based in Chicago, donated the funds.
Holy Cross Church, where Kaupas and two fellow nuns began their mission, is one of the five former churches that merged to form Divine Redeemer, so Moran explained that the cause of sainthood for her is extremely important to the parish. She was declared “venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
“It would be wonderful if the center itself ends up being one of Mother Maria’s miracles,” Moran remarked.
That’s not far-fetched at all, he added, since the overriding goal behind creation of the center is to encourage others to become “prophetic witnesses” to the work of Mother Maria.