Sister Theresa Papsis, SSC, practiced weekly with the Dainava Lithuanian Chorale for over a year, preparing to join over 1,500 singers on stage for the Tenth North American Song Festival, held at the UIC Pavilion on July 5, 2015. The Festival program included songs based on ancient folk melodies and traditional choral settings, as well as contemporary arrangements.
When asked about this special Lithuanian song event, Sister Theresa eagerly shares stories about its history and the many other festivals, both national and international, in which she has been involved over the years. This includes the very first North American Lithuanian song festival held in 1956 while she was a student at Maria High School in Chicago. Though being a part of the Festival requires a commitment of dedicated time and personal priorities, Sister Theresa doesn’t mind. “Preparing for the Song Festival is lots of work,” she admits, “but I enjoy it for the love of music and the Lithuanian language.”
Sister Theresa’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Lithuania. She was raised in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago and has participated in Lithuanian cultural affairs for as long as she can remember. Sister Theresa enthusiastically joined these groups and later pursued her love of music with educational training. She holds a Master’s degree in music from De Paul University and has taught chorus and private voice and piano lessons.
A member of the Maria High School Music Department from 1977 to 1997, Sister Theresa took a hiatus from her Chicago ministry in 1995 to teach music appreciation for a year at Kaunas Jesuit High School in Lithuania. While there, she also served as organist for the Lithuanian Sisters of St. Casimir at Pazaislis, near the city of Kaunas. Sister Theresa has played the organ in the Sisters of St. Casimir chapel in Chicago for many years, and continues to prepare the liturgies for the monthly Mother Maria Masses.
Ever mindful of her Lithuanian heritage, Sister Theresa is a long-time member of the Knights of Lithuania, an organization with the goal of keeping alive among its members an appreciation of the Lithuanian language, customs, and culture while also stressing the importance of Roman Catholic beliefs. In 2006, Sister Theresa received the Fourth Degree award at the Knights of Lithuania’s 93rd Convention. She was given this highest honor for over 20 years of faithful service to the organization. Throughout this time Sister has contributed her services as musician, choir member, and a main participant in a host of other activities. Sister Johanna Marie Shainauskas, SSC, Sister Janine Golubickis, SSC, and Sister Margaret Petcavage, SSC, also members of the Knights of Lithuania, were on hand to see Sister Theresa receive this honor.
The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Casimir was founded in 1907 by Venerable Mother Maria Kaupas to sustain and nurture the faith life of the early Lithuanian immigrants in the United States. Over the years the Sisters of St. Casimir have lived the Gospel vision of a peaceful, loving, and just world by ministering to all God’s people across the United States and in Argentina, South America.