FROM LITHUANIA TO THE UNITED STATES
In 1897, Casimira Kaupas, a young girl living in the quiet village of Gudeliai in Ramygala Lithuania, travelled to the United States to be a housekeeper for her brother-priest, Rev. Anthony Kaupas, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was during her four-year-stay in the United States that Casimira met Sisters for the first time and was attracted to an apostolic religious life.
CASIMIRA KAUPAS PREPARES FOR MINISTRY
Returning to Lithuania in 1902, she felt the call more deeply and resolved to become a teaching religious to help the Lithuanian Americans with the resources to sustain their faith, their spiritual and cultural identity and values. She accepted the offer of Father Anthony Milukas to study at Ingenbohl, Switzerland in preparation for taking part in his “New Project” – a Lithuanian society for women devoted primarily to the press, but also possibly to teaching.
Casimira spent three years in Ingenbohl, Switzerland where the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross taught and prepared her for the work to which God called her. The Priests Council supporting Father Milukas’ project disbanded in 1904. Though deeply distressed, Casimir was encouraged by the Sisters to seek assistance from her brother to pursue the project. It was at this time supported by prayer that Casimira felt chosen by God and was determined to see that this new Congregation would come into existence.
In 1905, she asked her brother and his friend, Father Milukas to find a priest who would assume responsibility for the Congregation. The Rev. Doctor Anthony Staniukynas accepted.
THE NEW CONGREGATION OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS IS SPONSORED
Father Staniukynas succeeded in getting his bishop, Bishop John W. Shanahan of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to sponsor the Congregation. At the Bishop’s request, Mother M. Cyril, IHM accepted Casimira and her two companions, Judith Dvaranauskas and Antanina Unguraitis, into the novitiate of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Scranton, Pennsylvania.
In August of 1907, the three became novices. Father Staniukynas decided the Lithuanian girls must take for themselves, the name of Lithuania’s Patron, Saint Casimir. Thus was born a new congregation in the Church: the Sisters of St. Casimir.
On the evening of August 28, 1907, Casimira asked Bishop Shanahan to give the Sisters their religious names. He turned to each, touched each one and said, “You, Casimira will be Sister Maria, you, Judith will be Sister Concepta, and you, Antanina will be Sister Immaculata.”
SISTERS OF ST. CASIMIR OPEN FIRST SCHOOL
In October 7,1907, Mother Cyril, IHM and Sr. Boniface McGivern, IHM accompanied Mother Maria to Holy Cross Parish, Mount Carmel, PA where Sister Boniface and Mother Maria began preparing for the opening of the school. Mother Cyril returned to Scranton, Sr. Boniface was appointed superior, and by the end of the year Sisters Immaculata and Concepta arrived. On January 6, 1908 the school opened with 70 pupils.
SSC MOTHERHOUSE IS BUILT IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Then came the momentous decision to locate their Motherhouse in Chicago, where the largest Lithuanian population had settled. The first Sisters of St. Casimir arrived in Chicago in January 1911, opening a school in Roseland. The construction of the Motherhouse was completed in 1911. Sister Gabriel, IHM was sent to the Motherhouse to be the first Superior, Novice Directress, and Principal of St. Casimir Academy when it opened in September 1911.
Parish after parish sought teaching Sisters; appeals came from Waukegan, IL, Philadelphia, PA, and other Lithuanian colonies spread throughout the United States. Young women swelled the community’s ranks.
MOTHER MARIA IS ELECTED FIRST GENERAL SUPERIOR
In 1913, Sister Maria was elected first General Superior, an office to which she was re-elected until her death. For twenty-seven years, she carried out these responsibilities with great humility and charity.
The book, A Journey in Faith, published by the Sisters of St. Casimir on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of their founding, provides detailed information about the General Superiors who followed Mother Maria, along with the widespread presence of the Sisters of St. Casimir felt up to this present time.