The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago and the Sisters of St. Casimir have had a bond over the years. Recently it was discovered that bond goes back even further to the beginning days of the formation of their congregations. The story came to light with a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the summer of 2014, several of the Sisters of St. Casimir from Chicago moved from their motherhouse in the Chicago Lawn community and took up new residences on the first floor of Our Lady of Victory Convent here in Lemont. After settling into their new home, the Sisters of St. Casimir asked to have a special room set up for their Order for prayer and reflection. Thus, a prayer room was provided in Franciscan Village by the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.
As they were organizing the room with various religious items, the Sisters of St. Casimir brought over a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that had been in their possession for many years. This statue had occupied their motherhouse archives since 1984 but over the years prior to 1984, the statue stayed mainly in the corridor outside the rear vestibule of their Chapel in their motherhouse in Chicago. When moving the statue to the new prayer room, the Sisters discovered a note that was attached to the bottom of the statue. This note provided an explanation on the origin of the statue as well as its fascinating history.
Mother Maria - Foundress of the St. Casimir Sisters
Casimira Kaupas was born in Ramygala, Lithuania in 1880.
She immigrated to the United States in 1897 to work as a housekeeper for her brother, Rev. Anthony Kaupas, pastor of St. Joseph Lithuanian Parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was here she decided to join the religious life and with the help of her brother, sought to establish a Lithuanian congregation of Sisters to not only help educate the Lithuanian children but also to preserve their language, culture and customs.
Thus, the Sisters of St. Casimir were founded in 1907 in Scranton, Pennsylvania by Casimira who then took the name of Sister Maria (later to become Mother Maria). The congregation grew quickly throughout Pennsylvania. Eventually the motherhouse was moved to Chicago in 1911 to minister to the large growing Lithuanian community there.
In 1912, while the Sisters of Casimir were teaching at St. Bartholomew School in Waukegan, Illinois, Ms. Theodora Andruskeviciute purchased a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and presented it as a gift to Sister Maria. Theodora was from the Northside district of Chicago and advised Mother Maria on the art of sewing church linens and vestments. She also persuaded Mother Maria to invite women in the community to form an Auxiliary. The Sisters happily accepted the gift and placed the statue on the altar in the chapel of the St. Bartholomew Convent.
The Foundress Connection
Theodora learned the art of sewing church vestments from none other than the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda (the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago’s original name). Theodora assisted the Franciscan Sisters while she lived and taught at St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish. Mother Mary Theresa Dudzik, the foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago urged Theodora to help Sister Maria and her community and offer her services and knowledge of sewing vestments. Theodora listened to Mother Mary Theresa and began working with the Sisters of St. Casimir. Later, she gave them the Blessed Virgin Mary statue as a gift.
Mother Maria stayed as the General Superior for 27 years from 1913 to 1940. Under her leadership the St. Casimir Sisters grew and expanded in education, healthcare and even establishing a ministry in Argentina.
The Sisters of St. Casimir sought sainthood for Mother Maria and with the assistance of John Cardinal Cody; they began the process of Beatification. In 1986, she was named “Servant of God’ and then later in 2010 she was declared Venerable by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.
Over the years the statue remained at St. Bartholomew and eventually was placed in the archives of the Sisters' motherhouse. This statue now sits in the Sisters of St. Casimir prayer room at Franciscan Village. It serves as a reminder and a connection to the past that ties the two foundresses together who now not only share a path to sainthood but whose Sisters now share residences. Visit the Sisters of St. Casimir's website here