Volume 28, No. 2 - Summer 1982
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1982 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

The Founding of the Sisters of St. Casimir — Mother Maria Kaupas

Eds., Marilyn Kuzmickus, SSC & M. Agnesine Dering, SSC, with introductory study by John M. Bolzano CMF (Chicago, 1981: Claret Center for Resources in Spirituality, Vol. One), 177 pages, soft cover, with index, no price given.

On the eve of their seventy-fifth anniversary, the Sisters of St. Casimir, headquartered in Chicago, have discovered hitherto unknown manuscripts relating to their origin, set down by their foundress. Adding to the sisters' jubilee joy is the selection of these unpublished materials for inclusion in a project of the Claretian Fathers, examining the start of women's religious communitites. In fact the Lithuanian nuns are honored to be the first in the research series.

The handsomely designed and printed Founding is clearly of interest to ethnic historians. Lozano's explanatory chapter furnishes a good composite and analysis of the original memoirs. The reader learns of the interplay among a number of important figures, such as Fathers Anthony Milukas, Anthony Kaupas and the early Lithuanian immigrant women aspiring to religious life, including Kaupas' sister, Casimira, destined to be the first Mother General. The narratives span two continents and three countries, enveloping Lithuania (then under the tsar), Switzerland, and the United States in its scenario. Especially engaging is the tale of interethnic harmony in the generally cordial dealings of bishops from Irish stock and their Lithuanian subjects in dioceses of Pennsylvania and later, Chicago.

The Founding is a carefully crafted publication, accurately annotated with extensive, illuminating footnotes, a task for which Sisters Marilyn and Agnesine are to be commended. Their translations from Lithuanian read smoothly, and capture the simple peasant quality of the recollections.

A few observations here may serve to refine several statements in the sourcebook. It is customary to attribute to Father Anthony Staniukynas the start of the Lithuanian Priests' League of America (p. 126) in 1909. Would it not be more appropriate to say he revived the clergy association? At the Forty Hours solemnitites at Plymouth, Pennsylvania in December 1894, Father Joseph Žebris (from Waterbury, Connecticut) initiated the "Lietuviszkų Amerikos Kunigų Draugystė", with seven charter members choosing him as president.

Father Peter Saurusaitis (omitted from the index) several times (e.g. p. 28) is called a "religious" or "well-known religious." Actually he was a diocesan priest during his service among the Lithuanians. The former Redemptorist was canonically dispensed from his vows and canonically severed from his community in the spring of 1898, when he assumed the pastorate of St. Joseph Parish in Waterbury. The laity, however, unschooled in church procedures, popularly regarded Saurusaitis as an order priest. Hence the common misconception about him as a "religious."

One might quibble about a few minor details. Perhaps it would be a better translation to give Lithuanian genitive plurals in the nominative case, such as "verstai" instead of "verstų", as on p. 13 and elsewhere. To relieve the reader from guessing, it might be better to give first names, instead of pursuing the annoying Lithuanian habit of providing only initials. It would be helpful to know when and where Mother Maria's letters were published (p. 9).

May the appearance of the Founding spur the other two US sisterhoods of Lithuanian roots to sift through their archives in search of memoirs. The genesis of the Sisters of Jesus Crucified and of the Lithuanian Franciscans would make a fascinating comparison, alongside the story of the St. Casimir religious. As to the first group, why did their founder, Father Alphonsus become an outcast to some, and a hero to others? The Franciscans' origin is more intriguing, shaped out of Polish-Lithuanian tensions. Precisely what happened to make a certain number of Lithuanian girls bolt from the Polish religious congregation in which they had made their vows? And what was the role of the bishops and the attitude of Rome regarding this "secession" that led to a separate community? While living witnesses are still available, it behooves both the sisterhoods to gather oral testimony for the sake of both ethnic and Catholic history.

Copies of the Founding, a useful addition to Lithuaniana, are available from the St. Casimir Motherhouse at 2601 W. Marquette Rd., Chicago, 60629. Though available gratis, a modest donation for postage and handling would be welcome.

William Wolkovich-Valkavičius
U.S. Lithuanian Immigrant Studies
12 Plant Ave. Hudson, Mass. 01749