Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Tradition Continues

For those Alumnae and veteran staff members who had the privilege to be at Maria High School during the holiday season, this Christmas tradition was one of the highlights of the entire year. 

Sr.Joanna Marie, SSC, would come to the auditorium to lead the entire student body in a special rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". It would start with the seniors, then to the juniors, sophomores, and freshman. Each section would have an assigned day. Each day had a special, silly movement. 

To many students, the entire object of this special day was to be louder and more crazy than the day before you. It was intensely competitive, sometimes accompanied by homeroom rehearsals. 

It's an awesome tradition, and many feared it would die with the closing of Maria High School. 

Video, 2002, Melissa Schachter

Video, 2013, Britt Quinn

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Breaking the Christmas Bread at MKC!

It's the tradition of "Breaking of the Christmas Bread"! Sister came a shared a special family tradition with our MKC family. It was 



The teens were wishing each other love and joy for their holidays. This scene was reminiscent of every Christmas eve I'd ever seen for my entire life. There was love and warmth and joy, and all from students who'd only known each other a short while. It was like walking into a room of a large, extended family.

The best thing this alum has seen in a very long time. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Necessity: the MKC

Yesterday the MKC saw a very busy day-- with over fifty regular attendants and more than twenty new visitors, we had a full house! It was amazing to see our teens eating together, cooperating, and playing games.

The Center opened at noon yesterday, and by 12:05 we saw over twenty kids pass through those big blue doors. By 1:30 PM, the MKC saw over 25 new faces. It was so awesome to see teens come and explore the space. We showed parents around, saw the beginning of new friendships, and some playful competitions.

The Center had special hours yesterday-- and we were only open until 3:00 PM. The teens who came by stayed until the very last minute-- helping us clean and straighten up. They wanted to stay so badly, it was amazing. "Please, Ms.Quinn... just like, 15 more minutes. We want to stay."-- and we were floored.

So many high school students don't seek structured social involvement. When I was in high school I liked to get the two hour commute out of the way. I just wanted to be home. Then it hit me.

I wanted to be home because I felt safe there. I felt loved and accepted, no matter how bad my day. That's what the MKC is bringing to students who feel they do not have that sense of stability and support at home. Some teens are anxious to go home at the end of programming-- but most want to stay as late as we are willing to stay open. We offer a clean, safe, and loving environment where they can feel "at home".

Every day we aim to do everything as the Sisters of St.Casimir foundress (our namesake), 
Mother Maria Kaupas, intended--

"Always more, always better, always with love." 

That's our mission, really. We seek to provide more-- to serve these teens in a holistic sense. We seek to do better-- to create better thinkers, philanthropists, and spiritual beings. We seek to do all things with love-- to make these students feel the love and presence of a higher power in their lives. Our teens view us as "necessary"-- in such a way that they feel we are necessary in their lives. 

Every day, it seems like a new student tells us something like--

"I need this place. MKC is where I want to be."

"MKC is gonna 'turn up'. We're here to be good." 

"I love this place. Please stay open later."

This place is important to so  many-- myself included. It's changing the worldview of students, and teaching us, the staff, about the importance of love, acceptance, and philanthropy in our every day lives. 

We want to wish everyone a very happy Christmas, from the Maria Kaupas Center. 
Here's to many more! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!

2013, Patheos publication
Pictured: Pope Francis washes and kisses the feet of young men in prison

Yesterday, December 17th, Pope Francis celebrated his 77th birthday. He was honored by the Catholic Community, human rights activists, and a myriad of publications.

Pope Francis was also named Time Magazine's "Person of the Year". He is honored for his simplicity, and being an active voice for the poor and impoverished.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Written by Charles M Schulz and directed by Bill Melendez, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is an interesting juxtaposition to the usual classic Christmas tale.

With a cast composed of children, rather than voice actors-- and the first full-length jazz score, we are introduced to a cartoon that changed the structure of media.

We meet our friend, Charlie Brown, in the midst of the holiday season. He is repelled by the commercialism that surrounds  him, and seeks to find and express the "true meaning of Christmas".

Towards the end of the cartoon, we hear Linus give a monologue about the true meaning of Christmas--

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men
Luke 2:8-14 

As a youth, this was my favorite part of the cartoon. The end of the monologue would be met with my grandfather's yell of "You tell them, Linus!"-- every year. It never changed. It was an exclamation of joy and excited admiration. He was just so impressed  that someone "got it". 

To keep alive this tradition, we have located a free, legal way to watch this amazing cartoon-- anytime you please, this holiday season. Share with someone who has never watched it. Share with someone who loves the story. Just share and enjoy!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Long Walk: Prayer in Memory of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela's Inaugural Speech in Pretoria, May, 1994: 
"Out of  the experience  of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender,and other discrimination. Never, never, and never again will shall it be that the beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.... The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement." 

The Long Walk
Prayer in Memory of Nelson Mandela

The long walk to freedom
Leads where we’d never imagine.
Blinding blasts of fate and grace
Forge God’s unlikely stalwarts.

A young man’s peaceful ways
Stumbled as blood ran ruts
Into a path that led not to hope
But to ten thousand days in prison.

Breaking rocks in the glaring sun
Stole sight, but sharpened vision
For ways to break down walls
Of solid hate and oppression.

Freedom came, yet not truly
Until there was forgiveness.
If not asked, still freely given,
The balm of reconciliation.

Revenge was not an option
For a people moving forward.
Debt and AIDS and more foes still
Stretched the trail for an aging man.

Lord, welcome your servant Nelson
His journey finally done.
Strengthen our steps with your Spirit
On the long walk to freedom.

                                                                                                   , 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

"Tradition says that the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexican indigenous worker, at a hill in North-west Mexico City in 1531. She remains a sign of hope for workers, Mexicans, and indigenous persons all over the world." 
-Jane Daren,,2013

Hail Mary, Lady of Peace, 
We pray for the peace in our world; make up peacemakers.

Hail Mary, Friend of common people, 
Unite us across economic lines; together let us raise up the cause of the oppressed.

Hail Mary, Mother of Mexico, 
Help us both appreciate Latin America's culture and work to end its poverty.

Hail Mary, Mother of the infant Jesus, 
We pray for all children who are victims of war and hunger; let us stand for them.

Hail Mary, Wife of the carpenter Joseph, 
We pray for the rights of hardworking laborers in all the world; let their dignity be recognized.

Hail Mary, Woman of generations, 
Move us to speak for the elderly who lack adequate health care and shelter. 

Hail Mary, Homeless Mother, 
We pray for those without homes; let us advocate for affordable housing.

Hail Mary, Lady of all colors,
Show us how to love all people by challenging racism and discrimination.

Hail Mary, Mother of Our World, 
Make us global citizens, working for justice and well-being in all the world.

                                                                                   - Jane Daren,,2013

Together we pray for Peace:  

Diso te salve, María. Llena eres de gracia, 
El señor es contigo.
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres.
Y bendito es el fruto de tu vietre: Jes
Santa María, Madre de Dios,
Ruega por nosotros pecadores,
Ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Staying Warm: Warming Centers in Chicago

Let's work together to make sure everyone is warm and safe this Winter Season!

The city of Chicago has issued a cold weather warning beginning tonight at 6:00 PM, ending tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM. If you (or someone you know) are without adequate heat-- please check out this information below!

Bitter cold temperatures are more than an inconvenience; they pose a serious threat to health and safety. The City of Chicago has many services available to help residents weather the winter months.

Call 3-1-1 to:
·         Locate a Warming Center near you
·         Request a well-being check for someone who may be suffering from extreme weather
·         Report inadequate heat in a residential building
·         Learn about programs that assist with home heating costs
·         Connect to shelter and supportive services
Protect Yourself and Family:
·         Wear several layers of loose, warm clothing
·         Keep your head, hands and feet covered when outdoors
·         Avoid alcoholic beverages
·         Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia: stiff muscles, shivering, puffy or swollen face, cold skin, slow     breathing and mental confusion

1140 W. 79th Street
Chicago, IL 60620

10 S. Kedzie Ave.
Chicago, IL 60612

4314 S. Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL 60653

4740 N. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60640

8650 S. Commercial Ave.
Chicago, IL 60617

4357 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60639

Never use an extension cord with a space heater. Ovens should not be used to heat homes


A Warming Center is a heated facility where Chicagoans can go to find safe refuge from extreme weather.

The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) operates six Warming Centers during work weekdays when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. Additional facilities are opened as needed including Senior Centers, libraries, and Park District buildings. The Warming Centers that DFSS operates are not open on weekday holidays unless specifically indicated. This is why it is so important to contact 3-1-1 for Warming Center information, especially during off hours or on holidays.

The Garfield Center, located at 10 S. Kedzie Avenue, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to connect residents to supportive services and emergency shelter.

Call 3-1-1 to locate a Warming Center in your area.


Please Note: New Hours Beginning December 1, 2013

9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday (Effective December 1, 2013)

(DFSS Warming Centers are not open on weekday holidays unless specifically indicated. Hours and days may be extended under extreme conditions. Also, other City facilities might be designated for warming purposes during off hours, That is why it is important to call 3-1-1 for information concerning Warming Center locations, especially during off hours and on weekday holidays)

Landlords must heat residential buildings to at least 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees overnight. If you are unable to resolve a heating problem with your landlord, call 3-1-1.

For additional information, please check out 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Year, New You: Teen Health Awareness!

Happy New Year from the Maria Kaupas Center!!! 



New Year, New You!

With the New Year approaching, let us focus on making positive changes and healthy choices!
We invite all CMHS high school scholars and their parents to join Ms.Diane Zimmerman-Hennessy, LPN (MHS '96) for a discussion on your teen's health. We invite you to come, listen, ask questions-- and discover important ways to keeps our teens safe and healthy.
Join us on January 16, 2014 at 7:00 PM in the Maria Kaupas Center.
*If you are able, please RSVP with Britt Quinn or Amy Eckhouse at the Maria Kaupas Center- 773.925.8686

We look forward to seeing you there!

¡Nuevo Año, Nuevo Tú!

Con el Año Nuevo que se acerca, vamos a centrarnos en hacer cambios positivos y opciones saludables!
Instamos a todos los estudiosos de la escuela secundaria de CMHS y sus padres para unirse a Ms.Diane Zimmerman-Hennessy, LPN (MHS '96) para una discusión sobre la salud de su adolescentes. Te invitamos a venir, escuchar, hacer preguntas -- y descubrir maneras importantes que mantiene a nuestros adolescentes seguros y saludables.
Unete a nosotros el 16 de enero de 2014 a las 19:00 en el Centro Maria Kaupas!
Si puedes, por favor confirmar tu asistencia con Britt Quinn o Amy Eckhouse en el Centro Maria Kaupas - 773.925.8686

¡Esperamos verlos allí!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gingerbread Houses with Ms.Etch

Yesterday the teens were invited to a special cooking class segment on building gingerbread houses. All of the students who participated admitted that they'd never built one before. They look so amazing-- you'd never believe they were all first-timers!

Ms.Etch instructs the students on building a solid structure to decorate

Several students quickly learn this is not as easy as it looks!

These boys work together to fill an icing bag... the resulting mess was well worth it!

Quickly, these stacks of geometric shapes start to look like houses!

We learned it takes A LOT of icing to make that gingerbread stick together!

Decorating was the easiest part!

Here are the final products. They look awesome!

A special thanks to Ms.Etch for heading up this workshop! The teens learned a lot-- and had so much fun!

The class ended as all gingerbread house constructions end... with students asking very politely if they can eat the remnants of the frosting bags! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Appeal

Dear Friend,

Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives.
~ Fr. Edward Hays
Fr. Hays, a Roman Catholic priest and prolific writer on prayer and contemporary spirituality, suggests that perhaps the most intimate Christmas joy comes not from celebrating a birth that occurred some two thousand years ago, but rather from experiencing Christ’s rebirth in our own Bethlehems: our homes, our families, our communities.

The Maria Kaupas Center (MKC) is indeed a little Bethlehem. In this space Christ is reborn on a daily basis as we introduce Him to the scholars of Catalyst-Maria School, some of whom are meeting Him for the very first time. As a Catholic community center, we share with these young people the beautiful traditions of our Catholic faith and introduce them to the many ways a relationship with Jesus will improve their lives. In this way, we carry on the mission of St. Casimir Academy and Maria High School and of the Sisters of St. Casimir.

As a past supporter of that very same mission, we are asking you to take a few minutes out of the whirlwind of Christmas activities to learn about the Maria Kaupas Center; then, after prayerful consideration, we hope you will choose to support our efforts.

The MKC opened to the students of Catalyst-Maria High School in September, and in just three short months close to 33% of the students have become registered members. We have transformed the former convent that sits at the south end of the school building into a vibrant, colorful space that echoes with laughter, a place where kids feel safe and valued.

Daily after-school attendance at the Center averages between 30 and 50 students. Each afternoon begins with Daily Reflection, a 15 – 20 minute spiritual exercise in the chapel that touches upon topics as varied as the traditions of Advent to bullying to a Q-and-A with Christ. The rest of the afternoon includes the options of scheduled programming, homework, and hanging out with friends.

Just this month, we have extended our outreach to include sixth graders by inviting them to participate in either a jewelry-making entrepreneurship program facilitated by a dedicated volunteer or a sewing service learning project directed by Sister Elizabeth Ann Yocius, SSC.

We have come far in a short time, but the reality is we have much work to do, or much work we want to do. We want to offer sacramental prep classes to younger students, establish a conversational English class for Spanish-speaking parents, and put in place mentorship programs pairing Catalyst high school students with college students from University of Illinois, Chicago and Lewis University.  We want to offer community outreach where our students can teach community members basic computer skills. We are blessed with an energetic, creative staff that is bursting with ideas for making the MKC a place the Sisters and the community can be proud of.

Turning these dreams into reality, however, will require others to invest in our vision. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to create a community center. The Catalyst organization has been generous to us as have the Sisters of St. Casimir, and we have been successfully pursuing funding from outside organizations. The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has officially recognized our mission.
As a past friend of SCA/Maria, we would like to invite you to join this community of believers - individuals and organizations who trust that offering the scholars of Catalyst-Maria a safe space defined by faith, love, and opportunity will reap dividends not only for the young people who take advantage of it but also for their families, their communities, and society.
As in so many things, we turn to Mother Maria, foundress of the Sisters of St. Casimir and namesake of our center to inspire and fortify us.  Her words capture our own conviction that faith and hope will light our way and guide us to the realization of our goals:

What will sustain us . . . and encourage us . . ., if not FAITH in God’s Providence and the HOPE of a better, brighter future?
Please consider supporting our little Bethlehem here at 67th and California.

The MKC Staff and Supporters

P.S.  If you are able, please insert your tax-deductible gift in an envelope and submit to: 

Maria Kaupas Center
2740 W 68th Street
Chicago, IL 60629


The Maria Kaupas Center is a Catholic space where spirituality, community and leadership merge,
creating opportunities for people of all faiths to grow and develop as effective agents of God's love.

The Maria Kaupas Center formally adheres to the Church teaching and practices

as determined by the Church leadership of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Staff Spotlight: Britt Quinn

     In the fourth installment of this series, Britt Quinn will answer questions for our 
"Staff Spotlight"! 

1. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up on Chicago's southside.

2. Where did you go to school-high school, college, grad school?

I attended Maria High School!  After high school I attended North Central College; a small United Methodist institution in Naperville, IL. I received my non-denominational ordination after I graduated from college.

3. Did you know you've always wanted to work in the field you’re in now? 

I've always wanted to work in the non-profit sector. 

When I was in high school I volunteered at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. I loved every moment of it. I went on to work there as the Education Coordinator after college. I learned so much about worthwhile causes, fundraising, grant writing, and philanthropy. I knew that the non-profit sector was where I wanted to dedicate my time.

In school, I worked for my college's Information and Technology Services Dept. This is where I learned many of the technological skills I use today. 

A religious atmosphere has been important to me-- it's a large part of why I chose North Central as the place where I'd continue my education. 

Working here has been an interesting position-- it's merged all of my major interests and talents in one place. Every day is something new, and I know I'm making a difference.

4. What is your favorite thing about the Center? 

I love everything about the Center. This is the first place I've ever worked where I find myself excited to come to my office in the morning. 

The students we work with make my day. I know I'm doing something good everyday by being here for them. One day we will be able to expand our reach beyond students-- and that will be so exciting. There are so many positive implications for the work we are doing here. It's going to be amazing to see what happens as the Center evolves. 

5. What is your favorite food?

That's difficult. I love food, as an experience. Trying new things is one of the best parts of my daily routine. Overall, I'm always in the mood for sushi... particularly escolar. 

I would eat some right now... let's go get sushi.

6. What is your favorite book? Why?

That's another tough question. While I cannot pick a "favorite"-- Paulo Coehlo's works have had an intense impact on my life. "The Alchemist" was the first Coehlo work I read. His passages on love, the universe conspiring to help you, and taking charge of personal destinies really spoke to me.

A special thanks to Britt for taking the time to answer these questions!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Calling all MKC Blog Followers!

With your help, the Maria Kaupas Center could be a winner in a $2,000 Holiday giveaway from our fundraising partner,
All you have to do is shop through Goodshop - their online shopping mall that donates to our cause every time you shop at 4,000+ partner brands, like Macy’s, Target, Lands’ End, Expedia and more. Weekdays from Dec 2 - Dec 13, every purchase you make enters us for a daily draw of $200! 
If you’re shopping for the Holidays anyway, why not shop through Goodshop and make every purchase count? It’s safe, quick, easy and you can also find 100,000+ coupons and Holiday deals on the site.  
Every little bit counts towards supporting important programs that give back to the Marquette Park community! 
Thanks for you support & helping to make the Holidays matter!
Britt Quinn
Media Outreach & Alumnae Relations

P.S. Get more details about the competition here and about Goodshop here.

What is Advent, Again?

The season of Advent began yesterday, December 1st, 2013. 

"Advent" comes from the Latin word adventus, which means "arrival". It is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. 

That is why Advent comes before Christmas; we are waiting and preparing to celebrate!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Staff Spotlight: Cheryl Tolish

     In the third installment of this series,  we'd like to introduce Cheryl Tolish for our 
"Staff Spotlight"! 

1.     Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the southwest suburbs, Hickory Hills, but my grandmother lived just about a mile from the MKC. I remember driving up Kedzie to visit her and loving the smells of baking bread and cookies that came from the Nabisco factory! Little did I know that someday I would be working right here in the neighborhood.

2.       Where did you go to school-high school, college, grad school?  (Be as detailed as you like!)

I attended Amos Alonzo Stagg in Palos Hills, and I loved every minute of it. It was then that I decided I wanted to be an English teacher someday. Once out of high school, I went to three colleges before I graduated. I started out at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI, but my dad, who was an electrician, got laid off, so for financial reasons, I had to return home and attend a community college for a year. Then I transferred to Villanova University outside Philadelphia, where I earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. Leaving Carthage was a huge disappointment at the time for I had made good friends and was enjoying my classes. However, in hindsight, I realize that being able to live and attend school in another part of the country was an amazing opportunity that helped me grow as a person. It was one of the first times that I understood that I need to trust that God has a plan for me.

3.       Did you know you’ve always wanted to work in the field you’re in now? What drew you to the MKC? (Or, in Amy’s case—what was your epiphanous moment? How did you conceive this idea?)

I did not realize that I would be working in the field of grant writing until about ten years ago. Up until then I had been a teacher. I taught English at all levels: grammar school, high school, community college, and college, and I enjoyed every class I ever taught. There is something very rewarding about knowing you have helped a person achieve an “ah-ha! I get it!!” moment.  But when I was teaching at my parish school, Infant Jesus of Prague, in Flossmoor, I was asked to help our school apply for a Department of Education Blue Ribbon by writing the application. I did, and we were fortunate enough to win. After that, I started doing more writing for the school, and I eventually came to understand that as much as I loved the classroom, my new calling was to use my talents as a writer to find resources to enhance the educational experiences of students. I became a full time grant writer at Prairie State College, then at Maria High School. Being at Maria, I knew of the plans to create the MKC, and while seeing Maria close was painful, I couldn’t help but get excited about the prospect of establishing a Catholic community center that would have the potential to serve so many more people than Maria could. When I was invited to join the MKC team, I jumped at the chance.

4.        What is your favorite thing about the Center?

I have so many favorite things about the Center. The people with whom I work are dedicated, driven, and very, very talented. Working with them brings out the best in me. I also love to see how much the scholars appreciate and enjoy the space. They realize they have something special here, and they take care of it. Probably the thing I love most is what comes out of the Daily Reflections. The way the scholars open up, with honesty and integrity, is inspiring.

5.       What is your favorite food?

Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I guess I will go with veal scaloppini with risotto.

6.       What is your favorite book? Why?

Another tough one.  There are lots of books that I like, but Catcher in the Rye comes to mind because I love Holden Caulfield’s determination to preserve her sister’s innocence. I also love Pride and Prejudice because I have always had a huge crush on Mr. Darcy.

A special thanks to Cheryl for taking the time to answer these questions!!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Staff Spotlight: Amy Eckhouse

In the second installment of this series,  we'd like to introduce Amy Eckhouse for our 
"Staff Spotlight"! 

1. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Alton, IL-- a town just south of St.Louis, MO. 

2. Where did you go to school-high school, college, grad school?

I attended Marquette High School in Alton, IL, a Catholic High School now called Marquette Catholic High School where I was taught by the Ursuline Sisters.   After high school, I went on to study Special Education at Eastern Illinois University and received a B.S. in Education.  Years later, I attended Loyola University and I obtained a M.A. in Spirituality.

3. Did you know you've always wanted to work in the field you’re in now? What was your epiphanous moment that lead to the idea for the Maria Kaupas Center?

When I was in high school, I had a very wise mentor/Ursuline Sister in Theology and knew from these experiences in spirituality that I wanted to contribute in the same way that I witnessed in High school.  I taught for 28 years - most of these years, freshmen/junior/senior Theology and for fourteen of these years, directed Kairos retreats, coached girls' basketball and softball.  These years working with young people were unbelievably rewarding and even though I recently moved my career in a different direction, I will never forget the hundreds of students who crossed my path.
Months prior to Maria High school closing, the Sisters of St. Casimir and the Christian Brothers had a vision for the former convent which is now the Maria Kaupas Center.  They believed that this space would be perfect for a Catholic center.  They put together a think tank and ultimately decided to carry this vision out.  Last year, as Maria High School was coming to a close and getting ready for the Charter Public School to enter,  the Sisters of St. Casimir and the Christian Brothers graciously asked me to visualize what the former convent could be, I jumped at the chance to give some insights.

In January of 2013, I was hired to put the collective vision in place. What an immense honor.  The Maria Kaupas Center has so much potential.  We are at the very beginning stages of development.  Stay tuned!

4. What is your favorite thing about the Center? 

My favorite component of the center is that it is a place where young people from the public school can come to learn about God, community, leadership and service.  It is a pioneering model...
I love it that the first thing we do before any programming is go to the chapel for 15 minutes to unwind from the day and have a short conversation about God's love,  the benefits of paying it forward, or being committed to the decisions one makes, etc. I love it that this center is a fun, safe place to play pool, ping pong, board games, foosball, bags and so many other possibilities.  Currently, the students who come to our center get dismissed from school at 4:00.  They need a place like the Maria Kaupas Center to unwind, have some popcorn, do homework, or simply talk to their friends.  

5.What is your favorite food?

Chicken Alfredo

6. What is your favorite book? Why?

There is no way I can pick a favorite book, but the one I am enjoying right now is Michael Singer's "The Untethered Soul". 

I enjoy books that delve into the development of consciousness.  Michael helps the reader appreciate the present moment.

A special thanks to Amy for taking the time to answer these questions!!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thank You: PNC Neighborhood Wishlist

As many of you know, we have a grant-funded class called "Eating Light, Eating Right". It's a program about making healthy eating choices and exploring more healthful options in your everyday consumption. 

Yesterday the MKC had some special visitors from PNC! They came to interview MKC staff, volunteers, and teens to talk about this awesome project. 

Over 100 projects were funded through the PNC Neighborhood Wishlist program, and six were chosen to be spotlighted. The MKC's "Eating Light, Eating Right" program was one of the six projects to be spotlighted! 

This is such a huge honor for us!

To learn more about the PNC Neighborhood Wishlist, visit their About Page.

Here is a sneak peek at what went on at the Center yesterday-- we'll look forward to viewing more once PNC make the content from their visit available!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Staff Spotlight: Wendy Lynn

In the first of a multiple-part series, we'd like to introduce Wendy Lynn as the first profile for our 
"Staff Spotlight"! 

1. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up on Chicago's northwest side. 

2. Where did you go to school-high school, college, grad school? 

 I attended: Alvernia High School (’69) which closed in 1989. Alvernia was an all-girls’ Catholic high school run by the School Sisters of St. Francis.St. Xavier University (’85), B.A. business Administration
University of Illinois at Chicago (’07), MBA, concentration in accounting and finance.

3. Did you know you’ve always wanted to work in the field you’re in now? What drew you to the MKC?

While in high school, I wanted to work in Catholic education. Life took me in another direction where I had to go to work instead of college. I had a successful career in business for 39 years, mostly in human resources. My work required that I feel comfortable in strategic planning, law, finance, and accounting as well as human resources, so I operated as a general manager in my last corporate position as Vice President of Benefits Consulting for an insurance company in Chicago.

In 2008, I learned that Maria High School was conducting a search for a new president, and I decided to apply for the position.  I hoped that my business background could help another single gender Catholic high school remain open. The many challenges that existed at Maria proved to be too great for us to succeed financially. So the Sisters of St. Casimir and the Maria High School leadership convened a think tank to bring life back to the complex on California Avenue and Marquette Road. Our best opportunity for a financially viable school was one that was publicly funded. We found a partner in Catalyst Network of Charter Schools which embodies an ethos that could point back to many of the world religions, especially the Catholic religion: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Catalyst – Maria opened in our beloved Maria High School in September 2012. When fully deployed, Catalyst will have 1100 scholars in grades K-12 for both genders.

The think tank also envisioned a Catholic Community Center which would operate in the former Maria High School convent, providing wrap around services to the school and to families in the community. It would also be a place for the St. Casimir Academy and Maria High School alumnae relations to take a foothold. So in the summer of 2012, we created a new think tank that would focus on the mission and vision of this Community Center.

Since the center was living out the mission of the Sisters of St. Casimir in a new way, we thought that the name Maria Kaupas Center, after the foundress of the Sisters of St. Casimir, would be a fitting name. 

4. What is your favorite thing about the Maria Kaupas Center? 

My favorite thing about the MKC is the people: the people who work here, the people who volunteer here, and the people who come here to share in our faith life: the students, the alums, and the people from the community.

5. What is your favorite food? 

Hmm, favorite food. It’s so hard to pick only one. I’ll say my father-in-law’s chili recipe. It’s not too spicy, and I think of him whenever we make it.
      6. What is your favorite book? Why?

     I have many favorite books. One that I just read is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”. It is a story of Christopher, a 15-year old boy with Asperger's syndrome (a type of autism), who finds his neighbor’s dog “murdered”. I liked the book because it was poignant, at times funny, and gave insight to how Christopher perceived the world and relationships. His life is turned upside down and he has to figure out how to cope with the new information. A quick and engaging read.

A special thanks to Wendy for taking time to answer these questions!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Calling all 6th Graders at Catalyst- Maria Charter!

Do you know a 6th grader at The Catalyst Schools (Maria Charter) who would enjoy learning to sew? 

If so, please check out the information on "Sacred Sewing"! It's a service project at the Maria Kaupas Center open to 6th graders! 

Sacred Sewing Permission Slip & Information

The permission slip and fee are due by November 22nd, 2013 (that's this Friday)! 

If you have any questions, please contact us at the Maria Kaupas Center via phone at 773.925.8686, or email our Program Director, Amy Eckhouse

We hope to see you soon!