January: Maria Kaupas Center

Our January Ministry of the Month highlights the Maria Kaupas Center in Chicago, Illinois. Sam Wilson is a second-year LV and a 2019 graduate of Manhattan College in New York.

What is the Maria Kaupas Center?

The Maria Kaupas Center (MKC) (located in the former convent connected to the high school) is a faith-based organization that focuses on spirituality, education, leadership and community building. It represents a revitalized mission and renewed evangelization efforts of the Sisters of St. Casimir in light of the closing of their beloved Maria High School. The center was established through collaborative planning by the Sisters of St. Casimir, the De La Salle Christian Brothers, and community and school leaders following the announcement that operations at Maria High School would cease and the Catalyst Network of charter schools would open a K-12 charter school in its place.

How did Sam learn about Lasallian Volunteers?

When Sam was at Manhattan College, she participated in a number of service-immersion trips through Campus Ministry and Social Action. “One of these trips was to New Orleans during my sophomore year, and our two chaperones were former LVs and LV Scholars at Manhattan at the time, Lorenzo Mendez and Megan McShane. I learned about the program from them and was inspired to apply once I became a senior!”

What are the services Sam provides at her ministry?

Sam serves as a restorative justice practitioner, which includes working with high school students who need social and emotional support. “These students come to me for all different reasons, sometimes it is to process the death of a loved one, other times it is to talk through a stressful situation with a friend, and often it is just to vent. No matter the reason a student is sent to check in with me, I approach each of our conversations through the lens of restorative practice—by building relationships, actively listening and working together to move forward.”

Which of the Lasallian Volunteers’ core values (faith, service and community) is most important to Sam? Why?

The most important core value to Sam is community. “Working from home by myself all day is often isolating, but has also taught me that community is sustained not just through physical proximity. My community here in Chicago has had to get creative about how we spend time together, and I’ve had to get creative about how I create community with my students virtually,” shared Sam. “Ultimately I have learned a lot about what it truly means to be present to others, and although it is difficult, it is possible to virtually do that through building relationships via communication and care.”

What is the most important thing Sam’s students need from her?

Sam believes that the most important thing her students need from her is a safe space. “Right now, the whole outside world feels unsafe for all of us. I also recognize that the culture of white supremacy we live under in this country affects the safety of my students every day, with all of them identifying as Black or Latinx. What my students need from me is a place where they can come to feel seen and heard, and to know that I am simply there to hold that space for them. Part of the work to be done on my end in order to provide this space is through participating in anti-racism work and dismantling my internal biases as a white woman. I hope that by providing a safe space my students will feel empowered to speak their truth.”

How has living and/or serving with the De La Salle Christian Brothers impacted you?

As someone who is not Christian, Sam was nervous at first to live with a Brother. However, the experience has ended up showing her how their similarities are often stronger than their differences.

How has Sam’s experience of faith, service and community been impacted due to COVID-19?

Sam believes her perceptions of faith, service and community have been strengthened due to COVID-19. “Although these months have been extremely difficult and sometimes painful, I’ve been inspired many times by my fellow LVs and their commitment to teaching minds and touching hearts in whatever way possible, and I’ve been inspired by the perseverance of my students. Watching all of these people around me continue to move forward despite all of the obstacles 2020 has presented has taught me incredible lessons of faith, service and community!”


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