The Sisters
Our Founder
Logo: Our Lady of Mercy
Our Lady of Šiluva
The Sisters

The Sisters of the Immaculate Conception

History of the Community 

The (Lithuanian) Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary were founded by Blessed George Matulaitis in 1918 at the close of World War I in Marijampole, Lithuania. The war and previous years of political and religious oppression had left in its wake immense religious and social needs. The Founder inspired young women to dedicate their lives to God through service to others.The community grew rapidly. The sisters cared for orphans and the elderly, engaged in nursing and education, operated a printery providing religious and educational material, and engaged in parish pastoral work. To every endeavor, they brought the spirit and motto of their founder - Overcome evil with good

In 1936 the Marian Fathers in Thompson CT requested the Community to send Sisters to help them with their ministry. In response, five sisters were sent to start a mission in the US. This was providential. Hardly three years later, in 1939, the Soviets invaded Lithuania and suppressed all religious communities. Religious life had to continue secretly under pain of threats, incarceration and deportations. 

The five sisters found themselves cut off from their motherhouse in Lithuania. No communication was possible and any interaction with someone in the free world was forbidden and strictly controlled by the Soviets. 

When World War II ended, there was a flurry of Lithuanian refugees. The five Sisters were soon serving the influx of Lithuanian immigrants who sought asylum in the United States. The  Sisters provided care for the elderly in Thompson and having acquired property in neighboring Putnam, they had a residence for high school and college students and summer camp for girls. Soon, they established a printing house in the convent basement and published religious and educational material in the Lithuanian language. 

With an increase in vocations, they established centers in Toronto and Montreal in Canada. There they engaged in pastoral ministry, provided daycare for working parents and conducted retreats.Their summer work was solidified when they established their own camp site in Brattleboro Vermont and expanded the programs to encompass boys, families, weekend programs for adults and camper alumni programs.   

When in 1990 Lithuania regained its independence, the Sisters were instrumental in assisting the Catholic church in Lithuania and their own religious community to restructure their communal presence and resume public activity. To this day, the Sisters continue to share their resources and their varied American experience with their community and Church in their homeland.   

Time brings constant change and each change challenges the Sisters to respond as their Founder urged them - “go where the need is greatest."

Currently, the Immaculate Conception convent and Center serves as a place of prayer and reflection, provides educational programs and other faith sustaining events.     
Our Founder

Blessed Archbishop George Matulaitis

Blessed Arch. George Matulaitis

“Overcome evil with good”

George (lith. Jurgis) Matulaitis, the eighth and last child of a farming family, was born in 1871 in Lithuania, which was then part of the Russian empire. His life is marked by reoccurring painful and trying events. His father died when he was three and his mother when he was ten. Cared for by his older sister and then later his brother, during his teenage years George contracted tuberculosis of the bone, which affected his walking and prevented him from going to school. To add to this, his ailment was misdiagnosed and he didn’t receive proper treatment.    

One summer, an older cousin from Poland came to visit his relatives. The cousin befriended George and offered to take George home with him and sponsor his education. This incredible opportunity came at a great price of having to leave his homeland, assimilate a new culture and learn a new language. The political tensions between the two countries required Matulaitis to polanize his name to Matulewicz to avoid discrimination.  

Thus, the spiritual pain of being an orphan and the chronic physical pain of a disease affecting his walking was followed by the psychological pain of having to disguise his ethnic identity.  

Matulaitis‘ keen intelligence and personal traits of humility, kindness and innate goodness won the hearts of those with whom he interacted in this new country. Completing his high school studies with high honors, he was able to realize his desire for priesthood and to consecrate his life to God when he was given a scholarship to attend the seminary in Warsaw. His intellectual competence and human integrity was recognized once again as he was sent for further studies to the only Academy of higher learning which, at that time, was in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

Historically, the various political tensions of the 19th century and effects of the industrial revolution challenged the Church. The Church responded by the Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) which addressed the unjust social issues. Matulaitis was very taken by this document. His avid concern for those in need and the struggles of the working class engaged him deeply and propelled him to become one of the first professors of Catholic social teaching. His convictions flowed into action: he organized the working class, cared for orphans and the under trodden, provided seminars and lectures for the common man, retreats and work with the clergy, involved the laity, urged spiritual reform, everywhere emphasizing the dignity and value of every individual regardless of their ethnic origin or status in life. All this, while heroically enduring chronic physical pain which was somewhat alleviated by wearing braces on his legs and arm.  

His social Christian involvement precipitated another crisis. Those in political power were pressing for a socialistic/atheistic ideology and were much opposed to Matulaitis’ ministry. The church authorities questioned his actions which were not traditional for clergy. Reports were sent to Rome about the unprecedented “non-priestly” activity. Matulaitis was made aware that he was jeopardizing his priesthood and might be suspended. A total misinterpretation and inconceivable blow!

Years later, a letter which Matulaitis wrote to his best friend advising him how to respond to hardships disclosed what sustains him – in every situation "overcome evil with good“ (Rom 12:21). This was his manner of living; it also became the motto he chose for his coat of arms as bishop.

During one of his trips to his home town Marijampole (Lithuania), he met with the last surviving member of the Marian Congregation to confide in him his desire to be a Marian and informed him of his plan to request permission to make vows without the usual formation. When Rome granted the permission, to avert attention because the Czarist government forbade accepting new members, Matulaitis made religious vows in a private and secret ceremony. Thus, unbeknownst to anyone, Matulaitis became a Marian alongside the last remaining member.  

He continued teaching sociology and theology at St. Petersburg Academy without anyone suspecting that Rev. Matulaitis was also a Marian Father. Despite the tense political situation, Matulaitis secretly invited professors and students to discern a religious vocation and join him. As the membership grew slowly and the senior Marian father died, Matulaitis’ consecration prevented the closure of the Marian Congregation. 

Despite his ill health, with his humble and unassuming way, he continued to pursue his pastoral ministry i.e. Matulaitis came to the United States and began a Marian foundation in Chicago; in Poland, he gathered the scattered Marians into a community and in Lithuania revived the former Marian monastery. At the close of WWI and the independence of Lithuania, he founded a women‘s religious community, the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, the very sisters of this Center. 

Matulaitis was appointed Bishop of Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, diocese. The continual political and ethnic conflicts oftentimes resulted in personal attacks on the bishop. In step with his motto, in every instance, he “overcame evil with good“ and served everyone no matter their nationality, faith or political convictions. 

After seven years of stressful work and poor health, George Matulaitis resigned as Bishop of Vilnius and returned to Rome hoping to wholeheartedly dedicate himself to the Marian Congregation. However, Pope Pius XI appointed him Archbishop and Apostolic Visitator to Lithuania with the task of establishing an Ecclesiastical Province reorganizing the administrative structure of the church. The significance of this assignment should not be overlooked; rarely does Rome appoint a native son to his own country to assume such a task. 

Archbishop Matulaitis died on January 27, 1927 following a belated surgery for a ruptured appendix. As word of his death spread, the holiness of his life was immediately recognized and people flocked to pray by his grave and ask for his intercession. Today, both the basilica at Marijampole, Lithuania where he is buried and the chapel by the site of his birthplace are sites of prayer and pilgrimage.
June 28, 1987 Pope John Paul II personally officiated at Archbishop George Matulaitis’ beatification ceremony. Some of his artifacts can be seen in the Center‘s Museum. 

Please contact the Marian Fathers to report any answered prayers:

Vice-Postulator for Bl. George Matulaitis 
2 Prospect Hill Road
Stockbridge, MA 01263

A more detailed biography may be found in the Marian Fathers site.
Logo: Our Lady of Mercy

Logo: Our Lady of Mercy

The origin, importance and meaning of the of Immaculate Conception Center logo is derived from Our Lady of Mercy - Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn.

VILNIUS, a medieval city, is considered one of the most well preserved old historic cities in Europe. The Gate of Dawn still serves as a passage way in and out of the old city. This gate is the only remaining part of the medieval wall built 1503 and 1522 as a defensive structure. In the 19th century the Russian government ordered it to be torn down, except for the Gate of Dawn. 

City gates often contained religious artifacts intended to guard the city and to bless travelers. In the arch above the gate facing east (hence the name “Gate of Dawn“) is a chapel which contains the famous icon of Mary, "Our Lady of Mercy“ or "Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn“. For centuries this icon of Mary has been one of the symbols of the city and an object of veneration for both Roman Catholic and Orthodox faithful of Lithuania, Poland and Belarus.    

The painting depicts the purity, the surrender, the immaculate conception of Mary. One is immediately drawn towards devotion and recourse to her. Her head is gently leaning to her right, her eyes are half closed, her hands are crossed in devotion; Mary, virgin, humble servant of the Lord, merciful mother and patron of the people. 

The tradition to cover paintings with revetment (metal covering protecting an icon) of precious metals is borrowed from Eastern Orthodoxy. Mary‘s head is surrounded by an aureola with golden rays and her body is covered in elaborate gold and silver clothes and crowns; these are the symbols of her divine and majestic role as the Queen of Heaven. The clothing of Our Lady is composed of three gilded silver parts, each completed by different artists at a different period. The head and shoulders were covered in 1670–90; the chest piece was adapted from a different painting in 1695–1700; the bottom of the painting was completed by the 1730s.

A Latin inscription “Mater Misericordiae, sub Tuum Praesidium confugimus”- Mother of Mercy, we fly to your protection“ appeared on the facade approximately at the time it acquired its present form in 1715.


In 1927, two crowns made of pure gold which was donated by the people, were blessed by Pope Pius XI and canonically crowned on 2 July. The painting received the title Mother of Mercy. However, during World War II, the gold crowns were lost.  

The shrine has since become important in the development of the Divine Mercy devotion. It was here at the Gate of Dawn chapel, that the Divine Mercy image painted under the direction of St. Faustina by Eugeniusz Kazimierowski, was first exhibited during the Holy Week triduum in 1935. 

On 4 September 1993 Pope John Paul II lead the faithful in praying the Rosary at the Gate of Dawn Chapel.
Pope Francis addressed the faithful on September 22, 2018.
Our Lady of Šiluva

Our Lady of Šiluva

Two apparitions of Mary in Šiluva, Lithuania - 1608

Historically, Lithuania was the last pagan country in Europe. Mindaugas, a nobleman, united the Balts and became Grand Duke of the territory. He accepted Catholicism and in 1251 was baptized. In so doing, Lithuania, the last pagan country in Europe, was Christianized. The ensuing warring factions destabilized the growing faith and became instrumental in reverting some back to pagan ways, until in 1410, when the Teutonic Knights were decisively defeated by Vytautas the Great. From that date onward, Catholicism began to take hold in Lithuania.

A pious nobleman, Petras Giedgaudas, an advisor and a diplomat in the service of Vytautas the Great, had a special devotion to Our Lady. In 1457 he built the first church in Šiluva and dedicated it to the Nativity, the birth, of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Giedgaudas obtained from Rome a beautiful icon of our Lady holding the Christ child. Pilgrims came to Šiluva from all parts of the country, Prussia and neighboring countries to celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Virgin’s birthday. Šiluva became a major Catholic pilgrimage site, which in those days, was an act not only of piety, but also of penance. 

In the 16th century, the Reformation reached Lithuania, especially Calvinism. Even under increasing threat from the Calvinists, Catholic pilgrims continued to come to the Chapel at Šiluva. Seeing imminent danger, the parish priest, Fr. Jonas Holubka, gathered the church documents, the icon of Our Lady and sealed them into a metal chest together with various liturgical items. He buried them nearby the town in a field. Soon, in an effort to crush Catholic piety, the Calvinists demolished the Chapel and leveled the ground. 

Mary’s Apparition

Some 80 years after the church was demolished, in 1608 shepherds tending their sheep on the land of the old church were suddenly transfixed by a vision of a weeping woman, standing on a rock and holding an infant. She did not speak, only wept. The children ran to the local Calvinist catechist as well as their parents and told them of what they saw. 

Soon, a crowd gathered. The weeping lady appeared again, standing on the same rock, holding the infant. The catechist asked why she wept. She responded, “Once, my beloved Son was worshipped by my people here. But now this sacred spot is merely plowed and tilled and used for grazing.”  News of this second apparition spread and it reached an old blind man who had helped Fr. Holubka bury the chest. The people led him to the site as he described it. As they arrived at the field, he suddenly regained his sight. Giving thanks to God, he pointed out the spot where the chest was buried. They dug up the chest with the large painting of the Madonna and Child, chalices, vestments and documents, including the original church property deed. 

The Catholic faith was renewed in the Šiluva area and in 1622 the land was legally returned to the Catholics. A wooden church was erected on the site and pilgrimages were revived, particularly on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. In 1775 Pius VI extended the celebration of the feast to an octave - eight full days. 

Constant Religious Suppression

First the Calvinists, then the Tsarists, then the Communists sought to crush the Roman Catholic faith in Lithuania. However, Catholicism prevailed and the pilgrimages continued. During the most recent Soviet era, the KGB did everything they could to discourage pilgrims. Once, they even declared an outbreak of the plague as an excuse to close all roads to Šiluva. 

At the breakup of the Soviet Union, in 1991, in a ceremony in Šiluva, Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevičius and Vytautas Landsbergis, the Speaker of the Parliament, signed an act consecrating Lithuania to the Blessed Virgin Mary at Šiluva.

In September 7, 1993, soon after the Soviet breakup, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, was finally able to fulfill his desire of traveling to Lithuania. Among other sites, he went to Šiluva to worship at the site in the Apparition Chapel and express his gratitude for freedom and the grace of Divine Providence. 

Later, in 2008 during the 400th Jubilee, the Basilica and the Apparition Chapel were renovated and a square was to accommodate the large crowds. During this 400 year jubilee, Pope Benedict XVI sent his legate, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, to attend the celebration. 

Prayer to Our Lady of Šiluva

Most Holy Virgin Mary, you appeared in the fields of Šiluva to young shepherds, shedding tears on the rock that lies beneath this altar and saying reproachfully: “My Son was worshipped here, but now people only plough and sow.” Grant that, moved by your tears, we might, like our forefathers glorify your Son, rebuild the neglected shrines of our hearts and win the Lord’s pardon for the negligence and sins of our people.

O Mother of God, we long to revive the forgotten glory of your apparition, to honour you even more as our Protectress, and with your aid obtain from God a spirit of living faith for all in this land. Amen.

Prayer before the Icon of Mary

O my Mother and Sovereign Queen of Heaven and earth, blessed by God with special graces, and most exalted of all his creatures! Whatever you wish, God will grant it. In this very place where I, a sinner, now kneel before your miraculous painting, you have often shown your power, thus encouraging us to hope in your intercession. You have saved us from errant teaching and worked miracles to restore health to the sick, and even now you lead us along the paths of Divine Providence.

O most merciful and most powerful Mother, look kindly upon us sinners. Instill in the hearts of all your children an ardent love for your Son, Jesus Christ, so that, living in peace and brotherly love, we might ever worship Him and trust in your protection.      O Mary, guard and defend our nation. Amen.



At the entrance to the Immaculate Conception Center is a three foot wooden sculpture of the crucified body of Jesus mounted on a backdrop of unbleached linen. The wooden beams cross on which the figure of Christ once hung have long since disintegrated. Wayside shrines, usually of Christ Crucified, Mary or culturally popular saints, e.g. St. Isidore, St. Rokas, St. George, dot the landscape and homesteads of Lithuania. 

This weather beaten figure of the crucified Christ was retrieved from an outdoor shrine in Lithuania.  It was brought over during the Soviet era, not without much difficulty, and presented to the Lithuanian Sisters‘ community as a token of the steadfast faith of their homeland.

The Lithuanian culture is rich in religious art.The folk artisans use materials natural to their environment: wood, amber, wheat, and linen made from locally grown flax. The Spiritual Renewal Center has a gallery display of typical craftsmanship. The Sisters‘ community has been gifted with prominent Lithuanian artisan work which is displayed throughout the Center.