Teofilius Matulionis, archbishop (1873-1962)

Eaarkiv_matulionis02_drly biographical sketch. Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis was born in 1873 in the village of Kadariškiai, Lithuania. He was graduated from high school in Daugpilis, Latvia. Later he studied theology in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), where he was also ordained.

He served as curate in a few parishes in Latvia. His first pastoral post was in Latgalia, Latvia, in the parish of Bykava. In 1910 he was transferred to the Immaculate Heart of Jesus parish in St. Petersburg. (At that time Russia had only one Catholic diocese, the archdiocese of Mohi-levo). As pastor of his parish he ministered to the spiritual needs of Lithuanian, White Russian, and Polish parishioners. A new parish church was built through his efforts and through the contributions of his parishioners. Archbishop T. Matulionis was honored for this achievement -he was raised to the level of a monsignor. In 1929 he was secretly consecrated by the administrator of the Mohilevo archdiocese, Bishop A. Malecki, and became auxiliary bishop.

The path of martyrdom.  The Bolshevik revolution broke out while Bishop T. Matulionis was pastor at St. Petersburg: his further pastoral work was hindered by constant persecutions.

In 1923 the Communist Government enacted a law ordering the confiscation of all Church property. This act had to be signed by the parish pastors. Bishop T. Matulionis refused to sign the act and served a two-year prison term because of this refusal.

After his consecration as auxiliary bishop, he was arrested for the second time and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in the Arctic. Hard work and the cold, damp climate greatly impaired his health. Because of his poor health, after two years the bishop was transferred to a prison in St. Petersburg and was placed in solitary confinement.

Fortunately, the Lithuanian Government signed an agreement with Soviet Russia for the release of 10 Russian prisoners in exchange for 10 Lithuanian prisoners; one of the ten was Bishop T. Matulionis. Back in Lithuania, in 1943 he became bishop of the Kaišiadoriai diocese.

During the Bolshevik occupation of Lithuania, because of a pastoral letter, Bishop T. Matulionis was arrested for the third time and was sentenced to a 10-year prison term (1945-1956). After serving his term, he returned to Birštonas, Lithuania.

In 1957 he consecrated V. Sladkevičius as bishop without the consent of the Communist Government. For this, Bishop T. Matulionis was exiled to Šeduva, Lithuania, where he lived in isolation till his death in 1962. Before he died, he was elevated to the rank of honorary Archbishop by Pope John XXIII.

A man of prayer and diligence. AH his life Archbishop T. Matulionis remained loyal to his duties. He was careful and deliberate in assuming a task, but, having done so, he faithfully and energetically accomplished all that he had undertaken.

As a student in the seminary he had been uncertain about his ability to become a priest. He left the seminary to teach for a few years; then he returned to complete his studies and to be ordained, always being careful to execute his duties and responsibilities as a priest to the utmost of his ability. Although he loved his native tongue, he nevertheless tried to master the languages

of his parishioners (White Russian, Russian, Polish, and Latvian) in order to guide his parishioners and to be a father to all without any national discrimination.

Prayer was the chief support in Archbishop T. Matulionis’ life. During the second Bolshevik attack on Lithuania he had a chance to escape, but is said to have stated: “I will stay with my own people. I am not afraid of being persecuted. When I pray, I have no fear”. When in prison in the Arctic, he did the work of a slave – - pulling logs from icy waters and through snow; he never complained and always tried to do the tasks assigned to him. He prayed constantly, while at work and while at rest. Even when he was extremely exhausted from the day’s work, he never failed to awake in the middle of the night and secretly celebrate the Mass.

Peace in suffering strengthened his character. A stoic calm and determination to bear all difficulties was reflected in his countenance.

An example of resistance. As a man of resistance, Archbishop T. Matulionis can be an example to all. As a priest, he resisted evil; no fault can be found and nothing can be said against him as a man. He loved all with a fatherly love, ministering to the needs of everyone. Personal comfort and welfare gave way to pastoral zeal. He resisted physical pleasures and worldliness within the priesthood; the spiritual was always placed before the material.

When the Russian Government tried to force Archbishop T. Matulionis to sign over Church property, out of principle he refused to contribute to the unlawful deed. This, of course, did not stop the communists. Someone else in his position might have said. “What is the difference, the end result is the same; I might as well sign and void the consequences.” But not Archbishop T. Matulionis; he acted in accordance to his principles, and was not influenced by a desire to improve his position. The risk he took in consecrating a bishop was another threat to his person, but he heeded the needs and orders of the Church.

While a prisoner in the Arctic, he possessed no other rights except those of a slave: to work and to die. Despite the danger, he secretly consecrated bread— having nothing else to replace Host—and distributed Holy Communion in the guise of bread during the day. This act of his was not only a risk, but also the performance of his priestly duties and a silent protest against those who take away man’s right to religion.

In this post as bishop at Kaišiadoriai, Lithuania, he presented the Germans (the occupants of Lithuania at that time) with a petition, protesting against the seizure of his people in the churches and their forced deportation to labor camps in Germany.

When Archbishop T. Matulionis consecrated Bishop V. Sladkevičius, the communists ridiculed him, saying: “Are you not ashamed to consecrate a bishop in the rectory kitchen?” He replied: “It is you, not I, who should be ashamed that I am forced to perform this holy act in the rectory instead of a church.”

This brave and persevering attitude of Archbishop T. Matulionis strengthened the faith of the people and served as an example to other priests. In a way, ever the Communist Government respected and feared his influence on the people. They did not dare murder Archbishop T. Matulionis but kept him away from his diocese and let him die a natural death. They know that the blood of martyr would only give rise to new heroes.

When Archbishop T. Matulionis died in 1962, he was to be buried in the Kaišiadoriai Cathedral next to Bishop J. Kukta but the Communist Government did not allow this until they were assured that no massive demonstrations would take place This demonstrated that even after the archbishop’s death the Communist Government is afraid of the spirit of resistance that he had created. In 1934, during the private audience that Archbishop T. Matulionis was granted by Pope Pius XI, the Pope had rightly commented: “It is an honor to the Lithuanian nation to have such a hero.”


Copyright © 1963 Lithuanian Students Association, Inc.

Vol. 9, No.1 – 1963
Editor of this issue: A. Mickevičius

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(Lietuvių) Jonas Kelevišius “Šventas melas. Kunigo Kazio Kavaliausko pėdsakų beieškant”

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(Lietuvių) Juozapas Čepėnas, kunigas, teologas, filosofas, tremtinys (1880-1976)

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(Lietuvių) Jurgis Galdikas, prelatas, pedagogas, filosofas, mokslų daktaras (1883–1963)

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(Lietuvių) Stanislovas Jokūbauskis, Kauno arkivyskupijos valdytojas, Pasaulio teisuolis (1880-1947)

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Bronislovas Paukstys, Father (1897-1966)

Born in 1897 to a farming family with eleven children, Father Bronius Paukstys entered the priesthood and joined the Salesian order, living the life of a monk.

When the Germans occupied Lithuania, Father Paukstys began saving Jewish lives. He did not follow the footsteps of Archbishop Vincentas Brizgyz, head of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, who turned down the Jews’ petition for help on grounds that this may jeopardize the Church’s position or of Father Ignatavicius who held mass for one of the Lithuanian auxiliary police battalions that was deeply involved in the murder of the Jews. Paukstys did whatever he could: he provided false papers to the ghetto underground; helped Jews escape from the ghetto; hid them in his quarters and found places of shelter for them. His activity was criticized. Paukstys told Avraham Tory, one of the people he helped, that he was reprimanded by his superiors and warned of the repercussions to the church if his activity was discovered. Father Paukstys did not shy from the warnings of his superiors nor from the danger to his person. His activity was so bold that at one point he had to flee from Kovno. Pnina Tory who was hiding in a Lithuanian village with her daughter, testified that Paukstys would occasionally visit her in her hiding place and take letters back to the ghetto for her. But on one occasion the good Father had to go into hiding, because the Germans were suspicious and his help to the Jews was almost discovered.

The survivors that were helped by Father Paukstys were impressed with his deep respect for their identity as Jews. When after liberation Masha Rabinowitz came to thank Father Bronius Paukstys for his help and asked for his blessing for her soon-to-be marriage, the priest told her and her fiancé: ‘If you wish to respect my feelings, please marry according to the Law of Moses and Israel and have my friend Rabbi Oshri conduct the ceremony.’

Paukstys’ survivors remembered not only his assistance to their physical survival, but also his keeping up their spirits and helping them to maintain their faith in mankind. Pnina Tory told Yad Vashem: ‘The very appearance of a man like Bronius Paukstys instilled in our hearts the hope that not all was lost, that not all men had turned to predator animals or cowards. That there are still people with morals and conscience, goodhearted and compassionate, and on top of that, gifted with a unique courage and urge to combat evil.’

The danger to Father Paukstys was not over after liberation. His Lithuanian patriotism put him at risk with the Soviet rulers. The survivors tried to persuade him to join them and go to Palestine with them, but the good father didn’t want to leave his country. ‘I cannot abandon my flock’, he said to them, ‘here I belong, and I must fight the Bolsheviks as I fought the Nazis’. After his arrest, Masha Rabinowitz assembled other Jews and petitioned the authorities on his behalf, but to no avail. Pausktys was sent to Siberia, and returned only in 1956. He lived for another ten years, and died in 1966 at the age of 69.

In 1977 Yad Vashem awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations to Father Bronius Paukstys. His brother Juozas Paukstys, a professor of agriculture who helped his brother in his rescue activity, was also recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

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(Lietuvių) Polikarpas Macijauskas, kunigas, Pasaulio teisuolis (1891-1965)

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(Lietuvių) Marija Mikulska, vienuolė, Pasaulio teisuolė (1903 – 1994)

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(Lietuvių) Marija Rusteikaitė (1892-1949), Dievo Apvaizdos seserų kongregacijos (DP) įsteigėja, Dievo Tarnaitė

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Mečislovas Reinys, Lithuanian Roman Catholic bishop (1884–1953)

MEISLO~1Mečislovas Reinys (1884 – 1953) was the Lithuanian Roman Catholic bishop, a professor at Vytautas Magnus University, a Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and a social activist who publicly condemned racism and national hatred. Mečislovas Reinys was imprisoned by the Soviets after refusing to collaborate with the KGB and sent to Vladimir Prison, where he died in 1953.

Mečislovas Reinys was born on a farm in the Zarasai region on February 5, 1884. In 1900 he graduated with honors from a gymnasium in Riga. From 1901 to 1905 he studied in the Vilnius divinity school; two years afterwards he was ordained as a priest. Reinys continued his studies in Russia and Germany, receiving a master’s degree in 1909 from the Saint Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy. He successfully defended his doctoral thesis in Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in 1912. With his fellow students he worked at organizing a Lithuanian students’ league.

After returning to Lithuania, Reinys became a vicar in Vilnius in 1914. Between 1916 and 1922 he lectured at Vilnius University; between 1922 and 1924 he lectured at the Kaunas Priest Seminary. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs during 1925 and 1926, and was then consecrated as a bishop.

Mečislovas Reinys was arrested by Soviet authorities on June 12, 1947; he was accused of anti-Soviet activities, and investigated for six months in the Vilnius KGB office. He was sentenced to eight years in jail and sent to Vladimir prison, where he died on November 8, 1953.

In the 1990s a committee was formed to establish the grounds for canonisation of Reinys along with Teofilius Matulionis and Vincentas Borisevičius. Pope John Paul II mentioned these three in a 1993 speech at the Hill of Crosses. A diary of Reiny’s expenditures during the 1920s is part of the case; it documents his donations to 48 different societies, foundations, unions, museums, newspapers, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and parishes, in addition to his support of his family. Documents in the Lithuanian Special Archives reveal the course of his interrogation; many of his relatives had been deported to Siberian labor camps, and the KGB offered to release them in exchange for his cooperation.  Reinys refused.

Mečislovas Reinys published works in the fields of psychology, pedagogy, theology, and ethics.

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