Lithuanian Franciscans Celebrate 70 Years in Maine

Monika Midveryte Franciscan World

Provincial minister of the Province of St. Casimir in Lithuania Algirdas Malakauskis speaks to guests at the celebration. (Photo courtesy of Monika Midverytė)

KENNEBUNK, Maine — This year marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Lithuanian Franciscan friars in Kennebunk, near the Atlantic Ocean. After suffering great losses of friars to the repressions of the Soviet Union during World War II, Lithuanian Franciscans were scattered throughout the world. Some of them ministered to Lithuanians in refugee camps located in Western Europe. Superiors of the Order, recognizing that it was impossible for them to serve in their homeland, commissioned Fr. Justinas Vaskys, OFM, to establish them in the United States.

Eventually — in 1947 — they reassembled in the monastery at Kennebunk to continue their service to God and their people, as well as to boost the spirit of Lithuanians, both those in the diaspora and those who remained in their homeland. During the past seven decades, St. Anthony Franciscan Monastery and its friars have become an integral part of the local community in Maine.

A celebration of the anniversary took place in St. Anthony’s Friary in Kennebunk on Oct. 1. Many guests arrived to celebrate this important occasion. They included the provincial minister of the Province of St. Casimir in Lithuania Fr. Algirdas Malakauskis, OFM, provincial vicar Fr. Andrius Nenenas, OFM, and all four provincial definitors. Fr. Jonas Sileika, OFM, from the Resurrection parish in Toronto, Canada, also took part in the celebration.

St. Anthony’s Friary hosted special guests from the General Curia and English-speaking Conference: definitor general Fr. Caoimhín Ó Laoide, OFM, Fr. Robert Campagna, OFM, provincial minister of Immaculate Conception Province, and his provincial vicar Fr. Patrick Boyle, OFM, Fr. James Gannon, OFM, provincial minister of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province and his councilor Edward Tlucek, OFM. The General Consul of Lithuania in New York, Julius Pranevicius, OFM, and approximately 200 guests from all United States were present in the event.

The celebration started with a solemn Mass celebrated by the bishop of Portland, H. E. Robert Deeley, and Franciscan Bishop Emeritus H. E. Paulius Baltakis, OFM. After Mass, lunch and a musical performance by Boston-based Lithuanian jazz singer, arranger, and composer Simona Minns were hosted at the Franciscan Guest House. From the time the Lithuanian Franciscan friars arrived in 1947, the Franciscan Guest House has been used for retreat and vacation, as well as housing for Lithuanians arriving from Europe.

Friars and guests gather outside the Franciscan Guest House after anniversary Mass. (Photo courtesy of Monika Midverytė)

Minns played Lithuanian folk songs on the kankles, a traditional Lithuanian instrument reminiscent of a harp, accompanied by her husband Dorsey Minns on the trombone. Guests were invited to watch a presentation about the history of Lithuanian Franciscans in Lithuania during interwar and on the East Coast.

— Monika Midveryte is communications coordinator for St. Casimir Province, headquartered in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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