Celebrating 550 years of the Friars Minor in Lithuania – and 30 years since their re-emergence

This past year has seen the celebration of many anniversaries, but perhaps none more touching and historically fascinating than the celebration of 30 years of public pastoral activity by the Friars Minor in Lithuania.

Ten days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the friars in Lithuania made the courageous decision to emerge from their underground activities and become the first male religious community to begin public pastoral ministry in the Soviet Union. They drew on the long Franciscan tradition in that region where the Order was established 550 years ago, and they were assisted by the friars who had gone to the U.S. to minister to the Lithuanian diaspora.

A fine program of events was devised for the anniversary, and the accompanying photographs show the wonderful hospitality given to visiting friars from Poland, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Australia, the U.S.A., and the Ukraine. The love of the people for the friars was very evident at the wonderful concert in the Palanga Theatre, as well as during the Solemn Liturgies celebrated by Br. Algirdas Malakauskis, Minister Provincial, and H.E. Cardinal Sigitas Tamkevicius. Homilies were delivered by Br. Caoimhín Ó Laoide, General Definitor, and by a son of Lithuania, Br. John Puodziunas, General Treasurer. A beautiful commemorative medal has been produced to celebrate an anniversary that is resonant with hope and with gratitude for the tremendous sacrifices made by untold numbers of people who remained faithful in the face of the Soviet communist oppression.