Lithuanian Passionist Mission Band of St. Paul of the Cross Province
by Clement Kasinskas, C.P.
Editor's Note: The term ethnic cleansing has echoed in our hearts and minds through this spring of 1999. Ethnic survival, identity and culture are essential to life. Does ethnicity assist us in finding the road to peace? Does it set up roadblocks between cultures? How does ethnicity and belief in God breathe forth the Holy Spirit? This reflection, offered by Passionist Clement Kasinskas, is a reminder to us all about how Catholicism in the United States has been shaped and graced by ethnicity. As one generation of Passionists, Catholics and Christians gives way to another there remains a profound need and sensitivity to remember and learn that ethnicity has a rich heritage of the Gospel. Throughout his life Fr. Clement Kasinskas, who now resides at Holy Family Monastery, 303 Tunxis Road, West Hartford, CT 06107 has been a tireless Lithuanian preacher and teacher of culture. Should diocesan priests request a Lithuanian Passionist for weekend work or temporary substitution, Fr. Clem may be available and hopes that someday the Passionists may establish a monastery in Lithuania - Rob Carbonneau, C.P.
Born 15 January 1884, Julius Urbonavicius arrived in the United States in 1902 at the age of eighteen. He lived with his brother who had already settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Julius worked in a coal mine until he was twenty-one years old. In 1905 he sought admission to the Passionist Congregation at St. Ann's Monastery which had just opened its doors in Scranton. As was the custom he took his Passionist vows on 3 December 1907 and became known as Alphonsus Maria Urbanowicz. He was ordained a priest on 26 May 1915. In 1916 after his year of sacred eloquence, which emphasized study of preaching, he was assigned to the Passionist home mission band apostolate to preach Lithuanian missions.
Fr. Alphonsus Maria Urbonavicius (Urbanowitz) preached in Lithuanian and Polish for twenty-seven years. He translated the Confraternity of the Passion booklet into Lithuanian. He died at St. Gabriel's Monastery in Brighton, Massachusetts on 18 October 1949 at the age of 65
What impact did the preaching of Fr. Urbonavicius have? It did not take long for Fr. Alphonsus to make his presence known. Preaching from parish to parish he noticed that in many instances the people of his native land were suffering hardships. Some were old and lonely. Others were sick and feeble. As a response, Fr. Alphonsus established the Sisters of Jesus Crucified to assist these people.
Monsignor Juskaitis, a good friend of Urbonavicius asked if it might be possible for some of the Sisters of Jesus Crucified to teach in his parish: Immaculate Conception in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The answer was yes! Soon after the Sisters of Jesus Crucified were teaching in Lithuanian parish schools and some non-Lithuanian parish schools. They also began to care for the sick at nursing homes in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania and Brockton, Massachusetts.
At the same time Fr. Urbonavicius had a direct personal impact in attracting young men to the Passionists. During a mission in Lawrence, Massachusetts he made an impression on Francis Jaskal-Jeskelevicius who entered the Passionists and was ordained Fr. Gabriel Jaskal. Bright, studious and a tireless worker, after ordination on 15 March 1930 he studied Polish for three years in Poland. Later he studied Russian at St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, Illinois. Fr. Gabriel Jaskal was a preacher of missions in Lithuanian, English and Polish for some forty years and was able to hear confessions in six languages. He also translated the prayer booklet of the St. Ann's Novena held in July at Scranton, Pennsylvania into Lithuanian. He died on 6 December 1970 at 66.