THE SAMOGITIAN SEMINARY
By Rapolas Krasauskas and Paulius Jatulis
The Samogitian Seminary (Zemaiciu seminarija) served western Lithuania. The first in Lithuania to take steps to implement the seminary legislation of the Council of Trent was Jurgis Petkunas, Bishop of Samogitia, by establishing a fund in 1574 for twelve clerics to train at the Jesuit College in Vilnius. Subsequently between six and twelve youths studies in the seminaries and Academy of Vilnius. In 1622 a diocesan seminary was founded in Varniai, the centre of the Samogitian diocese, and assigned to the Jesuits, who came from the nearby (25 km) Jesuit college at Kraziai (established in 1616) at time the seminary functioned there. With the suspension of the Jesuit Order, the Vincentians took over the seminary, until 1845. In 1744 spacious quarters were built at Varniai. The number of clerics increased constantly; in 1767 there were 12, in 1773 20, 1778 60, 1862 120. Motiejus Valancius, first as rector (1845-1850) and later as bishop of Samogitia (1850-1875), was especially dedicated to the seminary. During the first decade of his episcopate, the consecrated over 300 priests, who were committed not only to pastoral work but also to the education of the masses and the establishment of temperance societies. Varniai became the religious and cultural centre of Samogitia.
After the unsuccessful uprising of 1863 against the Russians, in which many priests participated and were subsequently punished, the seminary and the bishops residence were moved to Kaunas in 1864, the administrative seat of the province, where the Tsarist government could better supervise the bishops work and the education of the seminarians. From 1851 such supervision had also been carried out by Russian teachers of Russian language and history. The seminary was housed in the former Franciscan (Bernardino) monastery, located at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers. Lectures were given in Latin or Polish, while prayers were said in Polish. But the seminarians themselves, responding to the Lithuanian national movement then gaining in strength throughout the country, fostered their own language and culture. In 1888-1889 a group of students established a secret patriotic society, names the Society of St. Casimir; its members included Kazimieras Pakalniskis (Dede Atanazas) and Juozas Tumas-Vaizgantas, future editors of the proscribed Lithuanian press. Banned publications were smuggled into the seminary from Prussia. The repeal of the press ban in 1904 encouraged the Lithuanian activists at the seminary to broaden their scope of activity. Jonas Maciulis -Maironis, appointed rector in 1909, was the first to publicly address the seminarians in Lithuanian, and in a few years all the clerics spoke and prayed in Lithuanian while even some lectures were delivered in the native tongue. In the words of Mykolas Birziska, the seminary contributed zealous workers who defended the nations most precious possessions, her fait and her language, in the most difficult times. Graduates the professors of the seminary included: the leading poet of the Lithuanian national renaissance, Maironis (rector until 1932); literary critic and scholar Aleksandras Dambrauskas-Jakstas; the linguist Kazimieras Jaunius; Bishop Kazimieras Paltarokas; translator of the Bible and the first metropolitan of Lithuania, Juozapas Skvireckas; and other prominent figures in the administration of the Church and the national movement.
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Cultural Association Editorial Board, 1998.
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