Lithuanians have new option for worshipping

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lithuanian Catholics living in Lake County now have a new option for worshipping in their native language: the new Our Lady of Siluva Mission will have Mass once a month in the chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo Parish in Mundelein.

More than 120 people came to Our Lady of Siluva’s first Mass on Dec. 15, said Father Jaunius Kelpsas, who is director of the mission and administrator of Nativity BVM Parish, 6812 S. Washtenaw. He expects the congregation to grow to about 200 once word gets out about the Masses, which will be at 2:30 p.m. the third Sunday of every month.

“They have been asking for this for about 10 years,” said Kelpsas, adding that he and other Lithuanian priests have celebrated Mass in the Mundelein area three or four times a year for the past several years. It just took some time to work out formal agreements and get the decree from the archdiocese creating the mission.

There is a demand for Lithuanian-language Masses, especially for newer immigrants from the Baltic nation, Kelpsas said.

“The ones who have been here some time, they will go to American Masses,” he said. “But the newer ones, if they don’t have Mass in Lithuanian, they don’t go. For us, it was very important to help them keep their Catholic background.”

Santa Maria del Popolo Parish is also the site of a Lithuanian Saturday school that teaches Lithuanian culture, language and religion to about 100 children, Kelpsas said, so there is clearly a need for a Lithuanian Mass in the area. The parish has been very welcoming, both of the school and the mission.

The new mission was announced in Lithuanian-American newspapers and through social media sites like Facebook, Kelpsas said.

Father Gediminas Kersys, the associate pastor at Nativity BVM, will celebrate about half the Masses at the new Our Lady of Siluva Mission, Kelpsas said, in addition to helping out with Masses at Immaculate Conception, 2745 W. 44th St., and Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis Lithuanian Catholic Mission in Lemont.

In fact, Kersys celebrated the first Mass for the new mission.

Some of the Lake County Lithuanians travel to Nativity or one of the other South Side Lithuanian parishes for Mass on special occasions, but it’s too far for them to make the trip all the time, Kelpsas said.

“It’s about 50 miles, for some of them,” he said. “And we want them to keep their ties to being Catholic.”

Kelpsas said he expects that most of the Lithuanian immigrants will eventually embrace American life and attend English-language Masses, or at least their children will, and that’s a good thing. But at the same time, he wants them to stay connected to where they came from.

“It’s good for them to know the language, the traditions,” Kelpsas said. “But they will be Americans.”

Our Lady of Siluva, the patroness of the mission, is an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was seen twice in Siluva, Lithuania, in 1608. She appeared on the site where Catholics buried an icon of Mary during a time of religious upheaval.


  • mass
  • lithuanian catholics
  • our lady of siluva mission

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