Lithuanians head to church for God, music, friends - and tea

8 comments - Post a comment

Here's my story published in "Metro Eireann" last Thursday

It is Christmas day and it feels like Dublin has turned into a deserted ghost town, yet St Andrew's Church, adjoining Pearse Station, is nearly full. Some of the people, quietly sitting in the pews, had to walk for over an hour in order to get here - there is no DART, Luas or bus service today. Everybody is well-dressed and they quietly whisper greetings to their neighbors. A congregation of about 250 Lithuanians are waiting for Father Egidijus Arnasius to start a Christmas mass in their native language.

Majority of them are in their thirties, many sit in couples, while now and again children climb the steps trying to approach two brightly lit Christmas trees standing behind the altar.

There is a choir of 10 people, among other songs performing "Silent Night". The pipe organ doesn't work and they are accompanied by acoustic guitar and percussion. Some of them had never sung before, others used to perform in a folklore ensemble "Lietuviskas Dobilas" ("Lithuanian Shamrock") which had participated in many Lithuanian events in Ireland, but recently many of the singers returned to Lithuania and the ensemble started to crumble.

Socializing and keeping the tradition

Jurgita Karazija is one of the members of the choir. She arrived to Ireland this summer and for her going to this mass is the best way of meeting her friends, since they live all over Dublin.

"The whole day is dedicated for socializing with Lithuanians. We stay in touch this way and it has become part of the weekly routine," says Mrs Karazija.

A woman, sitting next to me, is visiting her son who has been living in Ireland for 6 years. It is the first time she came to Ireland and it is the first time her son crossed the threshold of St Andrew's Church. His mother mentions that going to the mass during Christmas has always been a tradition in the family.

The crowd today is large - on an ordinary Sunday about a hundred people would gather. Despite the fact that Lithuanians boast to be quite religious, with about 80% of the 3.4 mln population claiming to be Catholic, majority tend to visit the church only on special occasions - Christmas, Easter or All Saints' Day.

"We are that kind of Catholics. The culture of faith has been destroyed by bulldozer-like atheism," remarks father Egidijus.

Lithuania was the only majority-Catholic Soviet republic and during the Soviet occupation the Church remained a stronghold of resistance against the regime. Some of the churches were turned into storehouses, Roman Catholic publications were prohibited and property confiscated, but the Church was safeguarding Lithuanian traditions and the language - the most archaic among the living Indo-European languages.

The only priest on the island

Father Egidijus had been in Ireland for almost three years and recently his mission was extended for another three. He is the only Lithuanian priest in Ireland which, according to census figures, has become home to over 20 000 Lithuanians, although some estimate the real figure to be about 100 000. Father Egidijus had been busy throughout December, conducting masses in Ashbourne, Galway, Longford, Carrickmacross, Moy and Armagh, where over 500 people showed up on Christmas Eve.

"During those three years I saw many faces. Some had disappeared, because people returned to Lithuania, but new ones turned up instead," observes the evolution of the local community Father Egidijus and acknowledges that many appear in St Andrew's Church on Sundays in order to have a chat with their fellow countrymen.

As a matter of fact, the easiest way to meet them is to stay after the mass for a cup of tea - there are always biscuits and a kettle in a room nestled beside the church. Sometimes people bring along homemade goods and some claim that this is the best part of the day.

As they chat, a hand-carved wooden Rupintojelis (The Pensive Christ) is quietly sitting on Father Egidijus' work desk in his apartment - a characteristic Lithuanian art form, depicting a worrying Christ with a crown of thorns sitting on a stump. It shares our worries and reminds that hard times of life would become better. In the meantime Father Egidijus rushes to put the kettle on.

All photos © Lina Zigelyte

This Post has 8 Comments Add your own!
Primal Sneeze - January 15, 2008 at 6:10 AM

Well done, Lina. Hopefully this will be the first of many. And not just for Metro Éireann.

And I just thought: you are now eminently qualified for the Blog by a Journalist Award ;)

Lina - January 16, 2008 at 3:29 PM

thanks for support, Primal :)

Primal Sneeze - January 24, 2008 at 4:34 AM

Is the junk from that guy your first spam, Lina?

Lina - January 24, 2008 at 4:53 PM

it was... I guess ;)

Anonymous - February 3, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Τhis website certainly has all of the info I needed about this ѕubјect and didn't know who to ask.

Look into my web site bucket trucks used
My page ; bucket trucks for sale

Anonymous - February 15, 2013 at 11:52 AM

Wow, wondeгful wеblоg structure! Ηoω long have
you eveг beеn runnіng a blog for?
you made running a blog looκ eaѕy. Τhe ονеrаll glanсе
of уour ωeb site iѕ wоnderful,
let alone the content materіal!

my weblog; bucket trucks

Anonymous - February 23, 2013 at 8:44 PM

Everуthіng iѕ veгy oρen ωith a νeгу clеaг explanation
of the сhallеngеs. It ωas defіnitely іnfοrmative.

Your ωebsіte is vеry useful.
Manу thanks for sharing!

Feel freе tо vіsit my site bucket truck

Anonymous - February 28, 2013 at 4:54 AM

What's up friends, how is the whole thing, and what you would like to say concerning this piece of writing, in my view its really remarkable in favor of me.

Here is my web page :: taxi service irving tx

Post a Comment