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THE SAMOGITIAN SEMINARY IN TELSIAI
 
Priests were educated in the Telsiai diocese as early as the 16th century under the guidance Telsiai Priest Seminary established in 1927, reestablished in 1989.of Bishop Jurgis Petkunas. In 1574 Petkunas dedicated 1700 Lithuanian coins to train twelve young men as priests in the Vilnius Jesuit college. Six of these men were to be sons of Samogitian peasants, the other six relatives of the bishop. Bishop Merkelis Giedraitis (1576-1609) and M. Pacas (1610-1618) also financed the education of Samogitian priests. Bishop St. Kiska also initially sent candidates for the priesthood to Vilnius, but began training priests in the newly-built seminary in the Samogitian town of Varniai in 1622. At that time the Jesuit order was in charge of educating these young priests in Varniai. Around 1628 the seminary was moved to Kraziai, where the seminary was active with few interruptions until 1745. At that time the seminary was moved back to Varniai, where Bishop Antanas Tiskevicius had had a beautiful wooden seminary built. The same bishop later organized the construction of a more permanent stone building that was finished in 1767. That year 20 clerics worked at the seminary. By 1862 the number had risen to 120. Between 1850 and 1862 333 priests passed through the seminary on their way to ordination. The large majority of these priests served in Samogitia.
In 1864 Russian rulers forced the seminary to move to Kaunas, where it found a home in a Bernadine monastery. Some of the leaders of the seminary included Jeronimas Rackauskas, Gasparas Cirtautas, Antanas Karosas, Jonas Maciulis (Maironis) and others.
The Telsiai Seminary
TelsiaiAfter the founding of the Lithuanian Church Province in 1926, the Samogitian seminary, now in Kaunas, trained priests for the Telsiai, Panevezys and Kaisiadoriai episcopates until 1928. Once the Telsiai episcopate was formed, efforts were made to separately educate priests for the Samogitian diocese. At that time most of the priests in the diocese were elderly and only 26 young Samogitians were being schooled for the priesthood. Since it was financially difficult for Samogitian men to attend the Kaunas seminary, the diocese was in dire need of its own seminary. It was the rule in Lithuania for priests to be sent to their home regions. Additionally, as the new Samogitian bishop wrote in his memories, "a diocese without a seminary is incomplete. After all, a seminary attracts the elite of the priesthood, men who have shown exceptional ability in scholarly and priestly activities, who not only educate priests, but also greatly influence the entire diocese. [...] Every diocese has its own character. Therefore priests who have been trained in their own diocese grow with the seminary, follow the orders of their teachers. They learn to honor the elders that they grow used to listening to in seminary."
In 1927 the Telsiai seminary was opened under the leadership of Bishop J. Staugaicius. From 1932 on the seminary had students of all seven levels. V. Borisevicius was rector until 1940 when he was replaced by the vice rector P. Ramanauskas. Other professors included J. Galdikas, J. Narjauskas, J. Juodaitis, P. Mazelis, K. Prialgauskas, K. Steponavicius, P. Bucys, K. Olsauskas, A. Krusa, P. Vermter, J. Gasiunas, B. Barkauskas, K. Ruibys, J. Razutis, and lay members J. Macernis, F. Kudirka, A. Jesenauskas, and B. Zinkovicius.
The seminary was built gradually. Since the original buildings were too small, new sections were added with financial help from Lithuanian-Americans.
During the first years of its existence the seminary was financed by private donors. From 1931-1940 the state subsidized the seminary's work. From 1927-1940 from 41 to 122 men studied there. The first nine priests were graduated in 1932. Until 1940 150 priests graduated from the Telsiai seminary and were sent to work in parishes largely in Samogitia.
The Soviet rulers closed the Telsiai seminary in 1940. In the fall of 1941 the seminary opened its doors again, only to be closed in 1944. The majority of professors and educators escaped to the west and continued teaching at the Eichtat seminary. From there they scattered across a number of countries, since they were not able to return to Samogitia until Lithuanian independence was regained.
During the Soviet rule, Samogitian priests were trained in Kaunas, later in Vilnius. However, the number of priests was limited by the Soviets and the age of priests increased throughout Lithuania. A large number of priests were sent to exile in Siberia in the years after the war. A lack of priests became an ever-increasing problem in all of Samogitia. During the struggle for independence, an agreement was reached to reopen the Telsiai seminary. It opened in 1989 under the rector K. Gasciunas.

Center of Regional Cukltural Initiatives.
Page updated 2014.07.31 .
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