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Athol, Massachusetts

Athol (population 11 000) may just be a small town on the Massachusetts map. However, by the surviving Lithuanian sites, Athol area clearly ranks among the top Lithuanian zones of Massachusetts.

The most striking there is the Romance Revival St. Francis Lithuanian church, constructed in 1912-1920 and still operating (105 Main Street) and officially Lithuanian at the time when much larger cities have lost their Lithuanian churches.

Athol Lithuanian church

Athol St. Francis Lithuanian church

The church interior is especially decorated and impressive. It has many Lithuanian signs: on the impressive stained glass windows, on the frescos above the church, at the plaque in the memory of Jonas Vizbaras near the entrance, etc. By the number of Lithuanian inscriptions, it is among the leading churches in America, as much is explained in Lithuanian to the parishioners. While the interior looks especially expensive, only the altar table is actually marble, with much of the rest being wooden imitations.

The interior of Athol Lithuanian church

The interior of Athol Lithuanian church

Bible scenes with Lithuanian explanations in the Athol church

Bible scenes with Lithuanian explanations in the Athol church

One of many Lithuanian-language objects in the Athol church

One of many Lithuanian-language objects in the Athol church

While the church is open largely for the weekly mass alone, there is a 13,5 feet Lithuanian metal cross outside that may be seen by anyone who visits Athol. The cross is unique for being actually made of metal rather than wood, yet still bearing the traditional Lithuanian UNESCO-inscribed forms such as the Pagan-inspired sun around its center. The cross was created by Ramojus Mozoliauskas out of 4,5 tons of Corten steel in 1979. The nearby plaque declares it to be „an original work of art blending the modern and traditional spirits of the original wayside cross“. Among the listed reasons to erect it, a striking one is that crosses were quickly disappearing in Lithuania of the time due to the Soviet atheist persecutions, leading Lithuanian-Americans to seek to transplant the tradition to the USA.

The metal Lithuanian sun-cross in front of the Athol church

The metal Lithuanian sun-cross in front of the Athol church

The cornerstone of the church also has both Lithuanian and English inscriptions.

Athol also has a Amer-Lithuanian Naturalization Club (365 South St).

Athol Amer-Lithuanian naturalization club

Athol Amer-Lithuanian naturalization club

While the club today serves more as a multi-ethnic pub where patrons of various ethnicities are welcome, it still has many Lithuanian details in its interior, such as the Lithuanian National Anthem, the picture of Grand Duke Gediminas. The name is often shortened to „Lith Club“.

Lith Club Sign inside the Athol Lithuanian club

Lith Club Sign inside the Athol Lithuanian club

The reason for so many Lithuanians arriving at Athol, like in many more cases, was the agitation of those who already came there for their relatives and former neighbors to join them.

In the nearby Gardner, there is a Lithuanian Outing Association, a kind of club near the lake (23 Airport Rd). It is open in summers and Eastern European meals are sold there. The interior is also especially Lithuanian, bearing a flag, coat of arms, flag-colored tablecloths, maps and (the most interesting to an outsider) many images from the area‘s Lithuanian history. It also had a shrine to Our Lady of Šiluva that was destroyed by non-believer descendent of Lithuanians. However, Gardner Lithuanians never were united enough to build their own full church.

The tricolor interior of the Lithuanian Outing Association of Gardner

The tricolor interior of the Lithuanian Outing Association of Gardner

 


The map

All the Lithuanian locations, described in this article, are marked on this interactive map, made by the "Destination - America" expedition (click the link):

Interactive map of Massachusetts Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America expedition diary

2017 09 24. We were even more surprised in Athol (MA), a town of merely 7000 inhabitants, we found an open Lithuanian church and a Lithuanian club. Both now include non-Lithuanians as members as well, some of whom we met. However, the church‘s decor is especially Lithuanian, and the club still has some Lithuanian details too, despite offering non-Lithuanian meals. We have also passed another working Lithuanian club in nearby Gardner.

2017 09 25. Further on, we have visited Westfield, where Lithuanian church became a warehouse, and Stockbridge, where Marian fathers (an order that would have died out if not Jurgis Matulaitis, a Lithuanian Blessed person) own a Divine Mercy shrine, where copies of the Lithuania‘s Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Vilnius paintings proudly hang.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 24-25.

More info on the Destination America expedition

Augustinas Žemaitis of Destination America together with the leaders of the Gardner Lithuanian club

Augustinas Žemaitis of Destination America together with the leaders of the Gardner Lithuanian club

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  1. Athol-Gardner Knights of Lithuania work to keep the culture and traditions alive in this area.

  2. Mano giminaitis Vladas Adomavičius (1906 m. gruodžio 29 d. Rusijoje – 1961 m. vasario 18 d. Bostone, JAV) – violončelininkas, architektas, chorvedys, kompozitorius. 1949 m. atvyko į JAV ir apsigyveno Athole, kur atgaivino „Aušros“ chorą ir nemažai koncertavo. Suprojektavo ir padarė vitražus Šv. Pranciškaus bažnyčiai Athole.

    Turiu dvi nuotraukas jei idomu.


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