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New Jersey

Jersey City (the largest city in New Jersey) is part of the New York City conurbation. It is separated from New York proper by merely a river that is crossed by bridges and tunnels. As such, the New Jersey and NYC Lithuanian communities are closely related. New Jersey Lithuanian sites may easily be visited when visiting the New York City.

Elizabeth Lithuanian sites

The heart of the New Jersey Lithuanian community is Elizabeth suburb of Jersey City with its old and massive Lithuanian St. Peter and Paul church (211 Ripley Pl.) - the mass is celebrated in Lithuanian and English.

Elizabeth Lithuanian church and rectory

Elizabeth Lithuanian church and rectory

The church houses an Our Lady of Šiluva altar (near its side wall) dedicated to the earliest church-recognized Maryan vision in Europe (took place in Šiluva, Lithuania). It is full of ethnic woodcarving motifs. Moreover, Our Lady of Vilnius is included in the main altar (at the top of the altar, it is a copy of the Virgin Mary painting in Vilnius). The church decorations are also especially Lithuanian with Lithuanian inscriptions available on the stained glass windows (with sponsor names) and on the stations of the cross (with explanations of the New Testament events depicted there). Much of the artwork inside has been created by Lithuanians, Near the entrance, there is a gallery of church-history-related artifacts and Lithuania-related images (e.g. painting of a traditional wooden cross or a picture of the cross erected by church members at the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai).

Elizabeth Lithuanian church interior, looking from the choir

Elizabeth Lithuanian church interior, looking from the choir

Our Lady of Šiluva altar at the Elizabeth Lithuanian church

Our Lady of Šiluva altar at the Elizabeth Lithuanian church, full of Lithuanian traditional woodcarving motifs

Lithuanian stations of the cross in the Elizabeth church

Lithuanian stations of the cross in the Elizabeth church

The bottom of the stained glass windows of the Elizabeth church

The bottom of the stained glass windows of the Elizabeth church

Outside of the church stands a traditional Lithuanian sun-cross, while the plaque with the church name also features Lithuanian designs.

Elizabeth Lithuanian cross

Elizabeth Lithuanian cross

The church's peculiar towers look "too short" because their steeples were removed due to them having been damaged by the places taking off from the nearby Newark airport. The plane staking off are also hearable inside the church.

Since 2006, the Elizabeth Lithuanian church shares its priest with the Polish St. Adalbert parish (but both churches are open). One of the church's famous priests (in fact, its founder) Mssgr. Kemėžis has a street named after him nearby. On the street sign, however, his name is written with a typo as "Kemensis".

Kemėžis Pl. plaque with a typo

Kemėžis Pl. plaque with a typo

For 65 years a Lithuanian bakery (131 Inslee Place) operates in the district offering Lithuanian bread among other Eastern European meals. The bakery is Ukrainian-owned today, however, but retains its historic name. As numerous vans parked outside suggest, the bread of the bakery is rather popular. Bakery's front facade is covered by wood to remind of the Lithuanian traditional architecture.

Lithuanian Bakery with its Lithuanian-inspired exterior

Lithuanian Bakery with its Lithuanian-inspired exterior

Newark Lithuanian sites

While Elizabeth Lithuanian church is today the grandest in all of the New Jersey, this wasn't always the case. Newark's Romance Revival Holy Trinity Lithuanian church may have surpassed it in grandeur. Unfortunately, it has caught fire in 1981 and, while the damaged did not destroy it, the diocese refused to permit repairs. The parish was thus relocated to a rather simple two-floored edifice it has previously built as a parish hall in 1963.

Newark Holy Trinity Lithuanian church entance and traditional cross

Newark Holy Trinity Lithuanian church entance and traditional cross

The church is still open, however, the mass is now Portuguese-only as the Portuguese-speaking community has gradually displaced the Lithuanian one. Still, there are many Lithuanian details left, including Vytis on the door glass, Lithuanian folk-art wooden frame than encloses the church's mass schedule and a Lithuanian sun-cross that stands near the entrance since 1962 (relocated from the old church). At its center is Rūpintojėlis, the traditional Lithuanian image of a sad Jesus. The church is close doutside the mass, however, the mass is held everyday.

Vytis on the Holy Trinity Newark Lithuanian church entrance

Vytis on the Holy Trinity Newark Lithuanian church entrance

Bayonne, Kearny and Paterson Lithuanian sites

Elsewhere in New Jersey too, Lithuanian parishes indicate Lithuanian presence. The trend was the same: the Lithuanian parishes established in Jersey suburbs ~1910 with the first Lithuanian migrant wave, however, the current churches constructed in 1950s-1970s modern or semi-modern style as the small communities became rich enough and post-WW2 refugees needed to be accommodated. In ~2000s Lithuanian language, services were abandoned as new generations replaced their parents and grandparents who spoke Lithuanian well.

A small towerless St. Michael Lithuanian church stands in the southern suburb of Bayonne since 1977. Its address is 15 E Twenty-Third St but the nearby Church St. is also known as Matulis Way after the church's priest who passed out in 2000. Bayonne has ~400 Lithuanians (~0,6%). St. Michael church was, however, formally partially transferred to Syriac Catholics in the 2010s. Despite such transfer, the interior is still all-Lithuanian and nearly always open (unlike all the other Lithuanian churches of New Jersey, which are unlocked only for the mass). Even the Lithuanian flag remains beside the altar. Also, the old stations of the cross, most likely relocated from the previous church, are adorned in the old-Lithuanian-language inscriptions. The stained glass windows, usually among the most impressive parts of the Lithuanian-American churches, here are rather modest, however. A complex "time-sharing" system between Roman and Syriac Catholics is apparently in place, as posted near the entrance. Over the entrance, the words "Lithuanian church" are chiseled.

Bayonne Lithuanian church

Bayonne Lithuanian church

Entrance to the Bayonne Lithuanian church with its Lithuanian dedication

Entrance to the Bayonne Lithuanian church with its Lithuanian dedication

The interior of Bayonne Lithuanian church

The interior of Bayonne Lithuanian church (Lithuanian flag on the right)

Old Lithuanian station of the cross at the Bayonne Lithuanian church

Old Lithuanian station of the cross at the Bayonne Lithuanian church

Another area that has been popular among Lithuanian immigrants was the Kearny suburb. In 1915 when a Lithuanian parish has been established in nearby Harrison, there lived 400 Lithuanians in Kearny and 700 in Harrison (~450 and ~150 today). ~1954 a new larger towered church of Our Lady of Sorrows has been constructed in Kearny (136 Davis Ave). On the parish's 850th anniversary Reverend Pocus wrote, "Second- and third- generation families may never fully appreciate the fervent longings of their forebears for the sights and sounds of their homeland. But certainly, our older parishioners can recall the poverty of our people, their loneliness in a strange land, their youth and energy, and feeling of unity which they felt with their fellow Lithuanians".

Kearny Lithuanian church

Kearny Lithuanian church

The Kearny Lithuanian church is still officially Lithuanian and has a plaque commemorating that. It also has another Lithuanian traditional sun-cross near its entrance, donated by the Knights of Lithuania organization.

Kearny Lithuanian church entrance and the traditional Lithuanian cross

Kearny Lithuanian church entrance and the traditional Lithuanian cross

After World War 2 (1962) the Paterson Lithuanian parish also constructed its modest St. Casimir church (147 Montgomery St; closed 2014, sold to non-denominational Christians).
Recommended literature: Barbara Krasner "Kearny's Immigrant Heritage" pg. 67-76.

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Map of Lithuanian heritage in Mid-Atlantic

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in Mid-Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC) and western Ontario.

More info on Lithuanian heritage in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Ontario.

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