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Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts

Lawrence (pop. 70 000), Massachusetts is known as the "immigrant city" for the numerous early 20th-century European migrant communities. And nearly every ethnicity built its own church.

Lithuanians constructed two churches (both now closed). The first one was the usual Roman Catholic St. Francis (94 Bradford Street), currently used as a Christian Belessini Academy (Lithuanian mass was transferred to Corpus Christi parish in 35 Essex street).

St. Francis Lithuanian church in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Google Street View.

The second Lithuanian church, constructed in 1855 (Garden Street 150), used to be owned by an independent Lithuanian National Catholic Church which has acquired it in 1917. This has been a unique denomination established in early 20th century by Lithuanians which considered itself Catholic but denounced the authority of Roman Pope (thus they are not Roman Catholics). Lithuanian National Catholics had their cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania (still operational) and Lawrence was its only other parish.

Lithuanian National Catholic Church in Lawrence. Google Street View.

Lawrence's Lithuanian National Catholic Church building has been sold again (to the Haitian baptists this time). But the Methuen suburb still has a Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery, the final resting place of the parish. They could have been buried neither in the unsanctified protestant cemetery ground nor together with the papal followers, that's why they established their own cemetery which has received a nice arch in 1997.

Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery in Methuen. Google Street View.

10 km further west from Lawrence along the Merrimack river (its valley once a major hub for textile industry which has attracted Lithuanians in the first place) lies the town of Lowell (pop. 100 000), a kind of Lawrence's twin. The local Lithuanians also had their church dedicated to St. Joseph (151 Rogers Street). Built on 1911 it has been closed on 2003.

Lowell still has Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas club named after the famous Lithuanian leader under whose rule Lithuania was the largest medieval European state. Opened in 1920 the club moved to its current location at 447 Central Street in 1966 and its entrance is still adorned by a Lithuanian flag and a pre-modern Lithuanian abbreviation of its name DLKV. Theoretically, it's still open although practically its doors are rarely opened as the community is already senescent.

Lowell DLKV Lithuanian club. Google Street View.

In 2012 a commemorative stone to local Lithuanians has been unveiled near Lowell municipal building.

A little north Nashua, New Hampshire is also considered a part of the Merrimack valley. That textile town has its own Lithuanian heritage.

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  1. my mother was born in Lowell and was baptized in the St Joseph’s Lithuanian Church in 1926 . I was wondering if you have any information about the church during that time. My mother is 92 yrs old and she has dementia but she is remembering a lot about her youth. She had mentioned to me that her father or her brother had sold their house in North Chelmsford to the church. My mothers name is Lena Stanekwicz which is not the correct spelling . I do have her birth announcement but it is so old hard to read the Lithuania names. I would live to have some history on this for her. Thank you A. Vaughan (daughter)

    • I don’t know much more than what is written here, however, one could perhaps contact bishopric for more info, including info on where the records are kept. Also, maybe some former parishioners would reply here.

  2. I am so happy to see the photo of the church on 94 Bradford St in Lawrence. My grandmother was very active in that church (which I believe was called St Mary’s Lithuanian Church in the early 1900s till ?) Her name was Mary (Pankauski or Pankauskas).) Golobski, and her parents had been married there in 1907. Her sister Amelia Pankauski was also active in the Church. Though I never attended Mass with them, my cousins did at holiday time. I have very fond memories of volunteering in two Thanksgiving dinners for the Lithuanian community in the late 1970s to possibly the very early 80s. They were held in the basement of the church, which was a large room where the seating tables were arranged. A kitchen in the back had very old stoves, possibly still wood, and an old icebox that needed a chunk of ice! I would go early in the morning with my grandmother and her sister and we would spend the day with other ladies cooking, setting the tables, decorating. At night, people arrived and the room was full with Lithuanians of all ages ,but especially the elderly, enjoying an evening out, seeing old friends and relatives, and having a good meal. I especially loved the raffles and won a prize one year- a homemade cake in the shape of a lady with a dress frosted in colors of the Lithuanian flag, and holding a small homemade Lith. paper flag on a toothpick. I still have the flag, and could not bear to cut the cake, but took a photo of it which I still have. The walls were lined with framed old pictures of groups of Lithuanians- I hope someone still has the pictures. My grandmother’s funeral was also held at this church. As a kid, it seemed huge to me, with dark stone stairwells. My grandmother regularly not only attended church but also cooked and volunteered for most of the activities. I also remember asking her for coins for candles to light near the altar. I wish I could go back in time and go back with her and Amelia again.

  3. The Lithuanian National Catholic Cemetery in Methuen Massachusetts is very precious in my memories and has several of my Lithuanian relatives buried there, and more distant relatives. I well remember in the 1960s and 1970s, on Memorial Day, my grandfather Albin Golobski would drive down the street to pick up his sister-in-law, my great aunt, Amelia Pankauski. He had a lawn mower loaded in the back of the car, and Amelia would bring hand tools. I would often go along for their yearly cemetery cleanup of graves, with my grandfather mowing the grass and Amelia trimming around the headstones and cleaning up. Some may remember a small path at the back corner of the cemetery through the trees that led to the Lithuanian community picnic grounds. There was a large wood dance pavilion which the men had built, and an outbuilding where food was prepared for sale at low prices for special summer parties. As a kid, I volunteered for a couple of these events in the late 70s. I remember cooking the usual summer food, serving it, and piling cans of Genessee beer in big tubs of ice. The dance pavilion was not used for dances at that point as it was getting somewhat run down, but the young kids loved running around in it and screaming to hear their voices echo. Unfortunately the picnic grounds were sold in later years and the dance pavilion pulled down. I am not sure what group owned the grounds.

  4. I am working on Lithuanian genealogies, and thought I would add that in the 1906 Lawrence Massachusetts Directory, the pastor of St Mary’s Lithuanian Church (later the St Francis Lithuanian Church) on 94 Bradford St was Rev A Yusaitis, who lived in the rectory there.

  5. Sorry, Rev Antony Jusaitis Of St Mary’s Lithuanian Church in Lawrence Mass (later St Francis)

  6. My grandparents, Antanas Burba and Marijona Talackiute came to Larence in early 1900s, from Lithuania, uncertain of location. I am looking for where to find records, any information! Any help will be greatly appreciated! Kathleen.
    l


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