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Worcester, Massachusetts

Worcester, 64 km westwards from Boston has a population of 180 000, ~2% Lithuanian (~4000). This is the 5th largest number of Lithuanians among all US cities (after Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia).

St. Casimir Lithuanian area

Massive Gothic revival St. Casimir Lithuanian church (41 Providence Street) offered regular services here from 1916 to 2009. Final mass was held in 2010 for Lithuanian independence day and the building was sold in 2011 to charismatic Christians for 650 000 USD. Altair and other sacred items were removed beforehand, but the St. Casimir‘s bust on the facade remains with the Lithuanian words „St. Casimir, pray for us“.

St. Casimir church. Its massive size and a hilltop location shows the size of Lithuanian community Worcester once had.

The St. Casimir bust on the St. Casimir church.

Former members of the parish (established in 1894) maintained a large informative website dedicated to the church which was created for an unsuccessful struggle against merging their parish with English-speaking St. John parish (now offline).
Interestingly, one of the priests of St. Casimir drowned with Titanic while arriving in the USA. He is said to have acted especially heroically there, giving up his lifeboat seat and helping the dying passengers.

Not far away from the St. Casimir church stands the former St. Casimir Lithuanian school which has a bas-relief of Lithuanian coat of arms and a Lithuanian inscription with its name on its facade. Today, however, it is a school for difficult children.

Worcester Lithuanian school.

An old Massachusetts tradition is to call intersections as „squares“ named after World War 2 veterans who lived in the area. As every Lithuanian church centered a small Lithuanian district, so there are at least three Lithuanian-named squares in the vicinity of St. Casimir: Miglauckas, Kirminas, and Maleskas.

Maleskas Sq. sign.

Kirminas Sq. sign.

Our Lady of Vilna Lithuanian area

Worcester was large enough to have a second Lithuanian church, gothic revival Our Lady of Vilna (153 Sterling Street, built ~1925). Today it serves the Vietnamese community indicating that the modern migration to America is mostly non-White, unlike that of the 1900s. Vietnamese-Americans have one thing in common with Lithuanian-Americans however: many of them immigrated after their country has been overrun by a communist invasion.

Our Lady of Vilna church in Worcester. It is the last so-named church in the USA.

Despite the ethnic change, the impressive interior of the church remains staunchly Lithuanian. There are more Lithuanian inscriptions here than in nearly every other Lithuanian church (even the saints behind the altar have their Lithuanian names written near their images). Some Lithuanians still pray at the church, although its institutions (school, parish hall) are now mostly used by Vietnamese. Lithuanian visitors are welcome.

Our Lady of Vilna church interior.

Gediminas street still exists in church vicinity (named after Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania, 1275-1341, traditionally held to be the founder of Vilnius). In fact, the entire hill the church proudly stands on used to be referred to as Gediminas hill (which is a locality in Vilnius). After all, the church was built in the times of Lithuanian-Polish conflict over Vilnius, this likely influencing the prevalence of the Lithuanian language and Vilnius-related symbolism.

Gediminas street sign.

Another testament to that is the memorial for 7 local Lithuanians who died in WW2 in front of the church. Those people died for the USA rather than Lithuania, yet the memorial also has Lithuanian inscriptions and the names of the veterans are written in Lithuanian, with Lithuanian characters and without the changes imposed by the US immigration authorities.

Memorial for Lithuanians die din WW2.

Not far away from the Our Lady of Vilnius church is the building of Lithuanian club, which is adorned by bas-reliefs of both American and Lithuanian coats of arms. Worcester Lithuanians built everything in a way that even after losing their buildings the decor still reminds of the history.

The former Lithuananian club in Worcester.

Maironis Park in Shrewsbury

The suburb of Shrewsbury includes Maironis park (52 South Quinsigamond Avenue), named after the famous Lithuanian patriotic poet of 19th-century national revival. This is a building rented out for celebrations (including Lithuanian holidays).

The building has a rather plain exterior as the historic club which stood here burned down several decades ago. The interior of its replacement, is, however, rather grand, as it includes Lithuanian paintings on its wooden walls. These were painted by a Lithuanian-American Rūkštelė who lived within the premises while he worked.

Some of the Lithuanian scenes at the Maironis Park hall.

Next to Maironis park stands a Memorial for those who died for Lithuania adorned in patriotic symbols (Columns of Gediminas, Vytis (the coat of arms), two Crosses of Vytis). Built in 1978, this memorial initially stood at the St. Casimir church. However, it was relocated after the church was sold in fear that the new owners would have destroyed it otherwise.

Memorial for those who died for Lithuanian freedom at Maironis park.

In 2010 the Worcester municipality recognized its partly Lithuanian roots by twinning with a town of Ukmergė in Lithuania.


>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 Worcester Lithuanian sites


Destination America expedition diary

Destination America map
Late in the day, we visited Worcester, where a large Lithuanian club Maironis Park remains while two massive Lithuanian churches were closed. One of them remains Catholic though; transformed into a Vietnamese one, it is still named after the Our Lady of Vilnius and all the Lithuanian artwork survives. We have encountered more pleasant surprises in Worcester, e.g. squares named after numerous Lithuanian war veterans and a massive Lithuanian Maironis club.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 21.

Destination America expedition leader Augustinas Žemaitis with Vito Zenkus. a Lithuanian from Worcester

Destination America expedition leader Augustinas Žemaitis with Vito Zenkus. a Lithuanian from Worcester

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  1. It was great city to grow up in. My past is full of wonderful memories of St Casimir’s Church and school and the nuns that tried to keep us on the right path (without success I might add). Even now Maironis Park is known throughout the United States as one of the iconic centers of Lithuanian culture.

  2. Does anyone remember Olympia Park. It was a great Lithuaniangathering place in the summer. People from all over the country used to come on busses. I loved it there.

    • Does anyone know Frank Bobblis or Magdalena Baukas Bakiute? They were my godparents when I was baptized at Our Lady of Vilna church in 1929. I am trying to learn more about my ancestors.

  3. My mom and aunt and uncle sang in the Lithuanian Chorus. Helen Smith. Irene Janulis and Richard Janulis and nsna Helen Zelinskas?


  5. ( I remember those stairs at Olympia Park. I got married to Jack Kasper at Our Lady ofVilna. Lived on Vernon Hill. Wonderful memories! AND I lived on Suffield St in the thirties……..Aldona Pauliukaitis Kasper

  6. The St Casimir Parish and school was a bedrock of my formation. The good sisters, our spiritual leaders instilled within us a love of country, respect for our community and a reminder of our heritage. I credit this foundation with the success I found in earning some wonderful opportunities for my future beyond St Casimir, including my appointment to the US Naval Academy and appreciation for education that took me through multiple advanced degrees. I left Worc many years ago, but the memory of St Casimir will draw me there in spirit always.

  7. Good friends: I am a granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants who settled in Shrewsbury not too far from the Lithuanian Club. I remember walking there with my grandfather who sat my sister and I down on the steps with orange crush while he went inside – we were lucky recipients of many half dollars and quarters as the patrons went in and out! Do any of you with Shrewsbury roots recall the Zulkus family on Cedar Road?

  8. Does anyone know if Jasiukonis or anything close to the surname has gone to this church? I am searching for my ancestors. Thank you. Sharon

  9. Any St. Casimier folk remember the Jeswcik (Jeskis) name (Walter, Martha, John, Peter, Rose) circa 1940s.

  10. My Grand father and grandmother were married in St. Casimirs church in Worcester Mass. on January 25, 1902 according to their marriage certificate.

  11. My Grandmother Mary Galanaitis was a long time member of Our Lady of Vilma until she purchased a three decker at 507 Cambridge Street in South Worcester. It was directly across from Cambridge Street Grammar School. We would walk together to St. John’s Cemetery and visit my Grandfather Joseph memorial. I went to Cambridge Street Grammar, then Providence Street Junior High and South High School. When I went off to Lowell Technological Institute for my college education, my Worcester years became fewer and fewer. After my stint in the U.S. Army, I became a Mid-Caper & have my proud memories of my South Worcester heritage.

  12. The maternal side of our family is names Senkavitch. My mother was Emily. The rest of her family was Mother Anna, Father William and siblings Joseph, William, George, Mary and Lillian. As a child we attended 8:30 Mass at St. Casimir’s and Sunday school afterwards. We were saddened when our church was closed. I attended the closing ceremony as everyone sang Marija, Marija at the main door as it was closed. Those of us who are left now still reminisce about the happy times of the holidays and outings at the area Lithuanian social clubs. Made Kugelis for Easter this year.

  13. Hi, I am researching my family tree and trying to see how two families are related. My father Vytautas (Veto) Gailiunas went to church at St. Casimir’s. His parents were Jonas and Frances Gailiunas. I want to find out how they were related to Anna and Bruno Saviskas (Savickas). They all went to Maironis Park (in fact I used to go when I visited as a child). Can anyone help me?

    • I remember Veto Gailiunas very well . He was part of our young group of Lithuanian friends . He was always very polite and affable . It was so long ago but it seems like yesterday remembering him and his sister at Maironis park . He belonged to the Lithuanian Boy Scouts in Exile . By sheer coincidence my daughter’s professor at UCONN Dental school was a friend of Veto and liked him very much .

  14. I am looking for a baker named Nemkines (possibly wrong spelling) and his wife Anna Kraunelis for family research (probably early to middle 1900s) They were in the Worcester area. Any information greatly appreciated.

  15. Does anyone remember the Buchyn’s

  16. My grandfather, Gabriel Shilalie, was proud of his being among those who helped to build Our Lady of Vilna Church.

  17. I have a very old scrapbook that I saved from St Ann Church when it was demolished about 1969 that has all newspaper articles about Lithuania. Early 1900’s. St Casimirs mentioned throughout. Very fragile. I would like to show it or give it to Worc Lithuania historians. I think very interesting reading. .

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