Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The spirit of FatherJoseph Šeštokas lives at Our Lady of Vilnius

Our Founding Father and Worker/Priest

Joseph Šeštokas was born August 4, 1867 in Trilaukis, county of Pajevonis, district of Vilkaviskis. After finishing 4 years of high school he emigrated to Glasgow, Scotland where he worked in a steel mill. With the money he saved, he soon crossed the Atlantic and settled in Brooklyn. His first job was at the Havemeyer Sugar Refinery in the Williamsburg section. He later opened a grocery store, the first one opened by a Lithuanian in that area.

After having earned enough money to pay the tuition, Joseph Šeštokas entered St. John College in Brooklyn in preparation for a priestly career. He was subsequently admitted to St. Bonaventure Seminary, Alleghany, NY.

Fr. Šeštokas was ordained on April 24, 1903 and celebrated his first Mass in the church of St. Mary Queen of Angels, in Brooklyn. After serving in Lawrence, Massachusetts and returned to New York to start organizing a new parish in Manhattan.

The Chancery and the pastor of the church of St. Teresa on the Lower East Side allowed Father Šeštokas to use the vasement of that church for services with the Lithuanian immigrants. That situation lasted until March 5, 1911, when the new church on Broome St. was blessed and solemnly open to public worship.

The corner-stone had been laid one year earlier,and unknown to most parishioners then and now, Father Šeštokas, after fulfilling his priestly duties during the day, would go two or three times a week to the docks of Manhattan to work as a longshoreman in the night shift in order to earn money for the building of Our Lady of Vilnius.

In November of 1912 Father Šeštokas bought the building at 32 Dominick Street to serve as a rectory. He lived there until 1937 running a very active parish, according to old timers who shared their recollections with Father Palubinskas in 1987. The parish books and records for baptisms, marriages and deaths confirm this. In 1937, after six month leave of absence related to declining health, the Chancery refused him permission to resume his duties as pastor. Father Šeštokas lived at St. Anthony's Hospital in Warwick, NY and later moved to Philadelphia, be be close to his relatives. He died in November, 1958 at the age of 91. He rests, expecting the resurrection of the dead in Calvary Cemetery, Long Island city, NY.

-from a biography prepared in 1987 by Father Vytautas Palubinskas on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the birth of Father Šeštokas.

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