Practicing of Catholic folk piety in Kelmė Valsčius

Alfonsas Motuzas

The territory of Kelmė Valsčius (rural district) could be formed after November 21, 1918, and existed until 1947, when it became the centre of the county.

The history of the Lithuanian Church says that there were two Christian denominations, Catholic and Evangelical, in the area of the Kelmė Valsčius. The Evangelical community with its centre was only in the town of Kelmė. In 1918-1947, the Catholic community, being the most numerous here, used the practices of folk piety. This took place not inside the church during the Holy Mass, but in the home and/or natural environment. No separate research on the practice of Catholic folk piety in Kelmė area had been done before.

Therefore, in order to reveal the practices of folk piety, as well as their origin and reasons, in the area discussed, the historical, ethnological and archival sources as well as data obtained during summer expeditions had to be used. The purpose of the research was to reveal the practices of Catholic piety in Kelmė Valsčius. To reach the goal, the area with Catholic shrines located have been outlined, the practices of Catholic folk piety have been revealed, as well as the origins and causes of these practices identified on the basis of historical material.

The following conclusions have been drawn from this study. Firstly, the area with folk piety practices practiced in Kelmė area comprises the parishes as follows: Simon and Judas Thaddaeus in Lioliai, Virgin Mary in Saudininkai (Maironiai), Annunciation to the Virgin Mary in Pakražantis and St. Benedict in Žalpiai. The parish of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven with Verpena St. Anne's Chapel and oratories of St. Heart of Jesus in Šalteniai (Juodeikiai) and Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in Palendriai lies in the centre of the area. Folk piety practices are also found in Saudininkai (Maironiai) in the Virgin Mary Chapel. Hence, the folk piety practices in parishes of Kelmė district were performed in churches, chapels, oratorios, public oratorios and home environments. Secondly, the practices of folk piety in the parishes wee fulfilled during the Church year calendar holidays/feasts and family celebrations (sermons, commemorations of the dead).

Thirdly, out of 9 shrines (churches, oratorios, chapels) in Kelmė district, general Advent Rorate services were practiced in 8 ones, as well as the practice of folk piety during the Lent, the mourning of the dead in the Samogitian Calvary Mountains, May and June services. Fourthly, among Catholic folk piety practices common in several Kelmė parishes, songs for intercession of St. Anthony, St. Anne and the Mother of Christ had been chanted during the feasts and parish festivals. The St. George and Assumption of Mary into Heaven feasts are known to take place only in the Assumption Church, while the feast of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn was held only in the public oratorio of the Church of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in Palendriai, where the song "Vilnius Gate of Dawn Chapel" was being chanted. Fifthly, the origins and reasons of the folk piety practices in the parishes of Kelmė district should be related to the liturgy of the Church, as well as to the culture of the monasteries observed in the area from the olden times to the end of the nineteenth century and the active pastoral work of local clergy among the people.

The presented conclusions support the hypothesis raised at the beginning of the study, i.e., that when Kelmė was an administrative rural district, it was the active previous pastoral work by the monasteries that formed the practices of Catholic folk piety in this district.