Part II: Lithuanian Immigration to the United States


After the establishment of substantial Lithuanian settlements with their own churches, the next step was the education of the children. This phase of Lithuanian-American history centered primarily on the Roman Catholic Church, and although these new Americans faced constant economic insecurity, much was accomplished.

The first elementary school was established in 1888 and connected with the Lithuanian parish in Mahanoy City, Pa. In 1892 two additional schools were established; one in Shenandoah and one in Pittston, Pa.[1] The first elementary school connected with St. George’s Church in Shenandoah had one teacher for seventy students. Although the school was begun primarily to preserve and foster the Lithuanian culture and language, Polish children, who attended because their parish did not have a school, were allowed to be taught in Polish rather than Lithuanian.[2]

The Sisters of St. Casimir Congregation were eventually found teaching in forty-one Lithuanian elementary schools. Meanwhile, the St. Francis Sisters staffed seventeen Lithuanian elementary schools, and the Sisters of Jesus Crucified instructed in eleven primary institutions. Altogether at least sixty-nine Lithuanian elementary schools were established.[3] The next step was the establishment of high schools. The Sisters of St. Casimir initiated this movement in 1911 with the founding of St. Casimir’s Academy in Chicago.[4] Later the Sisters of St. Francis were to staff five Lithuanian high schools: St. Peter and St. Paul’s in Grand Rapids, St. Joseph’s in DuBois, St. Francis Academy and St. Casimir’s in Pittsburgh, and Holy Trinity in Hartford. In 1931, the Sisters of St. Casimir established Villa Joseph Mary Academy in Newton, Pennsylvania. This originally was to be for the training of new members to the order, but was later turned into a four-year academy. Also, the Sisters of Jesus Crucified founded an Academy in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania.[5]

The Marian Fathers likewise pushed ahead in the field of education; however, their work was basically at the high school and college level. In 1926, they created their first high school in Hillsdale (Claredon, Hills), Illinois. This was also a junior college, and served as a seminary for the order. When the number of students from the East began to increase, it was decided to establish a college there. This was accomplished in 1931 with the founding of St. Mary’s in Thompson, Connecticut. Two years later the State of Connecticut gave its approval for the incorporation of St. Mary’s High School and College under the name of Marianapolis College, along with the right to confer degrees.[6] In the early 1930’s the college body was almost completely Lithuanian; later a number of students of non-Lithuanian origin were accepted. With the coming of World War II many of the students were drafted or volunteered for the service, and the college and high school became Marianapolis Preparatory School, which caters to students from around the world.

The end of the war witnessed the establishment of two additional institutions of higher education. The first was started by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in conjunction with Annhurst College and Putnam Catholic Academy in 1949. The girls attended one of these institutions and also received instructions in various aspects of Lithuanian culture at the motherhouse of the Sisters of Putnam, where they resided.[7] The second was St. Anthony’s Preparatory, a high school created in 1956 by the Franciscan Fathers in Kennebunkport, Maine.[8] The enrollment, composed of male students of Lithuanian descent, increased to nearly 100 in the mid-sixties. The student body then began to decrease, and in 1969 the school was forced to close.

In addition to these religious institutions, there were also numerous other educational facilities established. In Chicago, these included many night schools, a Lithuanian Music Conservatory created in 1910 by Mikas Petrauskas, an American College Preparatory School founded by B.T. Waitches in 1916, the Art Institute established by Stasys Turkis in 1917, and educational societies, which continually fostered education by offering various courses and stipends for promising youth.[9] The Chicago pattern was followed wherever large settlements of Lithuanians existed.

The Lithuanians’ respect for education can also be seen in their activities at Valparaiso University in Indiana, which conducted preparatory classes for those lacking the fundamentals, as well as classes which taught the students to read, speak, and write English. In 1913 there were already thirteen Lithuanian students at Valparaiso, and from 1905 to 1925 about one thousand Lithuanians attended the University. These students were active in Lithuanian affairs and even created their own library containing almost 2,000 volumes.[10]

The imnigration of Lithuanians at the end of World War II created a revival of educational activity, which, for several reasons, had been decreasing. The addition of new blood witnessed the reestablishment of Saturday Schools, where Lithuanian children were taught such things as the language, history, and literature of Lithuania. The idea was planted in the displaced person’s camps of Germany and blossomed in the United States. For the academic year 1961-1962, there were twenty-six primary schools with 1,128 students and 101 teachers. Additionally, there were four Saturday Schools for more advanced students. In 1961-1962 one each was found in Boston, Cicero, Illinois, Cleveland, and Chicago, with a total of 318 students and 26 teachers.[11] Important to these classes was the Lithuanian Pedagogital Institute, created in Chicago in 1958, which trained future teachers for the Saturday Schools.[12] On a still higher level was the Lithuanian Institute established in Chicago in 1951, composed of professors of various specialties who are interested in Lithuanian culture. Their first conference was held in Washington in 1964, and in addition to the conferences various monographs have been published by the Institute.[13] Finally, there are the numerous summer camps held for almost all age groups. Again the central theme of these camps remains the preservation and propagation of Lithuanian culture.

Taken from ART COLLECTION. Main Alter in the Monastery Chapel, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Taken from ART COLLECTION. Main Alter in the Monastery Chapel, Brooklyn, N.Y.

  1. Kučas, Amerikos, 435.
  2. Jonas, Lietuviai, 38, 39.
  3. Kučas, Amerikos, 441-446. Švento Pranciškaus Vienuolyno Rėmėjai (Saint Francis Cenvent Supporters), (Pittsburgh, 1940).
  4. Končius, Šv. Kazimiero, 327.
  5. Končius, Amerikos, 226, 183-186, 227.
  6. Marianapolis College: High School and College Catalogue, 1940-1941 (Thompson, 1940), 8, 9.
  7. L.E., XX, 146.
  8. L.E., XXIII, 425.
  9. Ambrose, Chicagos, 356-362.
  10. Ambrose, Chicagos, 351-354. L.E., XXXIII, 51, 52.
  11. L.E., XXIX, 426.
  12. L.E., XXII, 234.
  13. L.E., XVI, 307, 308.


Lithuanian Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland Copyright © 2020 by Cleveland State University . All Rights Reserved.

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