Photography with a neighborhood dimension…

An Open Letter…

…to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish Community in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood and our partner in Renew My Church…Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC mission in the Village of Lemont…

Can we honestly say today that our Catholic and Lithuanian faith tradition are important to us? Without question we can say yes! This is very well evidenced by the the Christmas holiday that just passed and the celebration of the Epiphany and Baptism of Our Lord which we celebrate this week. The first priority was not the exchange of presents, but the reverence of the manager and the Birth of Jesus with Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds. We did this at our parish and mission. But there is a missing dynamic here as to how we did this…separately and not sharing the Christmas Plotkele with our brothers and sisters at the mission…we celebrated that most holiest of meal…Kūčios by ourselves. We have been in discussion ad finitum on the proper way to be a faith community according to the guidelines set forth in Renew My Church by Cardinal Cupich. This includes among other issues the proper management of our parish and mission in ministry, education and finances. For this we need only look at our neighboring parishes here on the Southwest side of Chicago…Saint Christina…Christ the King and Saint Barnabas. To start with, we are in need of permanent Deacons both at the parish and mission. We are in need of a full time music and choir director; religious education director; acolytes/lectors/Eucharistic Ministers. A full time business and development manager together with a youth minister. You ask, why can some neighboring parishes have this and we not…this is because we have not yet learned to share and support each other in Renew My Church. Our First Communion and Confirmation classes are separate … our parish and mission social events are separate…we do not share. We have a parish convent populated by two nuns that can be used for parish events and organization such as the Legion of Mary…Holy Name Society etc… A nun’s residence is a quarter a block away at the Saint Casimir Center; that includes a vacant chaplain’s residence. One of the nuns could easily become a religious education director at the parish coordinating with the mission. None of these issues are under discussion because of strict ethnic thinking that the parish is in decline…the mission is ours and we do not want any interference from Archdiocese of Chicago. A fear grounded in the idea that we have to conform to inclusion rather than exclusion…we must welcome all of our brothers and sisters as Christ did…this has to change or we will not survive. If you look at the average age of those that attend the liturgies…you will soon see that it is in the late 60’s. Only major solemnities are attended by the larger Lithuanian community. You may ask why…because we do reach out to the younger generations in offering a vibrant parish and mission with services that I have already described. If we do not soon look to these our brothers and sisters in faith…we shall find ourselves not a community that we could call our own.

Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC

On Sunday, July 16th the Catholic Church universally, and in particular, the Marian Congregation (priests,brothers and lay) commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Beatification of Marian Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Shrine Parish in Chicago’s Marquette Park community will join with other Lithuanian parishes throughout the world in prayer for the canonization of this saintly man; the Second Founder of the Marian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception. His ministry here in Chicago is still alive and well on the Marian Campus in the West Lawn community; where the Lithuanian newspaper DRAUGAS is still published…please join us this weekend at the 11am Solemn Mass as we pray for his eventual canonization.
Nativity BVM is located at 2700 West Lithuanian Plaza Court; 773-776-4600.



On Friday, January 27th the Catholic Church universally, and in particular, the Lithuanian hierarchy commemorate the Memorial of Marian Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Shrine Parish in Chicago’s Marquette Park community will join with other Lithuanian parishes throughout the world in prayer for the canonization of this saintly man; the Second Founder of the Marian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception. His ministry here in Chicago is still alive and well on the Marian Campus in the West Lawn community; where the Lithuanian newspaper DRAUGAS is still published…please join us this weekend at the 11am Solemn Mass as we pray for his eventual canonization.

Nativity BVM is located at 2700 West Lithuanian Plaza Court; 773-776-4600.

Sunday, October 16th at 1pm…


A concert not to miss in a beautiful shrine parish of Our Lady of Siluva and Blessed Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC…

Mezzo-soprano Judita Leitaite is our guest at Nativity B.V.M. Parish.
Judita Leitaite will perform Sunday, October 16, 2016 at 1 p.m. at Nativity B.V.M. Parish, 2700 West Lithuanian Plaza Court in Chicago’s Marquette Park community. Three children’s choirs of Darius Polikaitis “Vyturys”, Alinos Simkuvienes “Svajone”, and Dalia Gedviliene “Chicago Lithuanian School” will help our soloist.
This is the fifth “Under The Angel’s Wing” concert. The purpose of this conert is educational. We are trying to unite the best Lithuanian musicians with emigration youth so they will learn how to love and cherish their rich musical haritage. The concert will be in one of the most beautiful churches of Chicago, already known by top world musicians like Ariana Kim, Ieva Jokubaviciute, Richard Budginas, Virgilijus Noreika, Ciurlionis Quartet, Avalon Quartet and others.
Mezzo-soprano Judita Leitaitė is among the most exciting, creative, and widely recognized soloists of Lithuania. Her concert career started when she was still a student. Success at international competitions – M.Glinka Vocal Competition in Baku (1987) and the International Vocal Competition in Finland in 1991 – prompted her further career.
Judita Leitaitė studied with renowned masters such as E.Schwarzkopf and T.Kraus (Germany), C. Bergonzi (Italy), J. Goldberg (USA), prof. S. Maltsev (Russian).
Judita Leitaitė performs regularly throughout her native Lithuania. She is on demand not only on the main concert stages, but also various radio and TV programs, schools, orphanages, churches, benefit concerts, as well, as jazz concerts and religious events.
She has made successful appearances at numerous international festivals in Poland, Denmark, Vilnius and London, as well as “Palaces of St. Petersburg” in Russia and “Music on the Water” held at the Palace of the King of Sweden. Her performance at the Baltic Music Fest in Sweden was a true sensation: “Audience was charmed not only by the beauty of the voice of fabulous vocalist Judita Leitaitė, but also by her compelling musical rendering.” She became the Summer Star of Newport Music Festival (USA). “The North American debut of Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Judita Leitaitė was greeted by thunderous ovations,” wrote Newport Music Festival press.
Judita Leitaitė has toured Scandinavia and the former Soviet Union, Germany, France, Holland, Poland, Israel, Great Britain, USA, and the South African Republic. Among Leitaite’s concert partners are the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Vilnius String Quartet, Čiurlionis String Quartet, and Lithuanian and international pianists and organists. She has studied and collaborated with conductors such as Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Saulius Sondeckis, conducting Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Juozas Domarkas, and Leo Botstein (USA) conducting the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, and Constantin Orbelian conducting the Moscow Chamber Orchestra.
Her record credits include a number of LPs, 12 CDs and well over 300 recordings for the Lithuanian Radio. Noteworthy recordings: music for film Vilniaus getas (Vilnius Ghetto), Balakauskas’ Requiem in Memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis, Russian romances, 20th century hit programme Renkuosi meilę (I Chose Love), CDs of Christian songs Tau, mano angele (For You, My Angel). Mano mėgstamos Skandinavijos dainos (My Favourite Scandinavian Songs), recorded in original language, received Finnish and Swedish critical recognition. Recently she has recorded Menu kerinčius valso garsus (I Recall Enchanting Sound of Waltz) and Nuoširdžiai jūsų (Sincerely Yours).
For contributions to Lithuanian culture Leitaitė was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great; in 2005, she was awarded the State Culture and Art Prize; in 2007, she received the Gold Disc.
During the concert you will hear pieces by American and Lithuanian composers. Tickets can be bought at The Nativity B.V.M. parish, “Old Vilnius” cafe or before the concert for $15 for adults, $10 for students and children under five are free.img_1079

Note Bene…

Renew My Church…

Everyone had their say in this matter…the Regional (V) Vicar, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago Andrew Wypych offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday, October 2nd at Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC Mission in Lemont. He explained in his homily the discussions that will take place over a long period of time between Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Shrine Parish (Rev. Jaunas Kelpsas, Pastor; Rev. Gediminas Kersys, Associate); and Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC Mission (Rev. Algis Baniulis, SJ, Chaplain). The Renew My Church format, at the archdiocese’s recommendation,  is now being discussed   on Monday’s at the mission. These discussions will familiarized the congregants with the implementing process.  In prayer, let us work to make this happen for the betterment of our both communities…

…joe kulys…

Renew My Church… An Open Letter to Algis Baniulis, S.J, Mission Chaplain…

There is a lot that I do not agree with relative to Archbishop Cupich…an instance would be his comments on that cold January day in DesPlaines at the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine when he raised his hands and commented “Do Not Shoot”. He disrespected all law enforcement, including the many families of murdered Chicago and Cook County police officers…that said let us go to an issue that I applaud him for

Renew My Church…

(l to r) Bl. Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC Mission Chapel… Nativity BVM Parish Church

When he came to the Archdiocese he reorganized the curia (pastoral center) and installed a chief financial officer, who happens to be a woman with a track record of financial acumen. This was a good start to place the archdiocese in the right direction. He did not do what  Joseph Cardinal Bernadin and Monsignor George Sarauskas did some years back and closed without discussion @80 parishes; including our beloved Saint George parish in the Bridgeport community. Archbishop Cupich and Bishop Wypych are approaching this in a very logical way together with their staffs; and most importantly with the parishes, shrines and missions. To be brief, the plan Archbishop Cupich has presented is for the ministry sites to gather in small groups. They should review their sacramentals; ministry programs and  outreach in terms of evangelization, including their budgets and  physical structures. During these discussions the strengths and weakness will be identified and addressed; there might be a consolidation effort or a parish expanding to establish a mission.

Now this brings me to my concern; Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish, a national shrine to Our Lady of Siluva; an established shrine to Blessed Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC.

Working together is very important and this was recognized early by the Archbishop; his curia and our regional Bishop Andrew Wypych. Nativity BVM is the only Lithuanian Catholic parish in the Chicago archdiocese and the Chicagoland area. There are two other parishes which have a Lithuanian language Mass; but their ministry, programs and evegelization extends to other ethnic groups; remembering always to include a Mass in the American language. An English Mass is also celebrated at Nativity BVM in Chicago’s Marquette Park community. As demographics have changed; the Lithuanian community had requested of the archdiocese to rent a small facility in the former Vincentian Fathers seminary; which is now known at the Lemont Lithuanian Center.This facility would not be owned by the archdiocese; a priest would be invited that would celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments. With reluctance this was granted.  The first option was always to attend the local parish.  In Lemont, there are three parishes: Saint Patrick; Saint Alphonsus; and Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Recently, the archdiocese seeing the uniqueness of the only Lithuanian Catholic parish in Chicago; and a mission with it’s intent to evangelize the suburban Lithuanian community; offered the pastor of Nativity BVM and the Chaplain of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis, MIC Mission an opportunity to group together. This grouping would provide them an opportunity  to  examine their compliance with the Archdiocese’s Renew My Church program. Something we  must always remember is that with a parish like Nativity BVM there are strict financial safeguards. These safeguards would include the process for depositing of monies received for Masses, funerals, weddings and any bequests made to the parish. There is also need for an active parish life during the week with many of the organizations such as the Legion of Mary, Holy Name Society, and the parish council meeting on a regular basis. This year we are graced with an additional source of revenue with the leasing of our school and gymnasium to Amandla College Prep, a state funded charter school bringing together 347 students and 30 teachers. This will allow us to  balance our budget and totally payout the remaining indebtedness.

In these recent years, we have to applaud our pastor, Rev Jaunius Kelpsas for bringing an increase in first communicants and the confirmed. A dramatic increase in couples entering into sacramental marriage; with the assistance in pre cana by Dr Linas and Rima Sidrys. This has led to  an increase in registered parishioners and Mass attendance.

This coming Sunday, September 11th over 1,200 will attending the Solemn Mass and closing of nine days of prayer to Our Lady of Siluva. Joining our parish priests will be the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. We are hoping that our sisters and brothers at the Lemont Catholic mission will join us for this happy and blessed occasion.

Now, let us get to the crux of the matter, the Archbishop and our regional vicar have offered us at Nativity BVM and Bl. Matulaitis, MIC Mission an opportunity to group together for the Renew My Church program. We should be grateful to both of them and grab this opportunity to evangelized and bring the Catholic Faith to more of our sisters and brothers in Chicago and the greater Cook County area.

Jesus, I Trust You!…

Welcoming the Metropolitan Archbishop of Vilnius (Lithuania) to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Shrine Parish, 2700 West Lithuanian Plaza Court in Chicago’s Marquette Park community…

Saturday, March 12th 

4pm Vigil Mass for the fifth Sunday in Lent

5pm His Excellency, Archbishop Grucas will present the Divine Mercy film with a discussion to follow. Remember that Saint Faustina Kowalska resided in Vilnius when Our Lord instructed her to have drawn the image of Divine Mercy. That image is enshrined in a sanctuary chapel in Vilnius.

11am on Sunday, March 13 the Archbishop will celebrate a Solemn Mass in joyful celebration of the life and missionary endeavors of Saint Bruno of Querfurt; a martyr who brought Christianity to Lithuania and the Baltic states. A mosaic crafted by well known artist Ada Sutkus of Beverly Shores, IN and donated by Rima and Dr. Linas Sidrys will be Blessed by Archbishop Grucas and installed in the sanctuary.

12:30 pm a dinner in honor of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Vilnius will follow with a short program of welcome to our parish community of Nativity BVM here in Chicago’s Marquette Park community. Reservations and information can be had by calling Audra Zakarauskas at the rectory office 773-776-4600. The pastor of Nativity BVM is the Rev. Jaunius Kelpsas; the associate pastor is the Rev. Gediminas Kersys.

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