On August 20, 1973, the curate of the parish in Jieznas, Father K. Žilys (ordained in 1973), was ordered to present himself before the Jieznas Executive Committee. The government officials demanded that he banish the children from the altar.
"A priest's duty is to draw children to the altar and not to drive them away," explained Father Žilys.
A short while later, Father Žilys was being "educated" again. The principal of the secondary school in Jieznas accused him of organizing a children's church choir and insisted that he would not permit the religious education of children. The curate even had to present a written explanation. Father Zilys explained that it was his duty as a priest to help people. He had agreed to teach hymns to the children because the believers had asked him to do so.
On October 31, 1973, both priests from the parish in Jieznas, Fathers V. Sidaras and K. Žilys, were ordered to appear before the Prienai Rayon Executive Committee. The curate was warned to stop violating Soviet laws: to cease the holding of choir practice and the teaching of groups of children. Father Žilys declared that he was unable to obey such laws that were aimed against the Church. He refused to sign a written warning. The rayonofficials warned him that they would not tolerate such a priest in their rayon, and that such actions of his would have serious consequences.
On October 29, 1973, the vice-chairman of the Prienai Rayon Executive Committee, K. Morkvėnas, had sent Father Žilys the following written warning: "It has been ascertained that children and youths act as servers during religious services at the church in Jieznas, thus violating the Soviet laws. You are hereby warned that these illegal actions with regard to the education of children must not recur and that further violations of the laws governing the cults must be prevented."
The principal of the secondary school in Jieznas took harsh disciplinary measures against those students who served mass or sang in the church choir. The children were ordered to present written explanations of who was teaching them the hymns. Calling one of the students, [Miss] L. Kvederavičiūtė, into his office, the principal warned her that her father would be jailed and fined fifty rubles. In addition, the priest would also be punished. The principal also called in the parents of the students involved, warning them that their children's conduct mark would be lowered, that they would be expelled from school, etc. This zealous apostle of atheism even began to visit the homes of some of the students, but gave up the practice after one of the parents treated him with disdain.
On January 2,1974, both priests were again summoned before the Jieznas Executive Committee. Since the order was given orally, Father Žilys did not show up. The pastor was then scolded for not keeping his curate in line.
On January 20, 1974, the faithful of Jieznas organized a farewell party in the curate's apartment for Father Sida-ras, who was being transferred to Vievis. The parishioners even brought their children, who sang a few songs and hymns.
Meanwhile, traipsing about and keeping watch under the curate's window were the director of the boarding school, the principal of the secondary school, and [Mrs.] Kačergienė, a member of the boarding-school staff.
The watchers noted the names of some of those present. On the following day, the secondary school principal assailed the children for having visited the curate. Several girls were ordered not to come to school without their parents. The children were upbraided for singing in the church choir. The more timid ones signed explanations stating that the curate had taught them the hymns. Some of the parents were particularly brave, stating, "Our children will continue to sing in the choir and to serve mass!"
On January 23, the director of the boarding school, the principal of the secondary school, and executive committee Chairman Aganauskas gathered at the headquarters of the Jieznas Executive Committee and once again attempted to re-educate the curate.
"Even though you were guilty and had organized everything, we punished the organist. But you continue to interfere with our efforts of educating the children as atheists," stated the principal.
Father Žilys commented that no favorable results of their atheistic education were readily apparent. In 1973 alone, some students from Jieznas had burglarized the church a total of four times. A group of eleven students— thieves was found to have been responsible.
The curate was reproached for purposely disregarding the authorities, most probably in the hope that he would be declared a saint.
The curate refused to sign a copy of the proceedings.
On February i, 1974, the administrative commission of the Prienai Rayon Executive Committee fined Father Žilys fifty rubles for violating the laws governing religious cults. Father Zilys explained that, being a priest, he had no right to chase children away from the choir loft or from the altar. Besides, the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the LSSR handed down on May 12, 1966, prescribes the punishment for organizing children in matters unrelated to the practice of religion, but the singing of hymns is a part of such religious practices.
"Why should we bother to explain?" asked a member of the commission. "Complain to the courts. They'll explain it to you. We came here not to explain but to punish."
FROM THE PUBLISHERS OF THE CHRONICLE
Despite governmental repression, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania will continue to be published in the future. Publication will cease only when the authorities grant to the Church and the believers at least as much freedom as is guaranteed in the Constitution of the USSR.
Readers are requested to continue to assist in collecting information for the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Without your help, many of the facts in the life of the persecuted Church would be forgotten.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania cannot make use of any vague or incorrect information. Such items will not be published. Every news item, fact, or incident having to do with the situation of the Catholic Church, with the present state of the nation, with the arbitrariness of government agencies, with repressions or other forms of discrimination must be carefully ascertained, clear, and exact. Numbers, dates, names, locations, and other data must be especially clear, correctly written down and doublechecked. We await your information.