Monday, 8 April 2013

Father Juozas Kungys

Father Kungys the day he was made a Priest


14 February 1919 – 4 March 1962

Born in Rensciu village near Telsiai in Samogitia, Lithuania.  He attended the Telsiai school and then the Telsiu seminary.  The war intervened and he was unable to complete his studies.  Following the second Soviet invasion of 1944, he fled to Germany.  Here he attended the Eichstaett seminary which he finished on 29 July 1945.

From 1946 to 1949 Father Kungys lived in Freiburg, Germany where he furthered his theological studies in the Frieburg University.  He provided pastoral care to Lithuanians in Hechingen, Rottweil, Trassingen, Schweningen.  He joined the Ciurlionis choir during those years.

On the 31 May 1949, father Kungys arrived in Melbourne aboard the ship Skaugum, which carried many refugees from war torn Europe.  He first resided in Uranquinty migrant camp just outside the township of Wagga Wagga, then in 1950 moved to Brisbane where Lithuanian religious language services were introduced by Father Kungys.   In 1951 he moved to Melbourne, as second priest to the community.  Whilst in Melbourne he was one of the first teacher offering Lithuanian language courses for people who were not able to complete their secondary studied in Lithuania or studied Lithuanian in Displaced Persons camps prior to coming to Australia.  Not long after he moved to Geelong to St Mary’s an Australian parish. 
Father Kungys with the first child he christened

Father Kungys was very involved in the Lithuanian community in Australia.  He instigated the Australian Lithuanian Catholic Federation and later served as president and spiritual leader.   He was one of the imitators of the Melbourne Catholic newspaper “Teviskes Aidiai” (Echoes of our Homeland).  The newsletter is still published.

He came to Adelaide in 1957 and was thrust into the establishment of the Lithuanian Catholic Centre and church.  A petition signed by 480 Lithuanians was organised to gather support for the communities own church.  Permission was granted and a suitable place was sought.
On 30 November 1960 the church was consecrated in honour of Lithuania’s patron saint, St Casmir, situated in Third Ave, St Peters.

On 7 August 1960 the Adelaide community celebrated Father Kungys 15 year anniversary of becoming a priest.

He was a member of the Australian Lithuanian National Committee, and 1954 – 1955 was Adelaide Community President.  His health was failing and in 1957 he spent a time in hospital recovering. 

In 1961 Father Kungys moved into the Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Centre all priests since that time have resided.  His health deteriorated further, a bad heart combined with asthma restricted his activities.  On 16 February (Lithuania’s Independence Day) 1962, Father Kungys gave his last mass.

On March 4th 1962, Fr Juozas Kungys died at the young age of 43 at Calvary hospital.  The corridor was filled with Lithuanians who spent his last moments as near to him as possible.  Father Vaseris gave the last rights. The following day Father Kungys was laid out at St Casmir’s  church where Father Vaseris and Father Butkus presided over the funeral.

Father Kungys is buried at Centennial Park cemetery.
Father Kungys with girls at their first communion

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