THE TELSIAI DIOCESE
The Telsiai diocese was founded in 1926 following Pope Pius XI's apostolic letter "Lituanorum gente".
The new diocese covered roughly the same territory as present-day Samogitia and included 12 districts: Alsedziai, Kaltinenai, Kursenai, Palanga, Rietavas, Seda, Svekna, Telsiai, Taurage, Varniai, Vieksniu, and later Klaipeda. The seat of the bishop was in Telsiai, the symbolic capital of Samogitia. St. Anthony's church in Telsiai became the Telsiai cathedral. The former monastery was converted into the home of the curia and into a seminary and was expanded in 1928-29.
Justinas Staugaitis was the first bishop assigned to the new diocese that included 104 parishes with about 347 200 Catholics. Until 1940 12 new parishes and five monasteries were founded. By 1940 the diocese was also home to 11 convents. By 1940 the number of Catholics living in the diocese had increased to 386 000.
When Klaipeda was annexed by Germany in 1939, the Klaipeda district was separated from the Telsiai diocese.When Lithuania regained the Klaipedan territory, it once again became a part of the diocese.
In 1940 Bishop V. Borisevicius was sent to aid Bishop Staugaitis until the latter's death in 1944. At that time P. Ramanauskas was appointed by the Vatican to be Bishop Borisevicius' assistant. However, Bishop Ramanauskas only spent two years in Telsiai since he was arrested and sent to exile in Siberia by the Soviet rulers. Ten years later he was allowed to return to Lithuania, but not permitted to resume his former post. Bishop Borisevicius was also arrested and died in the Lukiskes prison in Vilnius.
Bishops and administrators after 1955 included P. Mazelis, Juozapas Pletkus, Liudas Pavilionis, and Antanas Vaicius. In 1978 there were about 142 active churches in the diocese. In 1995 the diocese included ten diostricts that covered most of Samogitia: Klaipeda, Kusenai, Mazeikiai, Palanga, Plunge, Skuodo, Silale, Silute, Taurage, and Telsiai.
© Samogitian Cultural
Association Editorial Board, 1998.