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Booksmugglers: Antanas Pranciskus



ANTANAS PRANCISKUS BIZAUSKAS, (1861-1937), Franciscan priest, born in the hamlet of Vildunai, near Joniskelis, on July 16, 1861. He graduated from the Theological Seminary in Kaunas and was ordained in 1886. Until 1910 he served as assistant priest and as pastor in various parishes in Lithuania and Latvia. His years as pastor in Kretinga from 1900-1904 were important in his development. Because of the restrictive policy of the Russian government Kretinga was the site since 1864 of the only remaining Franciscan friary, where aged friars were left to spend the rest of their days; furthermore the friary-building was used as a place of confinement for secular priests who had offended against the Russian government. He was made pastor of the parish of Kretinga in 1900 and entered into close relations with the Franciscans and with the imprisoned secular priests. The friary became the center of a secret organization for distributing Lithuanian books forbidden by the Russian government; these were printed in Lithuania Minor (East Prussia) and the United States and carried surreptitiously across the border between Germany and Russia into Lithuania Major. The cache of Lithuanian books in the friary remained in operation until the prohibition of the Lithuanian press was raised in 1904. In the next year Bizauskas was transferred as pastor to Vabalninkas, where he remained till 1910. Meanwhile there was only one Franciscan still alive in the friary at Kretinga. With the permission of the bishop of Samogitia K. Cirtautas, Bizauskas joined the Franciscan Order and on April 23, 1912, he made solemn vows. His example was followed by several other secular priests and in this way the Order was saved from extinction in Lithuania.
When Lithuania recovered independence and the number of friars began to increase, the former Franciscan province of St. Casimir in Lithuania was restored. Bizauskas was its first provincial from 1931-1932. He wrote articles and pamphlets on religious questions and he edited the monthly Sv. Pranciskaus Varpelis (The Bell of St. Francis) directed to the Third Order. He died in Kaunas on October 27, 1937.