Joseph Montvila

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peter kurton

Guest
My Great Grandfather, a Lithuanian immigrant to London died there in April 1912 aged 42. His was the first funeral to be conducted in the newly consecrated church of St Casimir just off Hackney road in London. The young Lithuanian Priest who conducted the service was father Juozas Montvila who a few days later travelled to America on the Titanic. I believe he may have been the priest who was with father Byles at the end, with a crowd of 100 people kneeling around them as the rosary was said. There were Catholics, Jewish people and Protestants there according to a contemporary newspaper article. For his dedication presumably to the other passengers and the foregoing of a place in a lifeboat he is, I believe under consideration for canonisation at the present time. There is a memorial to him in Lithuanian in St Casimir's.
Also, at St Helen's at Ongar, Essex England is a small stained glass memorial to Father Byles who was depicted in the recent film (Although it looked nothing like him)
 
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Bob Godfrey

Member
Peter, welcome to Titanica and thanks for a thought-provoking first posting. I am wondering if there are any first-hand accounts which might confirm that Father Montvila was invited (and declined) to board a lifeboat.
 
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peter kurton

Guest
Hi Bob, Thanks for your interest. Re. any first hand accounts of Fr. Montvilas declined opportunity to board a boat. I would say that the Vatican must have some pretty strong evidence to consider Canonisation. This is a huge thing in the Roman Catholic Church. I have not heard any mention of Father Byles although he is the priest depicted in the film. I live in the village of Doddinghurst, Essex, England, which is in the same Catholic Diocese as Ongar where Fr Byles had his Ministry and I have never read or heard anything about him in the local press other than an article which I myself engendered about the time the film was released.
The information about Fr Montvila I obtained from the Internet via Google, I think, some months ago. It contained his life history and even a photograph. The comparison between the two priests is interesting, could possible lie in the fact that Lithuania having now won its independence from the Soviet Union, who did their very best to stamp out the faith, are doing everything they can to assert their own identity. I myself visited the country last year on an 'ancestor tracing' mission and couldn't help noticing the pride with which they now diplay everything to do with their National heritage. Never was it more obvious than when visiting their many churches which have now either been renovated or are in the process of reconstruction. Therefor it would appear that Fr Montvila's case must have been brought to the attention of the Holy See whilst that of Fr Byles has not! The information which I have is from a photo copy of an old newspaper cutting given to me by the Priest from Ongar, Fr Galvin, now deceased, about fifteen years ago. I think it must have been a local paper as it starts, "The brave priest whom Ongar mourns"———. It does not go on to explain that Ongar is in the county of Essex etc leading me to beleive that it was probably a local paper perhaps not generally available to the world at large. I will post a facsimile of what I have later.
 
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Bob Godfrey

Member
Peter, it is indeed strange that Father Montvila should be considered for canonisation while neither Father Byles nor the German Father Peruschitz have been likewise honoured. From different sources there are claims (none first-hand, as far as I can see) that all three declined offers of places in lifeboats. It is odd also that a letter from William Byles to his mother-in-law (which is reproduced here on-site) states "The survivors told us there were two priests on board - Father Byles, an English priest, and a German priest". This suggests that Father Montvila may have been keeping a somewhat lower profile than the other two, but what you have told us about recent developments in Lithuania helps to explain why efforts have been made to present his case.

I personally have little doubt that all three of these gentlemen would have behaved exactly as the 'reports' suggest, if the offers of lifeboat places had indeed been made, but I have not been able to find any documented, first-hand evidence. On the other hand, I've not been looking very hard but I'm sure there's somewhere out there who has, so watch this space! It would be fascinating to see what supporting evidence has been provided for the Vatican.
 
Dave Gittins

Dave Gittins

Member
From what I've been able to find, the proposed canonisation has nothing to do with Titanic.

Juozas Montvila was a member of the Eastern Rite church. This is a branch of Catholicism that exists in Eastern Europe. It's members accept the doctrines of Catholicism and accept the Pope as their supreme head. However, they enjoy great freedom to observe their own liturgy and traditions. They are sometimes called Uniates, because of their union with Rome.

The church was much persecuted for many years under the tsars, sometimes with the aid of the Russian Orthodox church. This was particularly common in places where it was identified with nationalism, such as in Lithuania and the Ukraine. Montvila suffered under this persecution and it was probably one reason for him leaving for the US. Canonisation would recognise his work under difficulties.

I'm no Catholic, but I don't think it is the custom to canonise anybody for a single act of bravery or devotion, such as that displayed by Father Byles. Sainthood is not a form of VC or CMH.
 
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Bob Godfrey

Member
Very interesting post, Dave. That, along with Peter's observations, clears up a small mystery for me. It was my understanding also that the Vatican required evidence of a saintly LIFE rather than a single qualifying act (as the worst Catholic since Attila the Hun, I long ago gave up hope for my own elevation!). Significant action (if any) by Father Montvila on the Titanic might have been offered as part of the evidence in support of his case, but I don't think he's a strong contender.
 
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Lee Gilliland

Member
Not quite, Bob. As well as a blameless life and at least one miracle, there is a requirement for a second, posthumous miracle in order to become canonized.
 
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Bob Godfrey

Member
A blameless life and two miracles, eh? Well, that puts me out of the running on two counts. **** it! D'oh! - three counts.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
There is a five step process for canonisation in the Roman Catholic church.

1.) After the death of a professed Catholic who led a holy life, the local bishop reviews the candidate's life for evidence of heroic virtue and adherence to the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church. If he believes this criteria is fulfilled, the bishop sends the candidate's name to the Vatican.

2. At the Vatican a panel of theologians and the cardinals of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints review the candidate's life and work.

3. If approved by both panels, the next stage is a Papal proclamation designating the candidate "venerable," and s/he is considered an official role model for Catholics to emulate.

4. The next stage is beatification. Usually evidence of a miracle is required, but the death of a candidate in the name of God may be accepted in certain cases. The candidate is venerated on a local level. The beatification of Mary McKillop in 1994 was an occasion of tremendous joy for my mother and terminally ill grandmother, as they had drawn much comfort from the Nuns associated with McKillop's case. We hear a good many negative things about the Catholic Church - all I can say from personal experience is that I thank whatever deities there be for these women and the support they gave my family.

5. This is the last stage, where the candidate can be considered for sainthood. There must be another proven miracle that has occured in the candidate's name before canonisation is offical and s/he is venerated by the entire church.

Of course the entire process is a good deal more complex than this, and is fraught with internal church politics etc., but this is the basic outline.

No worries, Bob - I think there's little chance that any holy relics will be issuing forth from my shrines in 200 years time either!

I think Ben Holme was doing some excellent work on the various clergymen and religious figures on board - would be interesting to have his input.
 
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Ben Holme

Member
Hi All,

While I'm not Catholic myself, I believe Ing has very accurately outlined the complicated process that leads to canonisation in the RC Church. As mentioned above, it is the definitive sentence by which the Pope declares a particular member of the faithful departed, previously beautified, to have already entered into eternal glory, and ordains for the new Saint a public cult throughout the whole church.

As Dave points about above, it was Montvila's efforts during times of religious persecution in Lithuania that would likely have been the deciding factor in making him a possible candidate for canonisation, rather than his actions during Titanic's last moments. Interestingly, we hear more about the other two Catholic priests, Byles and Peruschitz, than we do Montvila when it comes to survivor accounts. Lawrence Beesley, for example, observed the following:

In the middle of the room are two Catholic priests, one quietly reading-either English or Irish (probably Byles), and probably the latter-the other, dark, bearded, with a broad-brimmed hat (Peruschitz), talking earnestly to a friend in German and evidently explaining some verse in the open Bible before him...'

We hear from other survivors that Peruschitz conducted the Sunday service for the non-English speaking Catholics. I have never found a reference to Montvila declining a seat in a lifeboat, and the only survivor reference to him comes from Kate Buss, who shared a table in the dining room with him along with eight others including, to my recollection, Peruschitz, Lawrence Beesley, and Dr. Ernest Moraweck.

Ben
 
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Pat Cook

Member
Hi Ben

Always a treat when us two can confab.

Can you be more specific about that table seating. I have found out that, according to my sources, Beesley was seated at the (Asst.) Purser's table (BARKER), along with Rev. and Mrs Carter, HIlda Slayter and (according to David Haisman's excellent book "See You In New York") Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Brown.

Best regards, OM
Cook
 
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Ben Holme

Member
Hi Pat,

Was hoping you'd show up here! Good to hear from you.

You're quite right - Beesley *was* seated at the Asst. Purser's table. In which case, it appears I've been a wee bit casual with my passenger identifications. I managed to dig up the excerpt in question from Buss' account and noticed that no names are in fact mentioned - had forgotten that detail. In the cases of Moraweck and Peruschitz, her descriptions are sufficiently detailed that we are left in little doubt as to whom she's referring, and I assumed (then) that her description of:

...a man whose acquaintance I have since made...somewhat reduced in circumstances. He is bound for Toronto.

...also narrowed it down to one candidate, our man Lawrence. I realise now that she was more likely referring to Dr. Alfred Pain who had apparently struggled to finance his return journey to Canada (which may have been what Buss was referring to about his circumstances). I ruled him out initially on the grounds that *he* was on another table! Can't recall anyone other male passenger who was bound for Toronto. Alternatively, Beesley may have dined there on one occasion.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Best, as always,
Ben
 
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Pat Cook

Member
Hi Ben,

This is something of a small clutch of 2nd Class passengers, all intertwined. Of course, I begin with Beesley, who recognizes Douglas Norman on deck after the collision. Beesley remembers Norman from the Sunday night service. Marian Wright and Kate Buss ALSO see Norman on deck and he escorts them back to their cabins - HE had made their acquaintance earlier. Back a few hours, Buss had asked Alfred Pain to go to the service, where Marian Wright sang a few solos. It's like some sort of hypnotic puzzle, one passenger's path crossing with another.

And maybe this should be a different thread...

Best regards, as always, sir
Cook
 
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Ben Holme

Member
Hi Pat,

That's true--they were something of a close-knit bunch on board. Pain was indeed asked by Buss to go to Revd. Carter's "evensong" where he played the flute, accompanying Norman on the piano. This of course proves that the two (Buss and Pain) became acqauninted on board, and reinforces the likelihood that Pain was her Toronto-bound dinner acquaintance, and not Beesley. As I recall, Kate Buss did not mention Beesley's name in her account. Could be wrong.

Always great to have your imput on Matters 2nd class!

My Best,
Ben
 
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peter kurton

Guest
Greetings Ladies & Gentlemen,

Where could one check on the validity of the Canonisation claim re Fr. Montvila? Was he in fact the only Lithuanian on board?

On the broader topic of emigration by sea, would anyone have any ideas on the possible routes and shipping lines, names of ships etc that emigrants from Lithuania to London in around 1893, a few years before Titanic, may have taken. What conditions would steerage passengers have been subjected to before Titanic set new standards.
I would welcome any research suggestions.
 
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