Rev. Juozas Montvila was born at Gudine
1, near Marijampole, Lithuania, on 3 January 1885 the son of Kazys Montvila and Magdalena Karalevicius
Montvila studied at the advanced School (Gimnazia) of the City of Marijampole and at the Seminary of Seinai (today within the province of Lithuania in Northeastern Poland). He was ordained a priest on 22 March 1908 and was assigned a post as vicar in Lipskas where he secretly administered to the spiritual needs of the Uniates, a religious body proscribed by the Czarist regime. As a result of this service he was seized by the Russian government and was sentenced. He was to lose his assignment as vicarate and be denied his pastoral vocation. Awaiting a change of this harsh ruling, he worked for the Catholic newspaper in Seinai and wrote sermons for the publication Vadovas (The Leader). Gifted as an artist, he drew illustrations and vignettes for a number of newspapers and books published in the Vilnius (the Capital of Lithuania).
With the passage of time and the realization that he was not likely to be allowed, in the foreseeable future, to return to pastoral work in Lithuania, he prepared to emigrate to the United States. Montvila's first stop would be to his brother Petras, who already lived in America
Following a stay in England, he booked passage aboard the Titanic, boarding at Southampton.
Some confusion exists over Montvila's plans after arrival in America. According to the a friend of Montvila's sister who lived in the Lithuanian quarter ("Little Lithuania") in Brooklyn, Montvila was to head a parish in that growing community. However, the Jackson (Miss.) News and the Worcester Evening Gazette both said he was en route to Worcester, Massachusetts. In support of the latter theory the Encyclopedia Lituanica records that Montvila had been invited to be pastor of the new St. Francis' Lithuanian Parish at Athol, a town on the Millers River in Worcester County, Massachusetts (eventually founded on 13 November 1913).
Second Class passenger Ellen Toomey told reporters after the disaster that he, Fr Peruschitz and Fr Byles said Mass every day on board the Titanic.
Lawrence Beesley recorded the following observations of passengers in the Second Class library:
|In the middle of the room are two Catholic priests, one quietly reading-either English or Irish, and probably the latter-the other, dark, bearded, with a broad-brimmed hat, talking earnestly to a friend in German and evidently explaining some verse in the open Bible before him...'|
After the collision, according to reports, the "...young Lithuanian priest, Juozas Montvila, served his calling to the very end" by refusing a place on one of the ship's life boats, choosing to administer his priestly duties and offering solace to his fellow travellers.
Montvila died in the sinking his body, if recovered, was never identified. However, he was considered a hero in Lithuania and is currently under consideration for canonization by the Roman Catholic church.
His parents and grandparents received a grant of £130 pounds from the Titanic Relief Fund (case P. 511).