On the morning of October 14,1980, Father Prančiskus Masilionis, S.J., fell asleep in the Lord. Since this saintly and zealous priest served the Catholic Church of Lithuania and the nation with exemplary dedication, we offer a few facts from his unusual life.
The deceased was born February 26,1902, in the village of Pažosai, Joniškis parish, and was one of nine children. After completing the Panevėžys high school, he studied philosophy and theology, and on June 11, 1927, Bishop K. Paltarokas ordained him a priest. He worked as an assistant pastor, a chaplain, and a diocesan chancellor. In 1928 he entered the Jesuit Order. He studied in Austria for a few years. During the postwar years when the seminaries were closed, he worked as pastor in various parishes: Karsakiškis, Palėvene, Kriklėnai, and Sidabravas.
Father Masilionis was a zealous apostle. Because of his caring pastoral work, Commissioner Rugienis of the Committee for Religious Affairs would not allow him to practice his priestly ministry. He took away his so-called certificate of registration, and only through the intervention of Bishop J. Steponavičius was he able to live as a retired priest in Saločiai.
Father Prančiskus conducted very successful retreats in parishes and for priests and nuns. Everyone admired not only his preaching but also his very eloquent personal life, which could be characterized as, "Nothing for oneself; everything for God and the people." He was, so to speak, an incarnation of God's love, which radiated everywhere.
Thirty-three years ago, Father Masilionis founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Eucharist, with the intention that, united through the Eucharistic Jesus, the sisters would assist in pastoral work.
Father Prančiskus took a special interest in young priests. He wanted to organize them into one great movement for the triumph of Christ in the nation and throughout the world. His efforts were not in vain. Due to his devotion and work, small active groups of priests were organized. Much of the credit for the present spiritual renewal of Lithuania belongs to Father Prančiskus.
Father Prančiskus has written books burning with love — Meiles Magnifikat (Love's Magnificat), Dieviškasis mūsų Bičiulis Euchciristijoje (Our Divine Friend in the Eucharist), Apie maldą (On prayer), Konferencijos (Conferences) — in addition to a large collection of poems.
Bishop K. Paltaroka's described Father Prančiskus as "a rare person, a great, special and dear person."
Monsignor Elertt described Father Prančiskus's retreats as follows: "Before the war, retreat masters used to come to Vilnius from Cracow and Warsaw to conduct retreats, but he has surpassed them all."
Looking at Father Prančiskus — alert, energetic, full of grandiose plans — people perhaps did not guess that his health was very poor, that he had been ill with tuberculosis for a long time. His frail body contained a powerful soul. Father Prančiskus often knelt before the tabernacle and from there took strength for his work. All of those who knew him attest that Father Masilionis was truly a saintly priest.
It was on the evening of October 12 that Father Prančiskus first said, "I have become tired!" During his illness he was especially patient even though he suffered great pain. "My bed has become my cross," he said in a weak voice, but he did not complain about his disability. Even in the hospital he was always in good spirits and attracted everyone with his beautiful example. He was concerned with the Church and the nation until his last moment. He urged priests to organize, to struggle, and not to fear difficulties.
A large crowd of people gathered for Fr. Masilionis's funeral: many young people dressed in the national costume, the two exiled bishops 0. Steponavičius and V. Sladkevičius), and 135 priests. The exiled bishops con-celebrated mass with the priests. Sermons were delivered by the pastor of Seduva, Canon B. Antanaitis; Father S. Tamkevičius; Father J. Lauriūnas; FatherJ. Zubrus; and His Excellency Bishop J. Steponavičius.
Father Prančiskus was buried in the Sidabravas parish chruchyard.
Father Prančiskus has adorned our nation and the Church with the holiness and greatness of his life.