On July 21, 1982, the Holy Father appointed Father Antanas Vaičius Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai and of the Prelature of Klaipėda, and at the same time, bishop. The priests and faithful of Lithuania received this appointment favorably, since Fr. Antanas Vaičius has distinguished himself in pastoral work, approving and supporting the temperence movement, and confirming the priests' senate of the Diocese of Telšiai.
In his role as Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai, he was able to make contact with the priests of the diocese. At one time, priests, especially beyond the boundaries of the Diocese of Telšiai, raised doubts about the fitness of the candidacy of Fr. Antanas Vaičius, but time has dissipated those doubts increasingly. Everyone regretted very much that last year Fr. Antanas Vaičius had been included in a trio of persons unacceptable to the Church in Lithuania, and therefore had to undergo sharp attack from the opposition.
The consecration ceremonies were very beautiful. Bishop Antanas Vaičius was consecrated by Bishops Liudvikas Povilonis, Vincentas Sladkevičius, Julijonas Steponavičius and Romualdas Krikščiūnas. In his talk during the Mass, Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis read a telegram of greetings from Pope John Paul II to the Church of Lithuania, announced the appointment of Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius, after twenty-three years of exile—as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, and spoke at length about the episcopal ministry, emphasizing that "the ministry of bishop is not one of honor, but a ministry of work and sacrifice".
At the end of his talk, Bishop Povilonis addressed the one being consecrated in the following words: "My dear brother in Christ, Antanas, on this your consecration day, resolve to strive for the episcopal ideal, with the resolve of the Servant of God, Archbishop Jurgis Matulevičius: 'God, grant that I be consumed like a candle on the altar from the heat of work and the fire of love, for You and for Your Church.' "
In the cathedral churchyard, the newly consecrated bishop and the other bishops, especially Bishops Julijonas Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius, were greeted by representatives of the youth of Lithuania.
On the way home, Bishop Vaičius was met and greeted by the faithful of Viduklė, Varniai and Viešvienai. The cathedral, the churchyard, and even the streets were jammed with people. The Samogitians did not conceal their enthusiasm for their new bishop, who had managed with his goodness to conquer the hearts of the faithful.
Upon his arrival at Kretinga, Lithuanian Bishop Antanas Vaičius blesses the assemblage of believers. 1982
During Mass, Canon Kazimieras Gaščiūnas delivered the sermon, during which he read the pope's telegram of greetings. After Mass the Bishop of Telšiai was greeted by the youth of Samogitia. Everyone was especially impressed by the sensitive greetings from the youth of Telšiai.
The bishop was also greeted in the name of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights in Lithuania, by Father Alfonsas Svarinskas. Among other things he said, "The Catholic Committee followed with great interest the efforts of all of our shepherds to escape the atheists' oppression. It followed your efforts, too. We are grateful to you for arranging the memorial of the martyr-bishop Pranciškus Ramanauskas; we are grateful to you for reviving Žemaičių Kalvarija, for the rosary devotions, most popular in Samogitia; we are grateful to you for the temperance movement. Vatican Radio once stated: 'Only the Administrator of Telšiai, Father Vaičius has not undermined the temperance idea.' I think that was the best recognition given you."
Speaking on behalf of the priests of the Diocese of Telšiai was Father Klemensas Arlauskas, who expressed the happiness of all the priests over this appointment by the Holy Father.
In response to the greetings, Bishop Vaičius spoke as follows:
"Brother priests, guests and my own dear people of Telšiai, very special and dear young people, little children and old folks:
"I am deeply moved and downright astounded, and cannot find words to thank you for this welcome. First I would like to thank Almighty God for the boundless love He has shown me, by allowing me to be born 'where the Šešupė runs, where the Nemunas flows', where the Šatrija, Rambynas, and the swift Vilija are, allowing me to be born and to grow up in the family of my believing parents, where there was much trouble and pain, where even black bread was often in short supply, but where there were prayer and hymns, and where songs rang out in the evening.
"I wish to thank Our Holy Father John Paul II for his special trust in confiding these responsible duties to me, a poor, weak ordinary priest — to be Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai and of the Prelature of Klaipėda . . .
"I want to express sincere thanks to the honorable members of the Chapter of Telšiai Cathedral, and to the Consultors of the Prelature of Klaipėda, who during the difficult, lean years of my time as vicar-capitular-administrator, supported and encouraged me in all sincerity.
"My thanks to all the priests of the Diocese of Telšiai and of the Prelature of Klaipėda, whose support I have always felt, but especially at the most difficult times in my life.
"A special thanks to the little children, the youth, fathers and mothers, grandparents — to all the faithful who have supported and sustained me by their prayers. Thanks to the bishops of Lithuania, who consecrated me today: Their love, and courtesy I have always felt. My special thanks to the Chapter of Panevėžys. I know I shall not be able to thank everyone . . .
"You look at me and ask: 'What are you going to be like? How are you going to fulfill your duties as bishop?'
"Truly, I am full of fear and concern. I know the step I have taken today and what kind of responsibility I have accepted.
"Many beautiful things have been said to me today, in which not only warnings were involved. This morning when I called on the President of the Lithuanian Bishops' Conference, Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis, I had to take an oath, together with the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, Bishop Vincentas
Sladkevičius. At this time I would like to repeat that oath in my own words:
" 'I will devote all my efforts only to God and only to the Church of Christ. I will seek neither rest nor peace, and whatever I shall be able to, I will do, so that the Catholic Church might thrive in our beloved Samogitia.'
"Solemnly give you my word and assurance, that I will offer my whole self and all my powers to Christ and the Church. At the same time I ask your help. Today in Kaunas I said, 'I draw close to you, your Excellencies the bishops, as to my own spiritual Fathers, who today have fathered me as a bishop'. This evening I repeat to you: I draw close to you, brother priests, asking you to help me, just as you bade me to remain faithful and to do all that is possible for God and His Church; I draw close to you, the dear faithful, that you might remember me and sustain me in your prayers" (The talk has been shortened — Editor)