Teofilius Matulionis was born on June 22, 1873, in the village of Kudoriškis, the district of Alanta (today it is the region of Anykščiai). He was born in a wealthy family of farmers. His mother died when he was only 4 years old. Teofilius Matulionis was a man of great talent. He learned to read Lithuanian and Polish at home. Later he had a tutor and in 1887, he started attending Daugpilis Religious Gymnasium. In 1891, at the age of eighteen, after five years at the Gymnasium, Teofilius Matulionis entered the Priest Seminary of Saint Petersburg. Nine years later, on March 4, 1900, he was ordained a priest. It took so long, because he had doubts regarding his vocation and even left the seminary for three years.
The first parish of the newly ordained priest was the Varaklian parish where he was assigned as a vicar. It did not last long, because soon he became the dean of Bikava in Latvia where he served for the next 9 years. People were not very happy to have a very young head of the parish. Teofilius was suspended for not obeying the law of the Tsar, which did not allow Catholic priests to baptise an infant if one of its parents was an Orthodox. Teofilius Matulionis was denied his rights at the community and was sent to St Catherine’s monastery church in Saint Petersburg.
Not even one year later in 1910, he was reassigned as a vicar in St Catherine’s church. He was assigned to lead the community of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to take care of the building of a new church. He was the head of this parish despite the fact that he was assigned as a Dean only in 1918.
After the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, the communist government took over and started repressing the Catholic Church. In the year 1923 Teofilius Matulionis together with rev. John Ciepliakas and fifteen other priests from Saint Petersburg were convicted. For partaking in catholic meetings and prayers all of them got three years in prison. Teofilius Matulionis got out after two years and in 1925 continued his pastoral work in Saint Petersburg. He was assigned as member of the capitula and a Chapter in Mogliov cathedral.
On December 8th, 1928 Teofilius Matulionis was nominated as a titulary bishop of Matrega and auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Mogliov by Pope Pius XI. He was secretly ordained on February 9th, 1929, by bishop Antanas Maleckis in the presence of two other priests as witnesses, in the church of the Sacred Heart of Mary.
In the same year the soviet government took Teofilius Matulionis into custody again. He was exiled to the Solovki island prison in the White Sea. Priests had a separate area there. It was so they would not encourage or spiritually support other prisoners. So he and 33 other priests had their own community there. Bishop Teofilius Matulionis was elected as superior. When the soviets found out, he was transferred to a solitude of Petersburg strict regime prison. After that he was sent to Ledianoje Pole (Icy Fields, next to the lake of Ladoga), where he was forced to do hard labour in the forests. The freezing temperatures, hard work and bad food ruined his health for the rest of his life. After a few years in 1933, he was transferred to Moscow prison.
In the same year the governments of Lithuania and Russia had an agreement to exchange prisoners. So bishop Teofilius Matulionis together with a group of other priests came back to Lithuania. Only when he crossed the border of USSR it was revealed that he is a bishop. Up until then it was a secret that was kept very well. Not even his prison cell-mates knew this.
Right after got his strength back, he went to visit Rome. He participated in the canonisation of St. John Bosco and met with Pope Pius XI. Pope asked for Teofilius Matulionis blessing. Same Pope later said that “blessed is the land of Lithuania, for it gave us this great hero”.
Invited by the Lithuanian families abroad bishop Teofilius Matulionis went to U.S.A. to meet the numerous comunity of Lithuanians there.On his way back he visited the Holy Land as a pilgrim.
He came back in 1936 and was assigned as a spiritual father of the Benedictine monastery in Kaunas. He was an auxiliary bishop of Kaunas and helped bishop Juozapas Skvireckas in pastoral care and as a chaplain of Lithuanian Military. It is at this time that he started a continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church of St. Michael in Kaunas. It hasn’t stoped to this day.
In 1943, after the death of bishop Juozapas Kukta, Teofilius Matulionis was assigned as an ordinary bishop of the diocese of Kaišiadorys. He defended the Catholic Church during the german occupation and encouraged priests to stay and help the people despite the oppression.
After that he did the same thing against the Soviet occupation. In 1946 he was arrested for not cooperating with the Soviet government and sentenced for 10 years in prison. This was his third and the longest punishment of his life. First he was in Orsha prison, later in Vladimir prison and finally in a hospital for the disabled in Mordovia.
After 10 long years bishop Teofilius Matulionis returned back to Lithuania. He went to live in Birštonas, where his good friend priest Jonas Jonys took care of him. He continued to take care of the diocese of Kaišiadorys from there.
Agaist the will of the Soviet government, but with the blessing of the Holy Father, on the Christmas day of 1957 bishop Teofilius Matulionis consecrated a bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius. For this he was persecuted by the Soviet government. Soon he was forced to move to Šeduva where he spent the last four years of his life.
On August 20th, 1962, archbishop Teofilius Matulionis died. He was buried in the crypt of the Kaišiadorys Cathedral.
Curia of the diocese of Kaišiadorys
Fr Marius Talutis
El. p. email@example.com