Shrine Stands As Memorial To Coaldale's Rev. Mockus

Shrine Stands As Memorial To Coaldale's Rev. Mockus
June 26, 1984 | The Morning Call

A Lithuanian priest who spent almost 60 years as rector of St. John's Lithuanian Catholic Church in Coaldale was memorialized last night during the dedication of a shrine in his honor.

The Wayside Cross Shrine in front of the church on W. Phillip Street was dedicated by Bishop Thomas J. Welsh in memory of the Rev. Francis L. Mockus, who served as rector of the church from May 1927 until he died in December 1976.

A vesper service and social hour followed the dedication.

The program for the dedication stated: "We dedicate this wayside cross, a symbol of the suffering which still endures in the land of Father Mockus' birth."

Father Mockus was born in Tryskiai, Lithuania, in 1894 and studied for the priesthood in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was ordained in April 1917.

He had parishes in Siberia and Lithuania before coming to this country in 1923 to serve at churches in Boston; Hartford and Waterbury, Conn., and Baltimore.

Father Mockus was described during a testimonial several years ago as "a man of God who appreciates the higher things of life and has promoted the spirit of goodness in the coal region."

He was described as a man who cared not only for the needs of own parishioners at St. John's, but also for the Coaldale community through the years following World War I, through the Great Depression and during World War II.

The wayside cross was a familiar site in the countryside of Lithuania before the republic was annexed by the Soviet Union.

Lithuanian folk-artists embellished the crosses with designs found in nature such as flowers, leaves, sun, new-moons and stars, and geometric designs used in weaving. The crosses were placed in fields and on hills to remind people of God's presence.

The cross at St. John's was designed by the Rev. Francis Baransky, current rector, and was constructed and donated by Curtis J. Bailey Inc. of New Ringgold. Additional funding was provided by the Parish Council of Catholic Women.

Ed Boyle of Lansford and Tony Grigalunas of Tamaqua, both students at Marian High School, put a finish on the cross and built the folk-art fence which surrounds the shrine.