J. Katelė


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The biography of priest Jonas Katelė

The educative activity of priest Jonas Katelė

The eldership of Panemunėlis

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The educative activity of priest Jonas Katelė

Tsarist Russia in the second half of the 19th century has planned to deprive Lithuanian's identity and to Russificate Lithuanians. It established only Russian schools, forbade to speak in Lithuanian even among one's own, taught to read and write only in Russian. During these prohibition and persecution times of the Russian government, priest Jonas Katelė in Panemunėlis parish has taught parishioners to read and write in Lithuanian. During pastorate times, J. Katelė did in his parish that nobody did throughout Lithuania.
The priest was unstoppable by any difficulties such as falling down buildings of parsonage, illiterate and heavily drinking parishioners as well as the constant control of the Tsarist authorities in Lithuania. Personal features of priest such as voluntary self-sacrifice, willingness to work with poor people and desire to serve them, willpower, innate abilities of organiser, strategist and tactician determined the achievements of his educational activity and the wakeup of a parish from obscurantism.
Having clear objectives and consistent implementation of activities, he realised that he would fail alone to pull out his parishioners from obscurantism. For this purpose, the priest organised the folds. First of all, he taught and prepared a team of youths — secret teachers who later worked in secret rural schools. The next step was to find brave and reliable farmers who can provide shelter for children to educate. Such benefactors were: Jasiūnai in Meškėnai, Strumskai in Šetekšnos, Pranckūnai in Tindžiai and Buckai in Viliai villages. Later, secret schools may be already calculated in tens throughout the parish.
Whereas textbooks were not available, priest, organist and other volunteers copied them. Later, book smugglers bought printed textbooks, which were sheltered by J. Katelė. The priest used to purchase books from book smugglers and distributed them at no cost. Catechisms, hymnals, prayer-books and calendars were also used for education. Whereas the ink was not available, it was produced in buckets in the parsonage. There was also a need for pens, paper, maps. And again, a devoted patron of secret schools used to look at those.
Such amazing results would not be achieved without far-reaching goals and permanent work. Hence, priest Jonas Katelė created a system without having any secret example; compiled a program himself, indicating what and in which class to teach. Adults and children were taught. Some attended school for three years, but the majority — seven, and some even more than a dozen years. Some used to learn reading, writing and counting; others studied history, geography, languages (depended on the ability and willingness to further studying in a gymnasium). The teaching in villages took from late autumn to early spring but did not cease in summer as well. It moved to the parsonage, its yard, garden, churchyard and sheltered housing.  Then former pupils, students, nieces, nephews, vicars- sacristans and organists helped him to teach. In winter, the priest himself every week used to visit each secret school, used to check what children have taught and used to ask what to learn next week. Generally, all parish became into one permanent school; literate taught illiterate, teachers — pupils, parents — children, children — parents, grandparents — grandchildren, brothers and sisters learned together.
Teaching and learning have acquired a wide extent in comparison to other Lithuanian parishes. J. Katelė became a supervisor of all secret schools in the parish and used to teach himself using every opportunity: Christmas time visitation of parishioners, called to a patient, even while sick in bed he used to check sheets written by children attending him. He was regardless of when and where to teach. The most important for him was to learn.
For a better understanding of achieved spectacular results, we have to remember under what conditions the work was carried out. The Russian authority was the biggest and most dangerous enemy, which persecuted teachers, threatened with prison and deportation to Siberia. Farmers, which housed schools, were punished with three hundred roubles amount. Pupils were also persecuted. Even brother of E. Ranonytė, a teacher in Moškėnai and elder of the village, tore textbooks and expelled pupils used to fear of government penalties.
Kreinesas, a teacher at a Russian school in Panemunėlis, later Majevskis, kept a close watch on J. Katelė. There were even more spies.  An assiduous teacher was once got in a village during children teaching, and Lithuanian books were found in the parsonage for the second time. Governor-general in Kaunas was informed about his activities, and his correspondence was personally checked by Veresovas, head of Panemunėlis post office. However, J. Katelė used to evade cleverly: cheat, bribe and, if necessary, to treat. Every month, he gave a bride of 10 roubles for the head of the post office, and later even became a friend with him. Veresovas used to defend J. Katelė and was welcomed as a guest in the parsonage.
Vicars  A. Štombergas, P. Dogelis and K. Perekšlis were good assistants in the education work of parson. While others demonstrably tried to get away. They enjoyed their own pleasures: regales till the morning, gambling, fishing or skating on the ice. However, swipes from priests of other parishes were the most hurtful. They used to do to avoid hard educational work. Once swiped by Rokiškis parson at the feast day for secret teaching, J. Katelė departed badly resented and without saying goodbye.
There were a lot of obstacles, but they were not able to stop a strong will and persevering personality that transformed an illiterate village into a real cultural capital in East Aukštaitija. Panemunėlis as a magnet attracted the most enlightened persons of that-time Lithuania; even writers, professors and the most famous characters. A book brought by book smugglers in Panemunėlis parish at the end of the 19th century was ordinary, and reading villager — the most significant value. Ordinary people here became actors and played for ordinary people. Chamber concerts took place in the parsonage. Secret school became a smithy of the future Lithuanian' intellectuals.
Priest drove a furrow in the unopened ground before. He did not stop himself and was the first who went and showed the way. The parish went to science and progress after him. His head and shoulders were above others, which makes him saw from a distance. He attracted others by internal strength, pulsating energy and personal example.

© 2018 Visos teisės saugomos Kunigo švietėjo Jono Katelės labdaros ir paramos fondo