ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2018 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Volume 64, No.1 - Spring 2018
Editor of this issue:Almantas Samalavičius

Letter to the Editors
“Gutauskas: Elskus, Kezys” Exhibition


One of the main centers of Lithuanian Americans in Chicago is a massive building called the Youth Center. It is in Gage Park, a neighborhood between Brighton Park and Marquette Park. The Youth Center was designed by architect Jonas Kovas-Kovalskis and built in 1957. Originally, two buildings were built: the Youth Center and the monastery. In 1971, architects Jonas and Rimas Mulokas joined both buildings into one. The facade of the wall that connects the two buildings is adorned with a stylized Vytis, Lithuania’s coat of arms. It was designed by Jonas Mulokas who was inspired by the painting of Mykolas Konstantinas Čiurlionis. Jonas Mulokas assembled this piece himself using 6,000 colored tiles. 

2017 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Youth Center. The exhibition “Gutauskas: Elskus, Kezys” is dedicated to this anniversary and to the person whose enthusiasm, diligence, and cleverness enabled the construction of the buildings that Lithuanians of Chicago have been using and enjoying for sixty years. 

If you simply look chronologically, it appears that the construction of the Youth Center was a straight forward project. Unfortunately, that was not the case. As it usually is, lack of money was the biggest obstacle to the construction. Fundraising events were held. Various organizations tried to support the construction of the Youth Center in any way they could. However, when we look into the history of the construction, we see that Father Vaclovas Gutauskas, SJ (1913–2003) did the greatest amount of work in raising funds.

He understood that living on this side of the Atlantic, Lithuanians would soon lose their nationality if they did not come together, have joint activities, and teach Lithuanian to children. To make this happen, the idea of building a large building for children and adolescents took root. After the funds were raised, the building was completed and called the Youth Center. 

The Jesuits appointed Father Vaclovas Gutauskas, SJ to do the hard work of fundraising. Father Gutauskas was said to be a priest on wheels. This was not because he was driving for his own pleasure. He drove extensively, every day, to raise funds from potential donors. Looking for good-hearted and generous donors, Father Gutauskas traveled around the United States for 18 years. It is said that during those years he used up 18 cars. Respected by donors, and through their generosity, he collected 90% of the funds needed for the construction of the Youth Center, the monastery, the chapel and the connection between the two buildings. 

When he could no longer drive, Father Gutauskas continued working for the benefit of the Youth Center. In 1980, together with others, he set up a fund named after Jesuit Father Bronius Krištanavičius. The fund was intended to raise money for re-establishing the Jesuit province in Lithuania. This fund was active until 1993. 

Father Vaclovas Gutauskas, SJ while raising funds for the Youth Center.
Photo by
Algimantas Kezys

Vaclovas Gutauskas was born on August 15, 1913 in Didžioji Trakiškė village, Antanavas County, Marijampolė District. Twenty years later, on that same day of August he entered the Society of Jesus. The young man needed a lot of patience, strength, and resolve until he became a priest in Gallarate, Italy. He studied philosophy at the Aloysius Institute and completed his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, in 1946. 

After he was ordained, Father Vaclovas worked with parishioners in Rome. He celebrated Holy Mass, listened to confessions, and gave sermons. After World War II , together with Father Bruzikas, he worked in refugee camps in Köln, Germany and elsewhere, organizing spiritual retreats for children, adolescents and adults, and spreading the Good News. After arriving in the United States in 1952, he worked for three years as the Chaplain of the Crucifixion Jesus Sisters in Elmhurst, PA where he oversaw the spiritual congregation, gave sermons, and listened to confessions. While living in Chicago, he worked for the benefit of the Youth Center as long as his health allowed. 

He expressed his extensive pastoral experience in a popular religious booklet “Who Looks and Does Not See”. Many of his articles were published in “Letters to Lithuanians”, “Star” and other Lithuanian publications. 

Father Gutauskas died in Chicago and on November 26, 2003, he was buried in St. Casimir’s Cemetery in Chicago.  

The exhibition includes 26 photographs taken in refugee camps in Germany by the famous artist Albinas Bielskis-Elskus (born in Kaunas on August 21, 1926, died in New York on February 8, 2007). In his photographs, the artist captured Father Gutauskas as a young man. We believe that the photographs by the famous artist Elskus are being shown for the first time.

A well-known photographer Algimantas Kezys (born on October 28, 1928 in Vištytis, Vilkaviškis County, died in Boston, USA on February 23, 2015) captured the life of Father Gutauskas in Chicago. In the seven photos that are shown in the exhibit, we see Father Vaclovas sitting behind his work desk and in one of his cars. 

All of the photos were selected from the holdings of the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, and edited and printed by the curator of the exhibition, Dr. Audrius Plioplys. Father Gutauskas was Dr. Plioplys’ uncle.

Translated by Dr. Audrius Plioplys