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5/14/2009
AMSTERDAM
Closing parish donates Lithuanian artifacts
BY MAUREEN MCGUINNESS
Staff Writer

Lithuanian artifacts that have been enjoyed by parishioners of St. Casimir’s in Amsterdam will soon be available for all to enjoy.

The Walter Elwood Museum in Amsterdam is acquiring the artifacts, which include amber, wooden carvings, folk art and a painting, said Rev. David Mickiewicz, administrator of St. Casimir’s.

Founded by Lithuanian immigrants, St. Casimir’s Church acquired many Lithuanian artifacts when the parish priests would travel to Lithuania, Father Mickiewicz said.
St. Casimir’s was closed May 3 under the diocesan Called to be Church pastoral plan. The nearby St. Stanislaus parish, traditionally Polish, will remain open.

Legacy preserved
Ann Peconie, executive director of the Walter Elwood Museum, is excited by these new acquisitions. “We are keepers of culture,” she said. “Lithuanians in Amsterdam have an extremely rich history.”

While many know of the Polish-American influence in Amsterdam, Mrs. Peconie said Lithuanians were also important.

Mrs. Peconie explained that the histories of Lithuania and Poland are intertwined. For two centuries, the countries were united as the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth. From 1795 to 1914, the borders of both countries changed often during wars with Prussia and Russia, she said.

“Poland is not the country we know today,” Mrs. Peconie said.

It was common in Amsterdam for both Lithuanian and Polish immigrants to house newer immigrants in their homes. Some, she said, built smaller out-buildings on their property while others furnished the third floor of their homes for the newcomers. She said in some parts of Amsterdam the smaller out-buildings can still be seen.

She said it is not surprising that each ethnic group would build their own Catholic church. While there were similarities between the Polish and Lithuanian cultures, each had its own language and own traditions which were reflected in their worship.

E pluribus unum
Father Mickiewicz said as generations have gone by the cultural gap has closed. “All of these churches were founded for immigrants,” he said. “The third and fourth generations don’t even speak the language anymore. We’re coming to the close of an era in the Church.”

Mrs. Peconie said she was glad that the parish consulted the museum about the artifacts. She noted that while the Catholic churches in Amster-dam were going through the Called to be Church process, the museum learned that it needed a new location.

Founded by the Amsterdam School District, the museum has lost its lease on the school building it used since 1938. Catholics in Amsterdam suggested moving into one of the closed churches but renovation would cost too much, Mrs. Peconie said. The museum is moving to Guy Park Manor, part of the New York State Parks and Recreation Department.

She said the Walter Elwood Museum’s collection includes approximately 25,000 artifacts. These artifacts fall into four categories: multicultural, Victorian, natural history, and items that relate to Mohawk Valley’s colorful industrial past.

Mrs. Peconie said she expects the artifacts from St. Casmir’s will be moved to the new location by July.

(For more information on the museum, visit its website at www.walterelwoodmuseum.
org or call 518-843-5151.)









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