Lithuanian church province was established in 1926 of Pope Pius the IX. Large Samogitian diocese was divided into three new dioceses: Kaunas archbishopric, Panevezys and Telsiai dioceses, Klaipeda prelature, including Klaipeda land Catholic parishes, earlier belonging to Varmija diocese, was joined to Telsiai diocese. Justinas Staugaitis, signatory of the Act of Independence, famous Lithuanian politician and cultural worker, was appointed the first bishop of Telsiai. Telsiai, capital of Samogitia, became the center of diocese and bishop’s residence.
Beginning of the activity in the diocese was very difficult. There were no priests in the new diocese. It was difficult to form even the curia’s staff.
„We learned, that only 26 students from Telsiai diocesy were studying in the 7 courses of theological seminary in Kaunas. Therefore we must receive 3 priests a year. Of course, if all our students graduate. I was scared with this idea“ wrote bishop J. Staugaitis. Telsiai diocese has a lot of old priests and what are we to do when they die. „We will soon have neither deans nor vicars“ wrote bishop J. Staugaitis. But in spite of all financial and other problems, it was decided to open a seminary in Telsiai. Bishop J. Staugaitis based upon the decision of Trident holy council (1545-1563), telling that each diocese should have priests’ preparation establishments, preparing youth to pastoral work in his own diocese. Of course there was a lot of objections; „Idea of our seminary had a lot of opponents among priests of the diocese, strong criticism was felt from Kaunas“ wrote bishop J. Staugaitis. Telsiai diocese, including more than 4000 thous. of the believers, could no longer do with such a small number of priests, so bishop made up his mind to take this step, paying no attention at the objections. „I had to experience opinion, on the question of the really competent authority – representatives of the Holy Throne. Prelate Faidutis managed affairs of the representatives. I set forth my project and plan of its realization. Prelate Faidutis not only approved my idea, but also motivated me sincerely. This was enough for me“ wrote bishop J. Staugaitis. So, in 1927 Telsiai priests’ seminary was opened. Priest V. Borisevicius was appointed its rector. This was the year when priest J. Juodaitis graduated from studies. He came to teach in the Telsiai priests’ seminary, also to work as a spiritual parent, because he had graduated from Philology Faculty of Kaunas University. Priest dr. Galdikas also taught in the seminary. He worked as a curia chancellor after V. Borisevicius. „Training staff was sufficient. Later we started sending our priests for higher studies in Rome. This was the way when new training staff was coming along with the seminary’s growth“ wrote J. Staugaitis.
43 students entered the 1st two courses. Problem of premises existed in the beginning. The seminary started working in the old premises of the Bernardines’ abbey. 300000 Litas (30000 USD) was necessary to build a new building. Bishop J. Staugaitis asked the deans and all the believers to help, but it was extremely difficult to collect such an amount. Situation improved, when priest Valaitis went to work to America. Within two years he collected 40 thous. USD (400 thous. Litas).
New buildings were employed in the new school year in 1928. State assigned nothing for building and maintaining the seminary. Even some attempts to close the seminary, were experienced. Lithuanian Prime Minister wrote a letter – note to Vatican requesting to close Telsiai priests’ seminary. So, the seminary existed without government support till 1930. 90 inmates were in Telsiai priests’ seminary in 1930. Theology was widely linked with philosophy and natural sciences. Such modern subjects like philosophy of culture, aesthetics, methods of scientific work, anthropology, foreign languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German and French) were taught. Mostly abroad educated professors taught there: J. Juodaitis, P. Ramanauskas and others. Prelate V. Borisevicius worked as a rector, J. Juodaitis, later bishop P. Bucys worked as a spiritual parent for a long time.
Personal breeding of a priest, forming his priestly character was considered the main task, scientific advantage of a Priest was considered the secondary task. All the gifted students were induced to seek for education and loftiness of studies. Father Dominican Peltier, who was sent to visit Lithuanian seminaries by the Holy Throne said, that Telsiai priests’ seminary trained both hearts and intellects of the students. Prelate rector V. Borisevicius himself taught moral theology. He distinguished himself by lucidity, logicality, strictness and exactness. He lived basing upon theology regulations and his greatest wish was to inculcate the same upon his students. He was very much concerned with the future priest’s moral and intellectual state. He thought a priest should be sacred and only sacred. He must be worth of being a priest.
In 1932 the seminary owned a library with 10000 volumes and good physics room „with such apparatus, that no other Lithuanian school had ever seen“. 41-122 students permanently studied at the seminary in 1927-1940. The first 9 students were consecrated on June 12, 1932.
The seminary was reorganized twice – in 1936 and 1939. In 1936 teaching of philosophy was extended from 12 to 21 hour per week. In 1935 the seminary reached its zenith – 122 students studied there.
The seminary prepared about 150 priests, who dispersed in Samogitian parishes, before 1940.
Soviet power closed the Telsiai seminary in 1940. In the autumn of 1941 it was opened again, but in 1946 its activity was suspended.
After closing, a teacher’s seminary was working in the premises, later home and school for deaf-mutes was established there. The only interdiocesan priests’ seminary prepared priests for all dioceses in Lithuania. Only 5 priests graduated annually. Number of the priests permanently went down – the old priests retired, there was no real coming of the young. Many priests died in the concentration camps, a lot were killed, deported, eliminated in another way.
In 1989 Antanas Vaicius, former inmate of this seminary, issued a decree about restoration of Telsiai priests’ seminary. Canon Kazimieras Gasciunas, lecturer of Kaunas interdiocesan seminary was appointed a rector. Duties of spiritual parent were taken by ass. prof. dr. S. Brazdeikis. These are the first persons, who have started such a difficult work. 22 students enter the first course in 1989. Seminary starts its activity. Canon K. Gasciunas, ass. prof. dr. S. Brazdeikis, bishop Antanas Vaicius, some secular specialists give lectures at the seminary.
The beginning was very difficult: ruined buildings needed repairs; chapel, auditoriums, hall for conferences were to be arranged; living premises and flats for teachers were to be repaired and arranged. Monsignor Jonas Kauneckas works as a vicerector in 1991 – 1993, former ass. prof. dr. S. Brazdeikis becomes a rector in 1993. J. Kauneckas also starts working as a spiritual parent in the same year. 88 students studied in 3 courses during 1990 – 1993. In 1993 the Small (Minor) seminary is restored. Priest Algis Genutis comes from Rome in 1997 and starts working as a rector.
Currently there are 8 doctors of science, 4 licencees and 2 masters working at the seminary, there are 2 philosophical and 4 theological courses.