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Featured Windows, May-June 2009

Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church

Building: Divine Providence Church

City: Southfield

State: Michigan

Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church, Southfield, MI. Completed 1973. Dr. Alfred Kulpa, Toronto, and Albert Kerelis, Chicago, architects.

Divine Providence Lithuanian Parish was organized in Detroit in 1908 by Father Kazimieras Valaitis and the Lithuanian Society of St. George. Its wooden first home, named St. George’s Lithuanian Church, was replaced by a brick building in 1917. A third church home, built in 1949 in a newer part of the city, was given its present name. The construction of a major Detroit expressway required the demolition of the third church in 1970 and the building of a new facility in suburban Southfield. Designed by architects Dr. Alfred Kulpa of Toronto and Albert Kerelis of Chicago, the present church, cultural center and rectory were dedicated in 1973. Throughout its 100-year history, Divine Providence Lithuanian Parish has had a strong commitment to preserving the Lithuanian language and traditions through weekly language classes for its children and various organizations for all of its parishioners.

The church reflects the same Lithuanian spirit in its art. Four stained glass windows were designed in the 1970s by Lithuanian artist Vytautas K. Jonynas (1907-1997). Three windows in the sanctuary represent St. Casimir (patron saint of Lithuania), the Ascension of the Holy Spirit, and Rupintojelis (the Pensive Christ). A fourth window in the Chapel of Mary portrays the Holy Family. Jonyas also sculpted the large wooden figure of Jesus that hangs above the altar. Other works of art include large woodcarvings reminiscent of Lithuanian folk art, created in the 1990s by Lithuanian-American sculptor Jurgis Daugvila (1923-2008) of Beverly Shores, IN.

Born in Udrija, Lithuania, Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas trained at the Kaunas Art School and with Lithuanian artists Adomas Varnas and Adomas Galdikas. In Paris he studied wood engraving and sculpture, book illustrating and furniture design. From 1935 to 1950, Jonynas was a director and teacher at art schools in Lithuania and Germany and won several awards for his widely exhibited wood engravings, posters and book illustrations. After moving to the United States in 1951, Jonynas taught art at the Catan-Rose Institute of Fine Arts in Jamaica, NY, and later at Fordham University, Bronx, NY. During those years he explored other media such as watercolors, oils, and stained glass, and designed interiors for many churches in the United States, Europe and Australia. In 1955 he co-founded the Jonynas & Shepherd Art Studio in New York with Donald Shepherd. Commissioned in the 1970s by the City of New York for a mural at Rikers Island, he created a new technique that combined glass mosaic, fresco painting and bas-relief sculpture. Among his other major works are the Chapel of Lithuanian Martyrs in St. Peter’s Basilica at Rome and the Lithuanian Franciscan monastery chapel in Kennebunkport, Maine. Many of his works incorporate echoes of Lithuanian folk art. Before his death in 1997, Jonynas returned to Lithuania, where the largest collection of his work is at the museum named for him at Druskininkai.. He is buried in the Antakalnis Cemetery at Vilnius.

St. Casimir. Vytautas K. Jonynas. 1970s. Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church, Southfield, MI.

St. Casimir (1458-1484) was a Polish-Lithuanian prince known for his piety, chastity and devotion to the Virgin Mary. He was buried at Vilnius and was canonized for miracles attributed to him after his death. St. Casimir is revered as the patron saint of Poland, Lithuania and all Lithuanian youth.

Rupintojelis (The Pensive or Worrying Christ). Detail with the signature, V. K. Jonynas. Vytautas K. Jonynas. 1970s. Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church, Southfield, MI.

The name is derived from the Lithuanian word rupestis, translated as anxiety, concern or solicitude. The image of a pensive or worrying Christ is found in several forms of Lithuanian art, most commonly in sculpture. The figure is usually shown seated on a rock or stool, with his right hand to his head and left hand on his knee, and is often wearing a crown of thorns. Although the image has been interpreted in different ways, it is especially popular in Lithuania, where it symbolizes Christ’s compassion for the Lithuanian people, who have suffered wars and foreign occupation for centuries.

Fig. 6. The Holy Family. Vytautas K. Jonynas, 1970s.

Chapel of Mary, Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church, Southfield, MI.

Like their patron St. Casimir, Lithuanian people have a special devotion to Mary. In the Chapel of Mary, the familiar scene of Joseph and Mary with the child Jesus is expressed in stained glass with bold colors and angular forms.

Annunciation (left) and Pieta (right) Triptych. Jurgis Daugvila. 1990s. Chapel of Mary, Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church, Southfield, MI.

This triptych in the Chapel of Mary is among several woodcarvings made by Jurgis Daugvila. When the doors are closed, they depict the “Annunciation” scene, with an angel announcing to Mary that she was to bear a child who would be called the Son of God. When opened, they reveal a “Pieta” scene, showing Mary holding the dead body of her son Jesus.

Divine Providence Lithuanian Catholic Church was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Betty MacDowell, with photography by Marsha MacDowell of East Lansing, MI.

Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 2004.0002)

Text by Betty MacDowell, Michigan Stained Glass Census, May , 2009.