The proclamation of November 1, 1916, as Lithuanian Day by President Wilson followed an appeal from probably the greatest Lithuanian pioneer priest in the United States, Rev. Anthony M. Milukas, pastor of Transfiguration Church, Maspeth. A victim of Czarist persecution in his native land, he came here at the age of 20, was ordained five years later and began an intensive apostolate that was to be concluded only with his death March 19, 1943, at the age of 71.
Lithuanian refugees from a persecuted homeland in the late 19th century found refuge on the Eastern seaboard, with hundreds in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Even before completing his clerical studies at St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, Pa., he had published and edited one of the first Lithuanian newspapers in the United States. His aim in life appears to have been to arouse the national and religious consciousness of his people through the written word. At his death he had an estimated 200 books, brochures and pamphlets written or translated.His name was a household word. During World War I he wrote articles to awaken concern for Lithuania, then a battleground for Russian and German armies, in the New York “Herald” and the “Literary Digest.” He helped organize American Relief for Lithuanian War Sufferers, which was headed by Cardinal Farley. After the war he was decorated with the Order of St. Vyautas the Great by the Lithuanian Government and awarded a monthly pension for life.