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Joseph Petraitis was only eight when he
first felt the strong desire to become a
priest. The son of a Lithuanian farmer and
a “shepherd boy”, he would walk seven
kilometres to the nearest church to attend
Mass with his godmother.
Joseph’s schooling was halted in 1936
because his father had no money and
for two years he plotted to walk to a
monastery 100km away. Fortunately he
was able to resume his schooling and by
1941 he had received sufficient education
to enter the seminary. After one year he
moved to a different seminary in Lithuania
but before long he was forced to flee with
his mother, sister and two brothers to a
refugee camp in northern Germany.
At the time most seminaries had been
closed due to the war but on his third
day at the camp a man approached him
because of his collar and asked him if he
was a priest. He told him he was studying
to be a priest and so the man gave him
directions to a seminary that was still open
The family remained at the refugee camp
but later were transferred to another
camp in Germany run by the Americans
and were sponsored by an aunty living in
America to join her in Brooklyn.
After studying philosophy and German at
the Bavarian seminary, Joseph and other
Lithuanian seminarians were sent to Italy
to complete their studies. It was here that
Fr Petraitis joined the Marian Immaculate
Conception order and in 1945 he took his
religious vows and then joined his family in
the United States of America.
Fr Petraitis was ordained a priest in Joliet,
near Chicago, on May 22 1952, after
studying in four different countries. He
spent 15 years in the USA, including six
as provincial secretary, and in 1963 he
was sent to Argentina where he was an
assistant parish priest in Rosario, in the
province of Santa Fe, and then parish
priest for 17 years in Avellaneda.
In July 1984 he was transferred to
Adelaide and for the next 30 years he
was the Lithuanian chaplain. During
this period he spent seven years as the
Spanish migrant chaplain, having learnt
the language in Argentina. In recent
years he celebrated the Novena with this
community, saying the Rosary, praying and
singing for nine evenings in a row.
While in Chicago, Fr Petraitis was asked
to work on the editing of the Lithuanian
calendar, a job he did for 31 years until
2008. For 23 years he also edited the
Lithuanian fortnightly bulletin.
Even when he was in his 90s, Fr Petraitis
would spend hours visiting his compatriots
in hospital, aged care and in their own
Fr Petraitis was devoted to the Virgin
Mary since he was a child and his mother
taught him the Rosary prayer which he
would say in five languages – one decade
in Lithuanian, the others in Latin, German,
Spanish and English. He proudly told
people how he was born on the Feast of
Our Lady of Mt Carmel.
Fr Petraitis was actively involved in all
diocesan celebrations: the canonisation
of Mary MacKillop, the Marian Procession
and Migrant and Refugee Sunday. He
also was an active member of the Migrant
Chaplains and Pastoral Workers network
and kept in touch with the Diocesan
Multicultural Office, never missing bi-
monthly meetings where he caught up with
his priestly and Religious colleagues.
In September 2014 he was admitted
to hospital followed by his transfer to
the Labrina Nursing Home and, later, to
He died on Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast
day which held a special place in his heart
as demonstrated by his faithful wearing of
the Divine Mercy medal.
A vigil Mass was offered in St Casimir’s
Lithuanian Catholic Church on April
11 followed by a funeral Mass on April
12, celebrated by Archbishop Philip
Wilson in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.
Concelebrating priests were the Vicar
General Fr Philip Marshall, Mgr Edmond
Putrimas MIC from Toronto, Fr Dariusz
Drzewiecki MIC from the Philippines, Fr
Juozas Deveikis MIC (Lithuanian chaplain
in SA) from Melbourne and priests of the
The Therry Dramatic Society proudly presents
the South Australian premiere of
Thu 9 to Sat 11 June, 8pm
Wed 15 to Sat 18 June, 8pm
Matinees both Saturdays, 2pm
Preview Wed 8 June, 8pm ($12)
Arts Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Bookings 8358 3018 from 17 May
8410 5515 (Mon-Fri 12pm-5pm) from 6 June
Or TryBookings or BASS
(Preview not available through BASS)
Chaplain without borders
Fr Joseph Petraitis
Born: July 16 1922
Died: April 3 2016
Music students from Sacred Heart
College paid tribute recently to one
of their most generous benefactors,
entrepreneur Robert Stigwood who died
earlier this year.
Stigwood was a boarder at the college
from 1945-1950 and was involved in the
Therry Society in Adelaide as a young
man before heading to London where he
shared a flat with his South Australian
friends and embarked on an illustrious
career in the music industry.
Friends and family of Stigwood were
invited to the tribute in the De Bourg
Performing Arts Centre to see students
from the Senior and Middle School
perform some of the songs associated
with his career such as the Bee Gees’
Staying Alive and I Don’t Know How to
Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar).
The Robert Stigwood Performing Arts
Centre at the middle school was made
possible by his $1 million contribution
and he also donated his valuable Bank’s
Florilegium print collection to assist with
financing of the De Bourg Centre.
Principal Steve Byrne described
Stigwood as an “amazing business brain
at work” and one of his most innovative
achievements was to combine
management with production, cutting
out the middle man.
“Robert is yet another graduate of a fine
school community where great schools
let students build dreams,” he said.
In 2014 Arts SA introduced the Industry
Fellow and Artist Fellow streams
into their program in recognition of
Stigwood’s enormous contribution and
global success in the industry.
His niece, Jo Barrett, said there was
“never a dull moment” in her uncle’s life
and he had been a “terrific” host and
very generous to his friends and family.
After his death on January 4, she
attended his funeral in England which
was followed by a function at Ascot
Racecourse. His ashes were spread
at Morphettville Racecourse where his
mother’s ashes lay.
Tribute to show biz entrepreneur
MUSIC LEGACY: Robert Stigwood’s niece Jo Barrett with performers from
Sacred Heart College senior and middle schools.
Vale Fr Sobala
Society of Christ priest Fr Dominik Sobala, who
was the assistant chaplain to the Polish Catholic
community in Adelaide for the past nine years,
died on April 14 while on holiday in Sydney.
Fr Sobala, who was 71, served as a priest for
46 years to the Polish communities in Australia
and New Zealand, including Sydney, Newcastle,
Melbourne, Brisbane and Wellington.
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