As an expression of gratitude to God for the 100 years of ministry of the Congregation of Marian Fathers in Latvia and for the renewal of religious life in the country, a solemn service was held at the Marian Church in Viļāni on March 2, presided over by Riga Metropolitan Zbigniewņevs Stankevičs, concelebrated by bishops of Latvian dioceses, Marians and numerous priests from Latvia and abroad.

The General Government of the Marians was represented at the jubilee celebration by the Congregation’s Vicar General, Fr. Tomasz Nowaczek, MIC, from Rome. Also present were Archimandrite Sergius Gajek, MIC, the Greek-Catholic Apostolic Administrator in Belarus, Fr. Tomasz Sekulski, MIC, and the vice-provincial from Poland, and several other Marian priests. Liturgical services during the Mass were performed by seminarians of the Riga Theological Seminary.

Before the liturgy, religious from Latvia prayed the rosary with the faithful for the intention of new vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The homily was delivered by Fr. Dmitrijs Artjomovs, MIC, who, based on archival documents and memories of the first Marians, introduced the audience to the first steps of the congregation in Latvia, including the process of entrusting the church and monastery in Viļāni to the Marians a century ago, which can be considered the beginning of the revival of consecrated life in the renewed Riga diocese.

At the end of the service, the Latvian bishops congratulated the Marians and wished them personal holiness and new, holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life, while the Congregation’s vice-general handed over liturgical vessels – a chalice and paten – with wishes that the Latvian Marians always remain faithful to God in the celebration of the Eucharist. After Mass, everyone went to the Marian Fathers cemetery next to the church to pray for those who have crossed the threshold of death.

The celebration continued at the Viļāni Community Center, where guests were treated to lunch, observing the requirements of Lent. During the luncheon, the chairman of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors in Latvia, Fr. Jānis Meļņikovs SJ, conveyed words of greeting and a gift to the Superior of the General Vicariate of the Congregation of Marian Fathers in Latvia, Fr. Dainis Kašs MIC. Chairman of the Rezekne Municipality Council, Mr. Monvīds Švarcs, also offered congratulations.

During lunch, guests had the opportunity to watch a short film about the Latvian Marians, prepared especially for the occasion.

After lunch, representatives of the religious communities gathered in the conference room of Viļāni monastery to discuss further activities in connection with the upcoming Jubilee Year throughout the Catholic Church.

The first Marian priests in Latvia – Fr. Benedikts Skrinda and Fr. Broņislavs Valpitrs – entered the Congregation in February 1923, being already priests of the renewed Riga diocese. They made their novitiate in Mariampol, Lithuania. After taking their vows, they returned to Latvia and received the Catholic Church in Viļāni along with the ruined old Bernardine monastery. The ceremonial act of handing over the parish and monastery took place on Sunday, March 2, 1924, and from that day on began the ministry of the Marians in Latvia, which has now lasted 100 years.

The jubilee celebration of the centennial of the Marians’ ministry in Latvia began on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – the titular feast of the Congregation, and will continue until December 8, 2024.