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Skuodas family visits town of Skuodas, Lithuania

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

Who can say their last name is the name of a town in Lithuania?

The Skuodas family of Sioux City can.

Leon Skuodas, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Sioux City, and his three brothers were born in Lithuania. The family lived there until Leon was 5 years old. They lived in Germany for six years before coming to the United States in 1951.

“We had a sponsor and when we got to New York, they changed their minds,” said Leon. “We got stranded. Father (Simon) Morkunas, pastor at St. Casimir, heard about us and bought us train tickets to Sioux City.”

This account of the family coming to Sioux City is part of the Diocese of Sioux City history book, “Frontiers of Faith,” written by Deacon Rick Roder.

“The National Catholic Welfare Conference of Washington often contacted Father Morkunas personally for especially tough cases, such as the Skuodas family of eight, who had been refused by their original sponsor because the family was too big,” according to the book on pages 342 and 343. “Father Morkunas accepted them with open arms, housed them in the church basement and went about his usual tasks of finding them jobs and a home. In the Skuodas case, Father Morkunas borrowed the down payment for their home, and Mr. Skuodas took up the monthly payments.”

Leon graduated from Bishop Heelan High School in 1958. He was the lead man when the dome came down at St. Casimir Church in 2007.

Trip to Lithuania

From July 14 to 24 this summer, members of the Skuodas family traveled in Lithuania visiting family and making a stop in their namesake town, Skuodas.

Leon has six children, in all, who have all graduated from Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City. Ten years ago, he took five of his children on a trip to Lithuania.

“Last year the kids were talking about when we should go to Lithuania,” said Leon. “I said, ‘I’m game.’ So the ball started rolling and we started making plans.”

This summer, two of Leon’s daughters, two sons, their spouses and six grandchildren, went with him to Lithuania.

One of their first stops on the trip was a tour of the capital city, Vilnius. Not too far from there was a castle called Trakai.

“From there we met with my mother’s side of the family, which we didn’t meet last time,” said Leon.

They also toured Klaipeda and the Dunes. The group met with members of Leon’s father’s side of the family as well.

When the family arrived in Skuodas, it was Sunday and everything was closed, said Leon. He discovered the town of Skuodas just looking at a map of the country.

“We drove around and saw the sites,” he said. “The town was not that big. The kids thought it was exciting. It’s part of their heritage.”

The family stopped in a town where Leon and his family lived and where Leon was baptized and raised before they left.

Leon said his family thought the trip was “great and they are ready to go back.”

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