Mission on East

Difficult Beginnings

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Lenin said that communist society was created only in order to fight against the influence of any religion in the consciousness of the working class. Marxism should be materialistic. In other words, to be an enemy of religion. Communism was created in order to challenge religion to a fight.

 

 

For decades, the above words defined the Soviet authorities' approach to the subject of existence of religion in social life. When in 1991 the Soviet Union fell, new opportunities opened for the Church: to spread Gospel in a place, where any signs of faith were persistently and brutally obliterated. The ever-present Polish Redemptorists were among the pioneers of re-Evangelization of the post Soviet countries. They started their service in the early 1990s in Belarus. Singular Redemptorist took pastoral positions in some of the

Road

diocesan parishes, and then in 1992 work was started to organize a parish in Grodno, with population of 400 thousand. The same effort was put into work at some other regions of Ukraine, where there was only one such permanent mission in Truskavec. Shortly afterwards, in 1993, we established parishes in Kazakhstan Petropavlovsk, where 160 thousand people live, as well as Orenburg with 600 thousand population. In 1996 new missions were started in Orsk (population of 300 thousand) and in Kemerowo (population of 500 thousand). In 2004 we permanently took over the spiritual guidance of Catholics in Togliatti with 700 thousand inhabitants, and we've been permanently assigned for service in Pioniersky, a small town in the Kaliningrad area.


Road to Siberia

Although the situation in individual former Soviet Union countries varied, we had to face the difficulties of social atheisation. The places where the Redemptiorists started their missions, in most cases had no shrines, or they were completely ruined having been used for storage, production halls or warehouses. There was no liturgical equipment, devotional items, nor CCD resources. Often, those who remained Catholic regardless of the present danger were deprived of spiritual guidance as well as the sacraments, some having only been baptized or having celebrated first Holy Communion. Everything had to be started from scratch - we had to teach the basics of the Catholic faith and traditions. The communities in the newly founded missions encountered many administrative hardships. The missionaries were subject to complicated visa procedures, and were, in many cases, forced to travel back and forth to Poland, which was a financial challenge and caused constant uncertainty and doubt about the continuation of spiritual servitude. The vast distances between places in Russia and Kazakhstan where groups of Catholics met for prayers in makeshift chapels, or regular apartment homes created additional problems.

 

Eucharist in Pioniersk

The financial poverty was also a daily obstacle the missionaries met on daily basis. However, the biggest problem they experienced, was the moral destitution caused by decades of atheisation, during which all signs of faith were brutally eradicated. Children and youth were surrounded by special care, since the elderly generally gathered around their faith, while the middle aged were indifferent and not open to evangelization.

 

There were many difficulties, but thanks to God's grace and the financial support from our benefactors in Europe and the United States, we were able to lay a good foundation for the Catholic Church in the countries of the former Soviet Union. And we, the Polish Redemptorists, embraced our work there in the spirit of our mission statement "Bringing Good News to the Abandoned Poor". 


Chapel at home
Chapel in Togliatti Fr. Zbigniew with parishioners First Chapel in Grodno  Old Salt-Ukraine

Siberian village
Destroyed Church in Kazakhstan Map of the Soviet Union
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