Our mission in the Far East of Russia opening in 2009. To see current events there, visit the parish website: catholickhabarovsk.org
Below you can read the opening story of its foundation and learn how to make a donation to support the work of our missionaries there.
True to the missionary mandate to “go to the ends of the earth,” three of our sisters founded a new mission on July 24, 2009 in Habarovsk, on the far eastern edge of Russia. Here they tell us about the city, their apostolates and the special needs of this new foundation.
Where is Khabarovsk?
The city of Khabarovsk (alternately rendered “Habarovsk” or “Chabarovsk”) is located in far Eastern Russia at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers, about 30 km from the Chinese border and nearly due east of Harbin. The city with 700,000 inhabitants, serves as the administrative center and one of the largest city of Khabarovsk Krai region of Russia. The closest other Russian city is Vladivostok lying about 800 kilometers (497 miles) to the south.
The Church in Eastern Russia
The Catholic Church here depends on the Diocese of Saint Joseph in Irkutsk. This ecclesial jurisdiction was previously known as the Apostolic Administration of Eastern Siberia, until February 11, 2002 when it was erected as the Diocese of Saint Joseph by His Holiness John Paul II, on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is considered as one of the geographically largest dioceses in the world due to the great distances between the different parishes. Currently the bishop is His Excellency Cyryl Klimowicz caring for a flock of 50,000 Catholics.
While there is a strong presence of the Russian Orthodox Church here, there are also small groups of Christians who belong to the Catholic Church. The appearance of Catholics in Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East is, above all, connected with the deportation of peoples: Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Volga Germans, Ukrainians, etc.
These deportations are dated not only from during the time of the Communist regime, but even before, during the 19th century. According to the historical data the former Archdiocese of Mohilev in 1858 there were already 112,799 Catholics, divided into 21 Catholic parishes. In 1915, two years before the Communist Revolution, in the European part of Russia there were more than 80 parishes with almost 220,000 faithful and more than 40 parishes in the Siberian part with more than 140,000 faithful.
Today we are serving the small Catholic community in Khabarovsk which was reborn just ten years ago. This community has been cared for by the priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), the priests of our Religious Family, since 2007. Ours is the only Catholic parish in the city, and it is considered as the Central Parish in the Dalniy Vostok (Far East). Currently there are approximately 200 parishioners.
We are working not only with the liturgy and sacristy, but at the same time we have organized different groups of catechism and prayer: for children, for youth and a “moms’ group.” We also assist in and organize diocesan meetings, Spiritual Exercises for laity, various meetings in our parish, and Summer Camp for children and youth.
Every Saturday the Mass is celebrated in the Chapel of our convent. This way the people have the opportunity to pray together with us and then come to know us better as we discuss different topics of formation and apostolate during the traditional Russian tea served after the Mass. In this society, where for a long time it was very difficult to speak openly about God, there is now a very clear sign of the people’s longing to know and learn more about God and about our faith. For this reason, we want to give special attention to the intellectual and spiritual formation of youth and young adults.
As an example of the urgency of working with youth, within a few days of arriving in Khabarovsk, we were able to participate in a Youth Festival in a “nearby” city only 650 Km away called Blagoveshchensk—which providentially means “Annunciation.”
When we arrived in the city, the children were so surprised at our presence that they said as they giggled, “Look! They’re real!”
In this youth encounter, about 30 young people gathered together to learn more about the topic of the Theology of the Body. The youth showed great interest and a truly Catholic spirit during all the expositions and questions that followed. We were able to get to know the young people of the place and their particular idiosyncrasy (being very open, friendly and enthusiastic!), and they came to be very interested in our Institute and charism.
Family Center for Mothers and Children
The family situation is very complex here. The women’s and children’s situation is generally very difficult; there is a high number of single mothers with little children. This is the reason why our parish has founded a center to help women in need, where our sisters work helping them spiritually and materially, both serving to help address their needs and to teach them how to be good mothers.
How You Can Help
In this Far Eastern part of Russia the cost of living is very expensive. The taxes are very high in the country and the people that we help are very poor. For this reason it is difficult to sustain our mission in this place. We need help to support our basic requirements, especially providing for the housing needs: heating, electricity, water, and structural integrity of the building.
Use PayPal to make a tax-deductible donation to the Khabarovsk Mission.
Your mailing address only will be used to send you a thank-you letter with our tax ID number for your records.
Or send your charitable donations payable to:
SSVM Missions Inc.
Attn: Russia – Khabarovsk
632 W. Erie Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19140
Thank you for your generosity and prayers for this new mission!
On the left: the three founding sisters of the new community during the visit of Mother Radosty, the Superior of the Delegation of Russia and Central Asia (third from the left).