Mahiljou (or Mogilev) is the third largest city in Belarus, with a population of something over 381,000. It lies in the east of the country, on the river Dnieper. Prior to 1936 the population was roughly one third each Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish. Today, however, Catholics are only a tiny minority. Nonetheless, Saint Anthony‘s parish, which is currently under the care of two Claretian Fathers, is flourishing.
More and more people are coming to Holy Mass and getting actively involved in the life of the parish. Sunday Mass attendance, at the four Masses currently celebrated in the temporary chapel, is around 200 altogether. It would probably be higher if there were more space. There are also several prayer groups, and the Catholic faithful are very committed. In fact, the parish could really do with another priest or two.
For several years now work has been underway on a new church and associated parish centre. The church will have seating for 150 people, and the parish centre will not only have rooms for the various catechetical and other group meetings that are currently planned, but also accommodation for five priests and three religious sisters. In the longer term they are also planning to open a soup kitchen for the poor, which will naturally be open to all in need, and not just to Catholics.
The church is now two thirds finished. ACN has already helped in the past, but now we have been asked once again for help to complete the project. For the coronavirus crisis has also hit the parish very hard. Not only did the priests themselves fall ill with the virus, but they were also unable to travel, as they normally do, to nearby Poland to help out in the parishes there and collect donations at the same time.
We are planning to give a final contribution of 50,000 Euros, so that the building can be completed and the parish at last be able to make full use of their new church and its attached parish facilities.