The Catholic archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow serves a vast area of well over 1 million square miles (2.6 million km²) in which Catholics make up only a tiny minority among the population of 59 million people. In the big cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg and in some of the other larger towns and cities there are some very active and lively Catholic communities, but in many places the Catholic faithful live scattered and isolated in the small villages and towns of the rural areas.
Within the diocese there are 69 religious sisters belonging to 20 different congregations, who take on a wide range of important duties in the parishes. For example running children‘s and youth groups, giving catechetical instruction, preparing the faithful for reception of the sacraments, visiting the sick and bringing them Holy Communion – often in the small and remote villages – caring for the elderly and the homeless and supporting the families with advice and practical help. For example, the Polish Dominican Sisters of Jesus and Mary, who work in the Catholic parish of Orjol. Their youth apostolate is particularly popular, and many young people take part in their community worship, spiritual talks, retreat days, social gatherings and other leisure activities. For many of them this shared experience and shared life of faith leaves a deep and lasting impression.
For example Valeriana, one of the young people, writes: „I had a lot of physical and spiritual suffering in my life. I felt hurt and bitter that God had given me this cross to bear. But during our spiritual retreat I sensed the reality of His love. Everything began to make sense and I understood that in suffering the loss of material values, I gained spiritual ones, which are far more important. I understood that we need to bear our cross with love and to love one another, to be merciful and strive to do God‘s will, even when this demands sacrifices of us. My heart was moved by this understanding and I could see the goal and meaning of life.“
Another participant who told us about her experiences is Rhipsime. She is named after an Armenian saint and is a first-year university student. She used to regularly go to Holy Mass, but it was only through the spiritual discussions in the youth group run by the sisters that she really began to grow in her faith. She writes, „I understood that I haven‘t been truly living. My studies, the worldly cares, the problems – all these things make us apathetic, empty and quite simply unhappy. When we live like this we forget God and our soul and think only of ourselves and of what we like and want. Day after day goes by and we don‘t pray or even desire to spend just a little time with God, who is our Father and our Friend. It seems as though we haven‘t time, but in reality we are simply too lazy and disinclined. But He still waits for us. To anyone who reads my words, I make this one big request: Don‘t forget God in this hectic life! Just remember that a life without God is quite simply meaningless. Everything we do is for HIM. He loves us greatly and always waits for us with great longing.“
All the other sisters in the various different congregations are doing similar precious work within the diocese – and doing it purely out of love. So ACN is planning to give 34,500 Euros to help support the life and ministry of these 69 religious sisters in the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.