On August 12, 2009 Sister Mary Inga, from Rome; Sisters Gertruda and Regina from Poland; and Sisters Michaeleen and Marilyn from North America arrived in Moscow, Russia. We were greeted by Sisters Franciszka and Wirginia who minister in Russia from the Warsaw Province. They took us to the diocesan pilgrim house where we stayed for two nights to prepare for our journey to Kamchatka. In Moscow we visited Red Square and the Kremlin. It was inside the gates of the Kremlin we prayed the rosary for the conversion of Russia, and opened God’s Word on the steps of the Orthodox Churches.
On August 14, we boarded a plane for a 9 hour ride across Russia to Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka. We were greeted by Fr. Jan, the priest from St. Theresa’s Parish with two volunteers from Poland. The joy that was shared on being on this holy ground filled the air. Right away we began our call to evangelization of presence as we went to a festival celebrating Pilot’s Day. The people had never seen Sisters before, especially five of us walking through the field. Many stopped us and asked to have their picture taken with us.
When we arrived into Petropavlovsk, we entered the small chapel of St. Theresa’s parish, where Fr. Jan celebrated the great feast of the Assumption of Mary and we had the opportunity to sing the Magnificat for our safe arrival. We were greeted with flowers and a beautiful welcome from one of the parishioners, Olga, who by the way knows English. Olga is teaching us how to pray the Office in Russian.
3 Our home at Sowieckaja
After Mass we walked down the hill to our new home, a two room apartment among the people. One room is used for the chapel, living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom for two sisters and the other room sleeps three sisters. There is a bathroom and a washing machine. We are truly blessed because we have running hot and cold water, except when the city turns off the water for three days.
Our new home was prepared by the people of the parish and volunteers from Poland who spent the summer in Kamchatka working here. To thank the volunteers we invited them to our home for a dinner and special ice cream treat. The volunteers included two seminarians, one young lady, and several young men. As they entered the house they were surprised at its beauty and warmth as we sang a song of welcome in two languages, shared God’s Word in Russian, Polish and English, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity!” Psalm 132:1. We shared our vocation stories as well as the legacy, charism, vision and mission of Blessed Mary Angela. Each volunteer was given a rosary, a medal of Blessed Mary Angela, and the Culture of Life pamphlet.
Five Felician Sisters from different parts of the world were called together to live a life of community, prayer and ministry. The way in which we embraced this call was first through our life of prayer. Once a day usually in the evening we would gather in our prayer space around the Word of God to share the following day’s Gospel. We believe that this strengthened our faith community. The Word of God opened us to grow together as an international community that had its own challenges and to meet the daily mission that would be ahead of us for that day. We learned everyday that the mission is to live among, to be with, and not to take something to the people. Mission is about engaging with people at the level of daily living and it had to begin with us. Some of these challenges were language and communication, culture differences, and not knowing what the day would bring to us. We needed to be open to each event that was before us. We believe this was possible because of our daily faith sharing. After two weeks of our stay in Petropavlovsk we had a community Reconciliation celebration followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God provided priests who knew English and Polish.
4 Chapel and rectory
Daily we have Mass followed by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This is a time when we pray a decade of the rosary in four languages and ask Jesus to bless the city with His real presence.
This is a gift for us as we keep alive our call to Be Eucharist Alive. Every day we prayed for the people of God as well as for the building of the Church. We had been learning to pray in Russian as we daily participated in the Eucharist and Adoration. We prayed in three languages the Liturgy of the Hours, Polish, English and Russian as best we could.
Like St. Francis, who had a profound respect for anything that was used in the Church for the Lord, we took it upon ourselves to care for the small chapel of St. Theresa’s. We noticed that the chasubles, albs, and humeral veils were in need of cleaning and repairing.
Sisters Gertruda and Marilyn shared their ministry of music for the daily liturgies.
The rectory is a gathering place for all who come to St. Theresa’s, it is a place for sharing with God’s people over a cup of tea or coffee.