Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
The diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which has its seat in Novosibirsk covers an area of 2,000,000 km². Exactly how many Catholics dwell there is unknown, though it is known that many – mainly descendants of the German, Polish or Ukrainian or other nationalities who were deported or resettled in Siberia in the past – have Catholic roots. It does not, of course, mean that they live as Catholics today, but simply that their forefathers were Catholic. Currently only around 10,000 people regularly attend Holy Mass on Sundays in the diocese.
There are a total of 60 parishes and 25 other localities where priests and religious sisters live and from where they minister to the vast surrounding regions. There are some small towns or villages in which only tiny Catholic communities exist – sometimes only a single family – with the next nearest Catholic community hundreds of kilometres away. The impossibility of building churches in every place where such micro-communities live goes without saying. And, even if it were possible, the number of priests to minister to them is insufficient. So far there are only 20 Catholic churches in the diocese, and in many places Holy Mass is still celebrated in the homes of the Catholic faithful.
In the vast area holding the diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord there are just 50 priests and only 10 are from Russia itself. However the pastoral care of the faithful is of vital importance for the survival of the Catholic Church in the region, otherwise the spiritual bond to the Church is in danger of weakening and the faith of withering, as a result and could mark the beginning of a vicious downward spiral, for where the faith has become weakened, there are fewer vocations and where there are fewer priests, it becomes difficult to minister adequately to the faithful, resulting in still more losses of people drifting from the Church and the soil for native vocations shrinking still further.
However, if the faithful sometimes have to make do for lengthy periods without priests, then at least the Church can reach out to them in other ways – in this case by means of the Catholic newspaper currently published by the diocese. It is called the Siberian Catholic Newspaper and it is the only printed Catholic newspaper published in the entire Russian territory. It is published twice yearly in an edition of 3,000 copies and is read not only in the diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord but also by members of the second Siberian diocese of Saint Joseph, in Irkutsk. It is sent above all to the religious communities, Catholic libraries and pastoral centres, where it is read by many of the Catholic faithful. There is also an online version on the Internet, at http://sibcatholic.ru
The newspaper reports among other things on current events, both in the local church and in the Vatican, and also covers such topics as priestly vocations, major figures, like Mother Teresa, and articles explaining the importance of the principal feasts in the Church, etc. For the Catholic faithful who live scattered across this vast region, and who sometimes feel very far away from the centre of the universal Church, it gives a sense of togetherness and of connection with the Church Catholic. The newspaper also has a section for children and young people, and altogether it represents an important means of articulating the unity of the Catholic Church in Siberia and in Russia as a whole.
ACN has been a regular supporter of this initiative and this year we are supporting them again with a contribution of $18,700. Its publisher, Deacon Vladimir Degtyarev writes: “We are infinitely grateful for your help, without which publication would be impossible.“
This project is just one example of our work. Should you wish to support it, or another similar project, then please contact one of the persons below. Thank you.
Robert Lalonde (514) 932-0552 poste 224
Amanda Bridget Griffin (514) 932-0552 poste 221