Monday, May 19, 2008

Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy~ Sisters in Jesus the Lord




It still seems like Sunday to me, since we had the day off at LifeSite. So today I'm still in Sunday mode and wanted to tell y'all about my favourite charity.

Meet the Sisters in Jesus the Lord, a missionary group that is still in the "private association of the faithful" stage. I met them at the Institute on Religious Life in Chicago several years ago and of all the groups, both established and beginning, they impressed me the most. Their foundress and superior, Sister Julia Kubista, was formerly a Maryknoll sister, who told me that she had asked for ex-claustration when she just found it impossible to carry on with the order that was so completely abandoning its original charism as Catholic missionaries. She said she wanted to bring Jesus Christ and the truth of the Faith to people and all they wanted to do was dance around trees and talk about Marxism (I paraphrase).

She knew the priests of a new missionary order, the Canons Regular of Jesus the Lord, that was running the Mary Mother of God Mission Society in Vladivostok. Things in the Siberian town were not well at all. It had been a Soviet model city, built by gulag labour and populated by people who had been forcibly removed from their homes elsewhere in the USSR and plonked there with little material provision and no spiritual provision. There had been a Roman Catholic church there, but the last priest of the parish had been shot on the steps of his church in 1925. The communists used the building for administrative purposes for a while, but by the time the Soviet empire "fell", it had been more or less abandoned, along with most of the people of Vladivostok.

Sister Julia got to know the priests who ran a mission there, rebuilding the church, opening a centre for elderly people, starting social services for mothers, post-abortion counselling, boy scouts, an orphanage...there was quite a bit of work.

She told me that she had been working with the priests for some time and one day asked Fr. Myron, the superior, "What do you need the most?" The priest answered, "Sisters". Being a practical woman and one who believed fully in Providence, she said simply, "I'll see what I can do".

When I met them, Sister Julia was wearing only a tailored blue suit and veil that looked much like the old ones that used to be worn by the Maryknollers. She was accompanied by a lovely young woman who was finishing a degree in music. Since then that young lady has been clothed in the new "order's" habit and is called Sr. Stella Maris. The two of them were surrounded by a gaggle of very lovely young girls (since the Institute on Religious Life is something of a career's camp for 19 year-old girls looking for nun opportunities). The seriousness of mind, the purity of Sr. Julia's faith, the utter needfulness of their intended mission to the distressed and miserable people of the former Soviet Siberia, all struck me as the most genuine example of the old ideal of active religious life I had yet come across.

The fact that they survived years of trials under the regime in place in their diocese, and have prospered to a degree (another novice is in the habit and there seems to be another postulant) under what was doubtless both subtle and overt persecution from the diocesan authorities, tells me that this is something that God wants to happen.

Now that they have a new bishop who is at least a believer in the Catholic Faith, I can only imagine that things will begin to progress rapidly for them.

There are a lot of very large obstacles in front of them. The Russian government, that had briefly been welcoming Christian missionaries from the States has clamped down and it is now very difficult to get a visa to go there. Language barriers must be overcome with extensive study. Money and supplies are needed to send the missionaries to Russia.

The Mary Mother of God Mission Society does

an orphanage, with a special milk and fruit programme for the kids
Street kid rescues
a volunteer "grandma" mentoring programme with the orphans
Soup kitchen
The parish at Vladivostok rents a cafeteria three days a
week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—to provide nutritious meals for the elderly, who
are generally very poor. The meals are served in downtown Vladivostok, which means
that the elderly can take the trolley to the location for free (trolley rides are
free for those who are officially retired).

On their own, the elderly can usually afford only dry bread and tea. We serve hot
soup, meat, cooked buckwheat, vegetables, meat pies, brown and white breads, dessert,
and hot coffee with cream and sugar. Generous portions are offered so that the diners
can take home the leftovers for the following day, on which there will be no meal
offered.

drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme
Women's support centre:
Our Women’s Support Centers (WSCs) are making a tremendous difference
in the lives of Russian women who are seeking an alternative to abortion. Today,
we have seven centers that offer pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, prenatal
care, vitamins, and help with hospital costs to needy women who are pregnant.
Since 1998—the year we opened our first center—we have assisted more than 10,000
pregnant women who have come to us for help.

Induced abortion continues to this day as the primary method of family planning in
Russia. Estimates vary, but most experts agree that the average woman will have
between 5 and 12 abortions in her lifetime.

Many women openly admit to having 25 or more. In truth, the numbers are difficult to
pin down, as some abortionists report not that they are performing the procedure, but
that they are conducting surgery to “regulate the menstrual cycle.” Others, who
operate private clinics, will not report all the abortions they perform in an effort
to reduce their stated income and the income taxes they must pay.

Restoration of the Cathedral of Vladivostok
A volunteer medical programme for people who cannot afford medical insurance

Other stuff they're doing:
Summer walking pilgrimage
Bicycle pilgrimage
Catholic children's summer camp
Far Eastern Catholic Youth Conference
Evangelization and catechesis
Language and Catechetical Institute, Gaming, Austria
Rachael's Vineyard

There was a wonderful story I remember that the local Orthodox priest (remember most of the Russian Orthodox were communist sympathisers planted there by the KGB) had railed publicly about the sudden appearance of these western Catholic interlopers. He was one of the new mission's most vocal opponents. One night, however, a knock came on the fathers' door. It was the same man. He was near tears as he admitted that his family were starving and could they please help. I don't know if he became a Catholic, but his opposition probably ceased.

Here's a video.

Currently, Russia is in desperate need of more religious vocations, both native as well as foreign! A very important priority in our mission effort has been to seek out persons who might be called to the priesthood or religious life as ordained priests, permanent deacons, or as professed sisters or brothers to labor in the Russian Far East.

As the Catholic Church in Russia matures, there will inevitably be more native Russians who will answer the call to serve God in some capacity in full-time ministry. To assist in this process, though, what is first needed is European and American clergy to answer God's call to labor as missioners in what is truly the last great mission frontier of the world, Siberia.


They're real Catholic Missionaries, for whom the spreading of the Faith as their first goal, who take the liturgy seriously (Novus Ordo) (...for now) and whose primary mission is to save souls and to convert Russia to the true Faith through the witness of their charitable works.

If you want to do volunteer work as a Catholic in a real Catholic mission where your efforts are desperately needed, give it a thought. Get in touch with their office and they'll start the process of getting you over there.

If you want something really Catholic to give money to, here's the address for donations.

If, most importantly, you think you have a vocation to the religious life to do missionary work to spread the Kingdom of God in the true Catholic Faith, get in touch with Sr. Julia or Fr. Myron Effing.