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For those of you who have read Fr. Walter Ciszek’s books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me, you will know of the struggles of Catholics in Far Eastern Russia. Father Ciszek endured many years of hard labor in prison camps in Siberia. Throughout his ordeal, beautifully and heart-renderingly portrayed in his books, he was always a priest. Nothing was dearer to him than the Russian people.
If you are interested in knowing about the revival of the Church in Eastern Russia, I suggest you receive the newsletter of the Mary Mother of God Mission Society. It documents the work of the Canons Regular of Jesus the Lord in Russia. In 1992, after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, two priests from the Midwest, Fr. Myron Effing, CJD and Fr. Daniel Maurer, CJD, arrived in Vladivostok to help re-establish the Church in eastern Russia. Since then—and with the mission society’s help—they have founded or re-founded 11 Catholic parishes, have developed numerous charitable initiatives, have created a variety of catechetical programs, and done much more.
They have programs for alcoholics, college students, boy scouts, orphans, the elderly. They conduct pro-life work, bring sacred music to this once atheistic nation, rebuild churches, assign guardian angels (“grandmas”) to orphans, and provide food and medical assistance to needy families.
They are assisted by the Sisters in Jesus the Lord (Canonissae in Jesu Domino) who work in Russia with women, children and the elderly. They have woman’s support centers in several Russian cities: Lesozavodsk, Vladivostok, Artyom, Arsenyev, Nakhodka and on Russian Island.
The Sisters in Jesus the Lord is a new Public Association of the Faithful in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. Their ministries, at home and in Russia, include: pro-life work, music and liturgy, catechesis and evangelization, ministry to the sick and homebound, AVE media, and stewardship of the land. Each year, they bring a busload of young men and women to the IRL’s National Meeting.
I ordered a cookbook from the Society called Abundant Blessings, a compilation of recipes from the many cultures and countries of their priests, seminarians, sisters and families. Proceeds go towards the seminarians’ education and the women’s centers. God willing, they will also build a Catholic Church in Nakhodka called Our Lady of the Pacific.
The cause of Rev. Walter Ciszek, S.J. has taken a “major step forward,” with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints issuing a declaration that the investigation is valid, the National Catholic Register reports.
Father Ciszek was born in 1904 in Shenandoah, PA, entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1928 and was ordained in 1937. Since he had a burning desire to serve the people in Communist Russia he was trained to say the Mass in the Russian Rite. After 2 years in Poland, he entered the Soviet Union so that he could minister to Christians who lived under communist persecution but was arrested as a “spy” in 1941. He endured torture, months and months of solitary confinement and years of hard labor near the Arctic Circle. His prayer to serve Catholics in Russia was answered but not in the way he expected. He found peace in knowing that he was serving where God wanted him, in his weakness and imprisonment and desolation. His parishioners became his fellow prisoners and fellow exiles in Siberia.
I highly recommend his two books: He Leadeth Me and With God in Russia. The first book is a classic that I have read many times. Two gentlemen I gave it to last year both independently said: I raced through it the first time to find out what happened and read it through the second time to savor it.
Father Ciszek died at Fordham University in New York on Dec. 8, 1984.