Tag Archives: Russia

Carmelites in San Rafael Celebrate 50th Jubilee

ocd rafaelThis year, the Carmelites in San Rafael, California, are celebrating the 50th year of their foundation. The Carmel of the Mother of God was founded on November 24, 1965, from the Carmelite Monastery at Carmel-by-the-Sea (a great place to visit for the scenery alone!).

It was Mother Miriam of the Trinity, OCD, the foundress, who received an interior call to found a Carmelite monastery specifically in response to Our Lady of Fatima’s request to pray for the conversion of sinners and for the Russian people. As part of this endeavor, the sisters studied the Russian language, liturgy, spirituality and history with help from priests from a Catholic Russian church. They still however observe the Latin rite and the regular Carmelite horarium.

Espoo Karmel
Espoo Carmelites

While the sisters were unable to establish a foundation behind the Iron Curtain, two of their sisters were able to start a new foundation in neighboring Finland in November of 1988. Today, this monastery in Espoo, Finland,  has ten cells and a chapel, with six sisters praying especially for the people of Finland. It is the only cloistered Catholic monastery in the entire country!

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the sisters purchased a small apartment in downtown Moscow for a tiny Carmel. The difficulties involved and the limited number of sisters for a new monastery caused the sale of this apartment to the Divine Word Missionaries who have established St. Olga’s Parish with the purchase of a nearby building. In that first apartment is still an Icon of the Infant Jesus painted by Mother Miriam which is now seen by the Russian faithful.

The community in San Rafael numbers seven with four American sisters, one sister from England, one sister from Africa, and one sister from the Philippines. To celebrate their jubilee, they have three masses scheduled during the month of November to be celebrated by Most Rev. John Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe (Nov. 1); Very Rev. Stephen Watson, O.C.D., Carmelite Provincial of the California/Arizona Province (Nov. 14); and Most Rev. Patrick McGrath, Bishop of San Jose (Nov. 24).

“… You will see that the majority of these houses have been founded not so much by man as by the mighty hand of God, and that, if we do not stand in His way, His Majesty loves to further the work He is doing.”        St. Teresa of Avila


Sisters in Jesus the Lord in Russia

vlad-mission-communities-20For 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.

Our Lady of Vladivostok
Our Lady of Vladivostok

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.


Father Ciszek’s Cause moves Forward

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.