The port town of Magadan in eastern Siberia was first established in 1929 as a concentration camp. Under the Soviet regime, it was the principal center of a regional labor camp system and the port of entry for thousands of deported victims. Until 1991, the area was a strict military exclusion zone.
Magadan’s Parish of the Nativity of Christ was established in 1990, shortly before the end of the Soviet Union. It was one of the first Catholic parishes in Russia‘s Far East; prior to its construction, area Catholics worshiped in a private room. The parish’s current church was completed in 2002.
Since 1994, Father Michael Shields, an Alaskan priest from the congregation of the Sacred Heart Brothers, has led the parish. The community is extremely active. There are catechetical sessions open to people of all ages, and children spent most of their time in the church, since it is usually too cold to play outside.
The Polish Sisters of the Divine Mercy also work in the parish. They run youth groups and organize holiday camps for students, aptly named “Holidays with God.” There is also a prayer group that meets regularly to recite the Rosary, an initiative to help pregnant women, and an outreach program for those who are struggling with addiction. In fact, many former addicts have since joined the parish.
Father Michael also ministers to former prisoners of the gulags. He has published a book of their testimonies, which were only recently given for the first time; even their families knew little to nothing about their experiences.
The parish continues to do a great deal of work on behalf of the community, but after almost 20 years, its church is in need of serious repairs. ACN has promised to help with a contribution of $33,900.
Will you help Father Michael renovate his church? We are sure he will remember you in his prayers.
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