The Diocese of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, eastern Siberia, is the largest diocese in the world. Covering an area of nearly four million square miles, it is almost 28 times the size of Montana! In all this unimaginably vast territory there are just 50 priests or so ministering to a widely scattered population of 50,000 or so Catholic faithful. Often these are no more than tiny communities, in some cases just a single Catholic family, with the next nearest Catholic community hundreds if not thousands of miles away. It goes without saying that it is not possible to build churches everywhere where these micro-communities of Catholics live, and even if that were possible, there would still be too few priests to minister in them.
In order to reach these Catholics, the priests regularly have to travel huge distances. This is of crucial importance for the survival of the Catholic communities in this part of the world, for where there is no priest to bring the sacraments, then the faithful are deprived of these means of grace and there is a danger that the sense of inner connection to the Church may fade and that faith will diminish. This would be the start of a vicious circle, for when faith begins to fade then spiritual vocations will not occur, and if there are no priests then still fewer people can be ministered to pastorally and still more people are likely to become estranged from the Church – and so the soil of local vocations become still poorer. So far, most of the priests in the diocese have come here from abroad.
Such extensive traveling involves high costs in terms of fuel. Yet each time a priest is unable to visit because he has no money for the fuel, it means that a group of the Catholic faithful must wait in vain for him to come and celebrate Holy Mass, give Holy Communion, baptize their children and bury their dead – as if they did not already have to live in great isolation, far from their nearest fellow Catholics. So it is obvious that these priests are heavily dependent on outside help if they are to be able to minister to their scattered flock and encourage them.
ACN provides regular support for these priests in the Diocese of St. Joseph in Siberia, and this year we are doing so once again, with a contribution of $28,500.
Will you help us support these traveling priests so they can minister to scattered Catholics and so keep the faith alive in Siberia?
Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.