Success Story: Mass stipends for 43 Priests in Russia
With an area of 4 million square miles, the Diocese of Saint Joseph in Irkutsk is larger than the entire United States. Bordering on China, the Pacific Ocean and Alaska, it covers seven different time zones. Scattered across all this vast area are just 52,000 Catholics, currently ministered to by 43 priests of the diocese, and they face enormous challenges.
The climate is extreme, with winter temperatures not infrequently -58°F – and in some places still colder than that. Yakutsk, for example, experiences polar temperatures down as low as -94°F, making it the coldest city in the world. Winter here lasts for almost 9 months, and many places see little daylight. There are various indigenous groups still living in this area, many of whom still practice shamanism, although most are Christians today. The Salesian Fathers have a mission in Yakutsk and another in the town of Aldan, some 350 miles away. Every week the Salesians in Aldan visit the Catholic Yakuts living in a number of the surrounding villages. There are also other places, sometimes hundreds of miles away, where they can only visit once a year.
Like them, the other priests of the diocese have to travel very long distances in order to meet the scattered Catholic communities and bring them the Sacraments. They have to work in the most difficult of conditions. They depend for their survival on the collections and Mass stipends given by local Catholics, but the people themselves are very poor and can do little to support their priests. As a result, the Mass stipends we send them are crucial, and thanks to your help, we were able to support these 43 priests with Mass stipends to a total value of $27,200.
Father Włodzimierz Siek, the vicar general of the diocese, has written on behalf of his fellow priests to thank you all for this help. He writes, “It makes us realize that our benefactors are sharing directly in our apostolate, and it warms our hearts to think that we are not alone as priests in these vast wastes of Siberia. The bitter cold outside and the deep snow seem less frightening then.”
“My heartfelt thanks to all of you for associating yourselves with our apostolate and sharing in our ministry through your support. We pray for you all, together with our Catholic faithful. May God reward you for your generosity!”
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