Russia is part of the MSC Mater Gratiae Province.
Thirty years ago marked the beginning of the adventure of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Russia. We collected the testimonies of those who took part in the beginnings of this mission such as Sr. Tatiana with her vocation and entry into the Congregation….
Sr. Francesca was sent to France by Sr. Maria Barbagallo, then General Superior, to participate in a seminar organized to raise awareness of the religious situation in Russia. It was there that Sr. Francesca met Monsignor Werth whose report on the needs of the Church greatly stirred her apostolic enthusiasm. A year after Sr. Francesca had arrived in Prokopievsk with Sr. Pia, Sr. Tatiana met Sr. Francesca in 1994 when Adela Jarquin, the lay missionary in Russia, was already there. From that moment on, however, at least in Sr. Tatiana’s mind, she felt Sr. Francesca had always been with them through her short visits and efforts to help them with small things. Although they welcomed the help, the people still regarded the workers as members of the various sects and so their belief was merely superficial. Sr. Tatiana herself had a strong interest in a good Christian life in addition to anything concerning religious practices but she was not indifferent to the daily lives of the two women whose behaviors were so different from them, particularly after learning that they also came from different backgrounds where they had not only been active but also responsible for the mission.
With the help of the Columbus Clinic in Milan, a small clinic had already been established in Prokopievsk in one of the two apartments where Sr. Francesca and Adela lived. Sr. Tatiana then met another Missionary of the Sacred Heart when Dr. Cotza and Sr. Berta arrived bringing help. About those early years of contact, Sr. Tatiana says she was struck by the fact that the work consisted of catechesis, preparation for the Sacraments and visits to the sick but the important thing was that the sisters “always kept the spirit of the small mission in its simplicity”.
Difficulties in the mission became increasingly serious and every year the sisters were obliged to leave Russia to obtain visas. When the parish priest refused to help, at least in this, Sr. Francesca had to leave Russia, meaning Prokopievsk as well, for a short time, thus leaving the mission and the people who had become so fond of the sisters. In December 1998, Sr. Tatiana left Italy for Russia with Sr. Raphael Sharkey, going to the new mission in the small town of Novoaltaysk where Sr. Francesca also was. In the parish community of Novoaltaysk under the responsibility of Sr. Francesca, catechesis was continued and then during the summer months there was summer school, etc…
The mission in Russia thus began on May 22, 1993. In 2002, Mother Lina Colombini expressed her wish that the mission in Novoaltaysk should also have a home of its own. Her wish was granted and in May 2003 construction began. The Superior General, accompanied by Sr. Loredana and Sr. Tatiana, subsequently visited the mission in Novoaltaysk in July 2004, finding Sr. Assunta who had arrived there a few weeks earlier and had been assigned by the province to the mission. On July 18, Bishop Joseph Werth celebrated the Mass inaugurating the new House. We shared the joys of our stay on Russian soil with the Orthodox brothers present there.
Those who were there at the beginning of the mission in Russia:
Sr. Lina Colombini, General Superior at the time, Sr. Giovanna Auguardo, Provincial of the Institute, then also Sr. Maria Barbagallo, Sr. Pia Locatelli and Sr. Berta Montanelli. The various accounts of those years also mention Chiara Vaghi, a mission supporter and promotion aide. “Those who joined in this worthy undertaking came to understand that supporting missionaries makes missionaries!”
Novoaltaisk: Parish pastoral and youth community.
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