Mission in Tolyatti, Russia
Fr. Artur Pruś CSsR: Praised be Jesus Christ! I cordially greet you from Tolyatti (also known in English as Togliattigrad), a place where Redemptorists have been serving since 2004. As you can see behind me, there is a little blue chapel and a white church tower. As Redemptorists, we have been entrusted with building this temple. Our parish has about 200 members spread around 100 km from here. The place which is the farthest for our parishioners to come here is for example Povolzhskiy (Поволжский). If you have a car, you need one hour from there to get here on a Mass on Sunday (two hours if you use public transport). We meet after each Sunday mass for catechism classes for children, youth and other different groups. Before we will tell you something more about our service on Tolyatti there is a need to mention: when did the first redemptorist come here? It was spring 1993, just after the collapse of the USSR. The first places where redemptorists appeared were Orenburg in Russia and Petropavlovsk in Kazakhstan. Today we work in four places in Russia: Kemerovo, Orsk, Orenburg and Tolyatti and Petropavlovsk in Kazakhstan.
I came to Russia at the end of September 2019, so my time here is relatively short. At first I went to see the work of my confreres here in Orenburg and Orsk. I had an opportunity to help Father Andrew in Orenburg. There I experienced work with children in the Children’s Help Center, which is near to our parish. I also experienced what we call “approaches” which means going to the outlaying countryside, for example Fyodorovka (100km from us). There, in a barn converted into a chapel, families with children gather for the Eucharist, confession, prayers, catechesis, and we are able to visit them twice a month. We also cooperate in with various female congregations: with Redemptoristines, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Congregation of the Sisters Servants, Mother of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, Servants of the Holy Spirit, and Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. We can speak about the work of the Redemptorists, about our ministry here in the East. I don’t have so much experience yet, but I think Sister Beata (sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth), who has been working with Redemptorists for over 12 years here in the East, will do that well.
- Beata Zimińska CSFN: I am working with the Redemptorist Fathers here for 12 years, first in Orsk in the Urals, now in Tolyatti. It seems to me that our charisms are complementary. The fathers in their mission try to reach everyone with the Gospel: children, youth, adults, and especially families. They do this through various forms of activity, starting from the catechesis of children and youth, through the preparation of adults for the sacraments, and also through these less traditional forms: organizing holidays with God in the parish or in tents, trips to various interesting places or to other parishes. They organize bicycle, walking and car pilgrimages in Russia and abroad. What I appreciate is that they pay a lot of attention to the poor, and those who come and ask for help. Probably every parish here in the East has some charity centers. In Orsk we run together with the fathers the Saint Gerard Center for children aged 7 to 14, as well as a Holy Family Center for children with autism and other developmental disorders. It is impossible to describe in a few sentences all the activities that the fathers conduct here.
I want to tell you, fathers, thank you so much for your good work, that we can do so much together. May God protect you and bless your ministry so that it may bear proper fruit … the fruits of plentiful redemption.
Fr. Artur Pruś CSsR: When Christians, Catholics began to gather in Tolyatti, they initially gathered in small groups. Priests from Samara came to them to minister, celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments, to baptize, to welcome new people to the church. Later, when this Catholic community grew stronger, the Franciscans were sent here. In 1998, thanks to the help of German Catholics, the chapel in which we are now was built, and it serves us today for celebrating the Eucharist, for prayer meetings and various groups. As I mentioned, we have been here since 2004 and, as Redemptorists, we continuously serve the Catholics entrusted to us. Next to this chapel, the new church is being built – the Church of Saint John Paul II. The patron of our parish is Our Lady of Fatima. Our parish is developing dynamically, we have several parish groups: altar boys, children, youth, groups of the living rosary for children, youth and adults. There are “Mothers in Prayer”, who gather on the first Saturday of the month to pray for our parish and for their families. We conduct catechism for children and young people every Sunday. Sometimes foreign people come here and find out that there is a Catholic church here, that there is a Catholic parish. Some of them are baptized, some remember that their parents were Catholics and want to come to the Catholic Church. We help such people to bring their faith into the life of the church. There are people who often receive baptism and other sacraments as an adult, and then actively participate in the life of our parish. As Redemptorists, we strive to meet the needs of these people. We try to look for new Catholics who are close to us, but during the Soviet times, when the church could not function normally, they lost their faith or their faith weakened. We try to meet the needs of these people, so that they can awaken and rediscover their faith, and meet Christ again. This is our task here, in this region, in Russia, in Togliatti and in the institutions where we serve. And what is our work here in Togliatti like for these particular groups, how are our parishioners perceived? Hear about it for yourself from their testimonies.
Lena Shel (our secretary): Redemptorists have ministered in our parish since 2004. Over the years, our parish has grown and continues to grow. Our children came to church and now they bring their own children. It is thanks to the Redemptorists that a beautiful and modern church is being built in our parish. We like our Redemptorist Fathers very much. Thanks to their good, cordial approach to us, our parish grows. We thank them so much for their service and all the work they put into this work. For the fact that they visit us at home, conduct celebrations and holidays in a way that bind our community together. They also look after our children, which is a huge and important job, especially for the younger generation who grow up and will continue to live in the church.
Ludmila and Adela: Ministry with children takes the first place. I remember my granddaughter going to church. It was very interesting to her because she made friends with the priests. She always said Father Miroslav: my friend… and she always brought him drawings. What the priests do for adults is, first of all, pilgrimages to Poland, Italy and Russia, for example to Saratov, Orenburg, Kazan. A man would never have gone alone. That is why I thank you very much for all these pilgrimages. When Father Arthur started to minister here permanently, from that moment on I started going to church systematically. Before that, it was maybe just once a month. Since now we have permanent priests, I regularly go to church every weekend, I also go to confession regularly. It is a great good for Catholics that priests are with us and that is why I am very grateful for it. I thank our Redemptorist Fathers, the whole Congregation. We thank our priests for being with us!
Adrian and Markus Hartwik: Thanks to the ministry of the fathers, we pray, develop our faith, and learn the story of Jesus Christ. And I also like the meetings organized for altar boys.
Fralovy Family: I think at the beginning it should be emphasized that the church is something new for us. We started going to church two…. no, three years ago. Yes, three years ago. And all the time we feel like little children. We don’t know much about the Church and faith yet. And so, the first advantage that we have parishes, the church, is the possibility of entering into faith, becoming a believing Catholic, Christian. It is important for us: this help, the fact that they “lead us by the hand”, show us what faith is. In general, the Church is like a big family to us. Our parish is very friendly and this help shown to us as a large family is very important, especially in this difficult year.
Giera?! I have participated many times with you in Holidays with God. The last time was in summer, and in winter (not long ago). It was the first time that I was very excited, I wanted to please (satisfy) everyone. The next time it was great, we also managed to go to the ice rink. We managed to see a lot. There were also many meetings of altar boys I attended. During the last one we were skiing for about two hours and watched a good movie. Ula, continue on. We have a big family and when we can we all go to church. After the mass, we stay for catechesis. My brother Giera is also an altar boy. In catechesis, we learn a lot about our faith. For example, today we had a topic about how to behave in a church.
Baranovy Family: I thank the Redemptorist Fathers that they are always present with us, that by always coming to church, listening to catechesis and sermons, we can understand the meaning of God in our lives. Thank you for the sacraments they have administered to us in our marriage: the wedding and baptism of our children. The Fathers always found necessary and appropriate words and examples in preparing for the sacraments. This showed us how you can be good parents and spouses. I want to thank the Redemptorist Fathers for preparing me for an important event in my life – the sacrament of marriage. After I got married, I started going to church regularly. I’ve been going to church for ten years. I can also say that the sermons are accessible and understandable so that you can really think about your life.
Sasha Kramer: I want to thank the Fathers who are with us in Tolyatti, thank them very much for being with us, they help us to develop our faith. They are always close to us and with us, they always support us. Thank you very much.