Living Testament of God’s Amazing Grace
“Is it real? Do you really come from such a cold, freezing place as Russia? Is it hot for you here? What are you doing here? How many Catholics are there in Russia? Why did you join the SVD?” These are just some of the questions I receive when people meet me and learn that I come from Russia. Many times, people are shocked and amazed that there is a Russian Catholic seminarian. It is probably unbelievable, but true.
I was born in 1989 in Irkutsk, Siberia of the Soviet Republic. My father is a Catholic from West Ukraine while my mother was a member of the Orthodox Church. It was on a holiday visit to my grandparents’ village that my grandma inquired if I was baptized and I was baptized in the Catholic Church. When we returned to Irkutsk, we did not practice our faith but sometimes my father would read the Holy Bible, which he brought from Ukraine, to us. In 2002 my paternal grandma came to visit us for three months and one of her first questions to me was “Where is the Catholic Church?” So I looked for one in the telephone book and found it. The next day she asked me to go with her to Church. After that, either my sister or I would go with her to Church.
In the church I met a few priests, nuns and young people. In September, my sister and I started Catechism classes and prepared for First Communion. After three months, my parish priest invited me to become an altar boy.
In 2004 an SVD priest came to work as a parish priest in Irkutsk. I got to know about the SVD, so when I finished school I decided to join them.I spent my first year with the SVD Irkutsk Community and then I was posted to Belarus for postulancy. Then I entered the Novitiate in Poland and returned to Russia for studies in the seminary. Now I am here in Papua New Guinea for the OTP experience.
People I meet are amazed that there is a Catholic seminarian from Russia. People often ask me about my opinion of our President but I do not like to discuss politics. Sometimes people ask me about the Catholic Church in Russia or my parentage.
I have been sent here by my Regional Superior who believes that I can receive a lot of missionary experience here. At first I was afraid and did not know anything about this country so I looked for information on the Internet and missionary magazine. I found a lot of articles about PNG and news about Polish missionaries who are serving here. I accepted the proposal of my Superior and I am glad that I have come. I have been here for only a month but I have met a lot of friendly, open and positive people. I feel comfortable that I am living in an international SVD community like that in Russia. I have met people from different countries and different cultures, but sometimes I do not understand them. Now I am polishing up my English until April and then I will go for TokPisin studies. After that, I look forward to pastoral experience.
Now I am like a child who is learning a new world, new language, new environment and new culture. But my confreres and my teacher help me to understand and adapt to this new reality.
Years ago I would not dream that I would come here.But I am here. It is truly God’s amazing grace for me to have this opportunity.