December 7, 2017

Twenty-five Years in Kaliningrad, Russia

from Sister M. Andrea Lisdat

In October 2017 the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary celebrated the 25th jubilee of their missionary work in Kaliningrad, Russia. For this occasion the provincial superior, Sister Marisa Spickers, visited the two sisters in Kaliningrad, Sister M. Angele and Sister M. Gisela, for the first time.

Commissioned by the Founder of Schoenstatt

In the fall of 2017, the media increasingly focused on Russia. One hundred years ago, the October Revolution set communism on the advance. God was torn out of the hearts of entire generations, which estranged people from themselves and one another. We see and bear the consequences even today. Father Kentenich, the founder of Schoenstatt, saw a call of God in these voices of the time. In 1945 he gave the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary in the regions of Germany formerly occupied by Russia the commission to bring the Blessed Mother into the East – for a new birth of Christ in the hearts of people.

Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary in Kaliningrad

After the fall of communism, a new beginning for the Catholic Church in the communistic regions became possible. In September 1992, Sister M. Stella and Sister Mariana made their way to their place of assignment in Kaliningrad. The sisters were urgently needed to help build up the Catholic community: preparation of liturgies, baptism catechesis, house visits, work with children, distribution of relief aid, and much more. The little community in Kaliningrad and in other places grew. A number of sisters worked in Kaliningrad for longer or shorter periods – now for 25 years.

Twenty-Five Years of Concrete Commitment

The parish grounds are something to be proud of: In the middle is a larger, wooden church – with meeting rooms – that is attractively decorated and radiates a religious atmosphere. Around this church an entire center has been built out of trailers and simple buildings: a soup kitchen that welcomes 80-100 needy persons each day, clothing distribution centers, community rooms, workshops, a dining hall for homeless people, and an outpatient clinic that can give the most necessary assistance to many people. It is stressful and exhausting – genuine missionary work that takes place close to the people, in completely atheistic surroundings.

In their pastoral work, the sisters would like to give the people a new sense of value and dignity by passing on the faith, and to offer existential help to the needy through social efforts.

Reason to Thank and Look Ahead

Together with the Holy Family Parish, the sisters could celebrate this jubilee at the beginning of October, rejoicing and standing in awe at what has come about from the smallest beginnings and grown year by year. It is a reason to thank God and the people.

Sister Marisa experienced a lively parish. The sisters have built up something that is like an oasis in which the Blessed Mother works. She gives the people a home and faith, a new foothold and the human dignity that they have lost because of difficult conditions. The pastoral work is shaped according to Schoenstatt’s spirit. In her talk for the occasion, Sister M. Gisela brought examples close to life such as the apostolate of the Pilgrim Mother Shrines that travel among the families.

In the parish hall there was a little celebration with valuable encounters and a lively exchange with each other.

At the end of the celebration, Sister Marisa thanked all the members of the parish, great and small, for the organization of the celebration, for all cooperation with the sisters, and for the common commitment to the people and finally to the Church.

The sisters are grateful for all interest and every show of support that they could experience in the many years of their work. Many things would not have been possible without energetic help and generous donations. Life in Kaliningrad brings manifold challenges that the sisters face with mission consciousness so that also in the coming 25 years the faith in the hearts of the people in the Kaliningrad area can be strengthened and the projects already begun can continue to grow.

For the Sisters of Mary in Kaliningrad, it is a clear sign from heaven that Sister M. Huberte, who first came to Kaliningrad in November 1992 and worked there for many years with great love and dedication, was called into eternity around the time of the jubilee.