Fr. Carl Pieber reports on his month long travels through Russia spreading devotion to Mary through the Miraculous Medal. He is currently the Deputy Director of International Miraculous Medal Association. Superior General Fr. Tomas Mavrick asked him to undertake this missionary tour in Russia.
This past May 9, 2017 to June 2, 2017, I visited the Miraculous Medal Associations in Russia, (approximately 2 years old), and the Association in the Ukraine. Both are happily flourishing. I will speak about the visit to Ukraine in another article.
Receiving an invitation from the Our Lady of Fatima Church in Nizny Tagil, Siberia, I was able to enter Russia and move around in the country somewhat freely. The invitation from a local family or organization to obtain a visa to enter Russia, allows me to visit all the places of the Association that is necessary to exempt me from the restrictions of an organized tour.
Presently, the goal of the Miraculous Medal Association in Russia is to visit every parish in the Diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk. This is the second largest of the four dioceses and one prefecture in Russia. This diocese has 72 parishes and is approximately the size of half of the USA. I met with Bishop Joseph Wirth, S.J., who was most welcoming and very happy about the spread of the Miraculous Medal Association in his diocese.
I was welcomed in Omsk, the first city of my visit, by Sr. Kaja Hekova, D.C. and Sr. Theresa, D.C., and stayed at their roomy combined apartment house. These Daughters of Charity in Russia are from the Province of Slovakia. They have houses also in Nizny Tagil and Magadan in Russia.
This past year, the sisters and confreres from Poland, Frs. Andrzej Ziolkowski, C.M. and Przemyslaw Nowakowski, C.M. preached about the Miraculous Medal Association in six parishes on a different weekend. After each, they would have a question and answer session and then a time to sign up for the Association. Thanks to the prayers of the many menbers of the Association of the Miraculous Medal, a local Association group was established in every parish with around 15 – 25 members in each.
In Omsk, I spoke at the parishes of St. George and the Presentation of Our Lord. After Mass, I met with the Association groups and heard about their progress in their meetings and serving the needy in their areas.
An eleven hour train ride and a two hour car ride brought me to Nizny Tagil. This town of about 300,000 is near Yekaterinburg, a city that was made famous by the murders of Czar Nicholas and his family in 1917. In Nizny Tagil, I stayed at the double apartment of the Vincentian confreres, Fr. Anton Ovtar, C.M. (Province of Slovenia) and Fr. Anthony Jedinak, C.M. (Province of Slovakia). Fr. Anton has two parishes about four hours north of Nizny Tagil, and Fr. Anthony’s parish is Our Lady of Fatima, my host parish. The name Our Lady of Fatima is popular in Russia relating to her call at Fatima to convert Russia.
As the picture shows, the people came together and were enjoying Mary’s love and protection at Our Lady of Fatima Parish. I was happy to be present there on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima.
After the Sunday Mass celebrated by the Bishop, the youth group put on a play about the Apparitions of Fatima. It was enjoyed by all, including the Bishop. A bus full of parishioners, mostly members of the new MM Association, came from St. Anne Church in Yekaterinburg, where I also preached and met with the people.
While I was in Nizny Tagil, I visited the works of the Daughters and Vincentian confreres. The Association helps the both the sisters of the Daughters of Charity and the priests and brothers of the Congregation. There are 3 Daughters of Charity in this city, although one of the Daughters was on retreat during my visit.
Sr. Mary visits the homebound, many of whom are sick with tuberculosis. She brings them food and clothing, takes them to the doctors and hospital, and makes sure that they have their medicine. She is well acquainted with all of them.
Sr. Katherine works with the children after School, alternating between the teens (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and children (Tuesday and Thursday). Fr. Anton drops in regularly to teach religion and Fr. Anthony prepares the children for the sacraments at the Church.
This trip to Russia was a time to see the work of our Blessed Mother there. She is so present, helping the people and drawing them together. It is very clear that Mary has a special place in her heart for the people of Russia and is working through the Daughters, Vincentian confreres and now, the Association of the Miraculous Medal.
There were many times when the trip seemed like missionary work. The food was different and was “heavy,” with breads, potatoes and rice always served. Both cooked and raw cabbage and beets were frequently on the menu, always served with sour cream.
Yet the joy of this same group quickly dissipated any idea of mission and it became an adventure in Mary’s Family of wonderful people. The works of the Association, the Daughters, and the Vincentian confreres, are with some of the most downtrodden people I have seen. It is a great example of collaboration: it is no wonder that Mary sent us there.
All three of Vincentian Family members continue to draw the strength of God from each other and receive it so bountifully from those that they serve. Now isn’t that just like our Mary – serving her puts God into you! Thank you for all of your prayers that have helped spread devotion to Mary Immaculate.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Fr. Carl Pieber, C.M. completed his Ph.D. in Educational Organization and Management in 1991 at University of Buffalo. He has worked in the universities of the Congregation and was Director of Development for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston where he completed a successful Capital Campaign over $100 million. After being Executive Director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission appointed him Deputy Director of the International Miraculous Medal Association in 2014.