Vladivostok Mission Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary | Jim Graves | Catholic World Report
The Catholic mission in Vladivostok, Russia brings the light of Christ to a poverty-stricken and highly secularized region.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Catholic faith was officially allowed to return to Russia after more than seven decades of life under what Pope Pius XI called “atheistic communism.” Since that time, Catholics have established missions in Russia, serving Catholics living within the country’s borders and performing charitable works. Out of deference to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Vatican does not consider Russia “mission territory,” and so these communities do not receive funding from the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith or engage in overt evangelism.
In 1992, Father Myron Effing and Brother (now Father) Daniel Maurer, two Americans from the Midwest, felt called to serve the Russian people. They went to Vladivostok, a city in Far Eastern Russia with about 600,000 people, and founded the Canons Regular of Jesus the Lord and the Mary Mother of God Mission Society to support their work. Although re-establishing the Faith has been challenging in a society that has been thoroughly secularized, the work of the priests has flourished in the 20 years since the Vladivostok mission was founded, and the future looks promising.
Poverty, crime, and broken families
Vladivostok is a Pacific Ocean port city, not far from the China and North Korea borders. It has a cool to mild northern climate, and is often foggy. Its industries include shipping and fishing, and it is home to a large Russian naval base.
Christianity came to Russia 1,000 years ago, and the first Catholic missionaries arrived in the Russian Far East 180 years ago. Soviet rule virtually wiped out the Church in the area; an estimated 7,000 Catholics in the region were martyred for their faith.
In 1992, Father Myron and Brother Daniel learned that there was an acute need for priests in Vladivostok (as well as all of Russia). They visited the city at the invitation of the diocesan bishop. At that time, he was located in Novosibirsk, Siberia—2,300 miles away “as the crow flies,” but more than 3,000 miles in a car or airplane because one must travel around China.