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Needlework by Pavel A. Parfentiev - St. Petersburg, Russia

Dear Friends!

I'm sending for you to see the picture of the work I finished. It took three months of work for me, as I did it slowly because of many other works. It's Mother of God ikon Vladimirskaja, I made as a cross-stitch by hands. I hope you would like it. I would like to offer anybody who wishes to have this hand-made work to send it for the donation of $200 that would come to our Community's "treasury" to spend on community's needs, that are so great now. So, please don't hesitate to write to me and we will find a way how to do it. If you know somebody who could be interested, so please send this message to such people - I would be only happy to show this work to them. As you know the embroidered ikons have a long history within the Russian Christian tradition. This is cross-stitched - so it's not that traditional, but it fits to this tradition as well. I would be glad if somebody would wish to have that particle of Russian (and not only) spiritual culture at his house - and it would be some help to our community. For me this was not so much a work as a kind of prayer and penitence. I'm thinking of making a shroud of Christ, also cross-stitched. I've seen the magnificent pattern, made by example of XVII century. But it's big and would take a long time, so I'm hesitating, though I was charmed with it. So, if any Byzantine parish need such a work we could discuss the possibility to made it. Asking your prayers, humble Pavel, Knight of Christ. -- Best regards, Pavel

Special Event - Rededication of St. Catherine's Catholic Church, St. Petersburg, Russia
West Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A.


Dear Gail,

I am forwarding you a message with attachment sent to me by my friend, a Carmelite Cloistered Nun in UK which is very interesting regarding the Church of St. Olga in Moscow. It would be great if you could print the message on the Grapevine or GEM. Sr. Pauline of Jesus spent 4 years in Moscow and has translated the attachment from Russian to English. She is originally from San Francisco, and a friend of mine. I also have pictures of the building they want to buy for St. Olga's parish. My Mother's name was Olga. Thank you. Love, Helen

----- Original Message -----
From: SrPaulineMofJesus
Cc: Helen Zachary
Sent: 6/13/2003 10:58:52 AM
Subject: Saint Olga Is Looking for a Home

My dear Peggy and Helen,

Here is the latest translation which Sister Electa and I did for Father George in Moscow regarding St. Olga's Parish. Hope you enjoy! Feel free to send this to anyone you may wish! We must pray they get the money for this purchase!!

Yours in Jesus,
Sr. Pauline Mary

--- Helen Zachary

From: Fr.George Jagodzinski, SVD
Society of the Divine Word
(Divine Word Missionaries)
Moscow, Russia

Saint Olga Searches for a Home
(Above icon: St. Olga and her grandson, King St. Vladimir)

The Catholic community in Moscow, dormant, suffering, and oppressed during the Soviet Era, (sharing the fate of all religious denominations), has emerged revitalized and reinvigorated. This rebirth, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, began in the early 1990’s. In order to appreciate the importance and significance of this, we must see it in the context of the times in which it took place.
Four years after Chernobyl, roughly speaking, starting with Perestroika, rallies, and new parties, the Soviet Union was living through its final days. The ruble was depreciating rapidly, making some people millionaires, and leaving others the victims of monstrous financial frauds. Furthermore, the whole Country was in a state of shock, as the media was increasingly revealing the truth concerning its own history. Against this backdrop, programs began to appear on television and in the press about religion and the Church. They first began gingerly, cautiously and wonderingly, and then…
Introduction in a Church:
In the summer of 1990, a group of scientists/sociologists came to the Catholic church of St. Louis of France, to ask of the superior there a few questions pertaining to their research. As Providence had arranged it, whenever they had to wait for the parish priest, they did so in the courtyard. This quarter of an hour in the center of the noisy capital was enough for the Holy Spirit. Something happened. One of the scientists, Olga Kvirkvelija, is convinced that it was at this point that her life was turned around. “There was a feeling,” she recalls, “as if we had come back home after a long, tiresome business trip.”
Until now, no one of this group had any dealings with Catholics, nor knew anything about them, other than through the propaganda of Soviet Dumas and through the novels and other literature which was available in the highly prohibitive times of Communism. Now their sociological research was obviously extended and broadened so that after three months the new community began to look for pastoral care and direction.
You may well ask whether it might not have been easier to enter into the life of the parish? The fact is that the parish of St. Louis was and still is French. Just as many Russian believers, fleeing from the Revolution, had sought refuge in France, so too, a century earlier, refugees of the French Revolution had settled in Moscow. It was they who had built the church dedicated to St. Louis of France. This church is located close to the notorious penal institute known as Lubyanka - run by the KGB. By a miracle it had survived the Soviet period, thanks to its connection with the French embassy in Moscow.
Here, in the parish church of St.Louis, they also found a young Assumptionist priest, Bernard, who agreed to work with this Russian-speaking group. Actually, he did set one condition: the community was to be registered. Under the existing laws this did not appear difficult. Father Bernard suggested the name of St. Olga, as there were three Olga’s in this particular group. Also, the first princess baptized in Russia was named Olga, who was baptized before the Schism of 1054, which would tragically separate the Churches of East and West.
So, St. Olga's Community officially came into being in January, 1991. Catholics have joined as well as Orthodox. The charter was brief and full of idealism: “… to pray and serve God and the people under the direction of Father Bernard, a French Assumptionist priest” This is how St. Olga’s children were officially designated as to their calling. They had a dream that, to many, might seem quite utopian, but which was, in its own way, admirable and beautiful. They wanted somehow to dwell all in one area, or even better, in one house, (having possibly only one entrance), to glorify God with prayer and good works as the Early Christians had done.
"Let the little children come to me "
They started simply, gathering together at Mass in apartments and in a church, taking upon themselves the role of catechist for those who, for the first time were crossing the threshold of a church. More and more such people appeared. St. Olga’s Community, using the help of their professional skills, was filled with determination to witness to Christ in an atheistic post-Soviet society. Comprising the group, among others, were Sergei Degtyarev, the theatrical director, and, yes! even musicians, actors! Clearly, that creation of Christian theatre was one of the first among the vital activities of the group. They began with a Christmas performance for children, then The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, and finally a presentation of the play by Karol Wojtyla, The Jeweler’s Shop.
Each production was a revelation for the performers, many of whom were opening the Gospel for the first time, seeing this Gospel enacted in the sacred art of spiritual drama. Thus, each work brought with it a further outpouring of love and an enthrallment, which would be impossible not to share with others. They performed wherever they could, from kindergartens to clubs and hospitals. Only love can explain how all this was maintained and kept alive, with neither a building, nor financing, nor any kind of sponsorship to help them. Words fail!
Obviously, mere enthusiasm alone would not suffice for any sustained project in the realms of the long-term. By the time the community rented a small room available at the Moscow Theatre, (a facility oriented toward mime dramatics for the needs of the hearing and speech-impaired), this community itself was experiencing the hardships of inflationary times in which people were struggling to make a living, overworking, and concerned about the essential needs and challenges inherent day to day existence.
Yet, God was preparing still another challenge. People began bringing their children to the community’s room there at the theatre, seeking to impart to them the knowledge of God. However, as the theatre was designed and oriented to the needs of deaf mutes, neither children nor adults were able to comprehend adequately the religious messages attempted in these performances. This resulted in another curious page in the history of the providential development of St. Olga’s Community.
Some members of the Community learned a speedy method of sign language and subsequently, opened a Sunday school for catechizing deaf-mute children and adults, teaching them about God and the truths of the Faith.
Father Bernard, Pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church in Moscow, had spoken frequently of this community and he noted that, though members of this community still knew comparatively little of Church customs, still, he insisted, they were full of energy, wisdom, and knowledge in the down-to-earth ways of living here in Russia. He pointed out that they are most willing and generous in taking on any jobs, which needed attention. He emphasized that the Catholic Church could potentially receive a great benefit from them.
Unfortunately, I myself, did not take advantage of such a potential assistance from these gifted and talented people, since, at the time of my arrival in Moscow, I understood Russian poorly and did not know the details of the governmental laws and regulations regarding groups, institutions, etc.
However, through association with the community of St. Olga’s, many children and adults have come to Christ, marriages have been blessed and reconciled, and children have been taught and prepared for their First Holy Communion.
St. Olga dreamed in the Tenth Century that Russia would embrace Christianity. She searched for pastoral spiritual leaders in both Byzantium and in Europe. For her, the Church was not then divided into the tragic juridical factions, which have historically ripened and evolved down to our own day and time, causing Christians, the People of God, to be so tragically separated from one another. Now, just as in the days of Olga, it is the same Holy Spirit who is inflaming the Russian People, causing them to experience the great joy, hope, fervor, and enthusiasm of those first neophyte Early Christians.
Now, as then, in the time of Olga, people are coming to Christ without concern or anxiety as to whether they are in Catholic or Orthodox realms. Twelve to thirteen years ago, there was no mention of the words, “proselytism…initial territory … expansion of the Vatican…” There existed then, as now, a keen shortage of knowledge, property, and of priests to labor among the People of God, the sheep of Christ’s flock.
Up until the time of the appointment of the first, and, at that time, the only Catholic Bishop of Russia, St. Olga’s Community appeared to exist outside of any of the specific structures of the Catholic Church. The community had been officially registered with the State authorities much earlier and was, actually, the first Catholic community in Russia, which was legally registered in over eighty years, since the Revolution.
Now, with the Catholic Church being more freely operative in Russia, this community, seemed to be, in the words of Paul, like a premature birth, “outside of the normal course” without any status or juridical standing. The priest assisting the community had been withdrawn. Thus, ostensibly, St. Olga’s Community was fading, weakened by a lack of any ecclesial support due to the fact that there were so many other pressing needs facing the Church such a significant period of transition and rebirth.
Still, the group, being apostolically minded, tried to hold out and rendered invaluable service in trying to help others who were struggling to exist in the failing economy. The members rendered very useful assistance in the distribution of humanitarian aid, which was coming to Moscow. Several women, desiring a more intense spiritual life, attempted an experiment, in which they strove to live a contemplative life in an apartment for a period of time. Yet, due to the absence of any pastoral leadership in their regard, the little St. Olga’s Community seemed on the verge of dissolution – this was seemingly the end for them – like the grain of wheat, diminishing, falling into the earth and dying. Then came a surprise:
Lazarus, Come Forth:
The Verbistas, (Divine Word Missionaries), based in Poland, working in Moscow, throughout Russia and in many other countries), made a decision to create an independent vicariate in Moscow, after having had a discernment period of over three years. The need for this was very great and the conditions were ominous and very poor, recalls Father Jacob.
At that time, there were only two Verbistas in Moscow, with one of was virtually residing near the entrance of a church and living in radically impoverished, makeshift conditions. The church of the Immaculate Conception had not yet been returned to the Catholic Church, and in St. Louis Church, the French Church, there was no place to hold any meetings with the youth with whom I was working.
So, we resolved to create a youth center, and we decided to take the name of St. Olga’s for this center. Two Carmelite Sisters had to temporarily leave Moscow, with earnest desires of returning. They left their apartment, which became free for us to use. This was a large apartment on the seventh floor, in the central part of Moscow, the Taganka District, just down the street from the Kremlin and Red Square. Many young people and different groups and organizations have been coming there, gathering for Masses, prayer meetings, Bible studies, etc., seeking assistance for their spiritual needs.
Thus, the Verbista Fathers, have had the privilege of being instrumental in recreating and in reinvigorating the St. Olga’s Community. Again, as before, the community still faces great challenges, disappointments, and difficulties due to the fact that there is still a keen shortage of priests and a lack of an adequate building and space for them to gather together.
During the past twelve years, the Catholic Church in Russia has been reviving her structures so as to better serve the needs of the Catholic community. Up until the present, many newcomers to the area and Country continue to gather in apartments to celebrate their Faith and to share spirituality together, and in those areas where these apartment-based communities have been able to move into churches, tremendous fruit has been borne at explosive rates.
St. Olga, as princess, was unable to convince her son to accept Christianity, but the belief exists that it was through her prayers, sufferings, and efficacious influence, that she obtained for her grandson, Vladimir, the grace of embracing the Faith and he, in turn, was responsible for bringing Christianity to all of Russia. (See icon above).
We rejoice in informing you that we have found a wonderful building, which would be sufficient for the needs of St. Olga’s, as ST. OLGA’S IS NOW A PARISH! We are seeking financial aid to eventually be able to purchase this building, which has sufficient rooms to meet all of the needs in terms of liturgical services and for the many other meetings, which will need adequate space in this time of Divine blessings.
Whether history, mirroring the events of St. Olga’s day, will be repeated in our times in new ways, we pray as we attempt to “…set out into the deep,” as Jesus enjoined his Apostles:
Lord, nothing is impossible for you! Make this dream a reality. “Renew your wonders in these, our times, as in a new Pentecost.” (Prayer of Pope John Paul XXIII for the Second Vatican Council).

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