On September 8-9, 2018, the Franciscan community of Russia celebrated the 25th anniversary of the return of the Friars Minor Conventuals and the 5th anniversary of the consecration of the church dedicated to Saint Anthony the Wonderworker.

The friars of the Russian General Custody of St. Francis together with guests from the various cities of Russia, Italy, Poland, Belarus and Kazakhstan gathered at the Friary in St. Petersburg.
On September 8th, a solemn Mass was celebrated with Friar Jacek CIUPIŃSKI, the Assistant General FEMO (Foederatio Europae Mediae et Orientalis), presiding. The concelebrants of the Mass were: the Minister General Friar Marco TASCA; the Custos General of the Custody in Russia, Friar Dariusz HARASIMOWICZ; the Rector of the Pontifical Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, Friar Oliviero SVANERA; the Minister Provincial of the Province, the Immaculate Mother of God, in Warsaw, Poland, Friar Wieslaw PYZIO; the Secretary of the Province of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe in Gdansk, Poland, Grzegorz KORDEK; the Rector of the major seminary, “Mary Queen of the Apostles” in St. Petersburg, Don Konstantin PEREDERIY; the Provincial Delegate in Belarus, Friar Antoni PAZHETSKI; and other priests.
In his sermon the Minister General said, among other things: “Pope Francis said that ‘Each of us is a mission’. Let us think of the mission that the Lord gave to the Franciscan friars in Russia who came here 25 years ago to bless, support and liberate. Many different events happened during this period: some brought joy, some instead brought suffering. We are called to look at everything in the light of the Lord. It’s important for us friars to accept the story that God wants to create with us, and not to decide our history. Our task is to recognize the Will of God. God says to Joseph, ‘Do not be afraid, I am with you’. It is wonderful to believe in such a Lord!”
After Mass, Friar Nikolay DUBININ made a presentation on the main stages of the history of the Franciscans in the Russian, starting from the first Mission which began in 1245. After this presentation a few Friars, namely, Friar Waldemar MACKIEWICZ, Friar Antoni PAZHETSKI, Friar Lech BACHANEK, Friar Ireneusz MIKOS, Friar Dariusz HARASIMOWICZ, gave their testimonies about the Order’s return to Russia in the 1990’s. These early years have become for them an unforgettable experience of God’s providence and a source of strength and support in religious life and in apostolic service.
On Sunday, September 9, a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated and presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio of the Russian Federation, S. E. Archbishop Celestino MIGLIORE. The Nuncio thanked the Franciscans for inviting him to celebrate the anniversary of their return to Russia and warmly welcomed all those present. In his sermon he addressed the history of the Franciscans in Russia, noting the year 1720 when the friars were entrusted with the care of the Catholic community of St. Petersburg. He also said that the strength and beauty of the Jubilee is praising the Lord for his saving and creative action. The Nuncio wished the friars spiritual and human maturity, and openness to people who are in material or spiritual need, and those who suffer cultural poverty. He also invited the friars to accept their “minority” in the ecclesial context of Russia where Catholics are very few. This condition, the Nuncio observed, does not make us rely on our own resources but on God, and on mutual brotherhood and solidarity. The evangelical style of life of the Franciscan charism has a salvific value and extends to the socio-cultural dimension, which affects people and can lead to the change of life.

Friar Nikolay DUBININ