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Visit to the “San Francesco d’Assisi” Foundation

Br Konrad and Br Nikola in Russia

01 March 2024

One of the entities of our Order is the “San Francesco d’Assisi” Foundation in the Russian Federation.  It is composed of three presences: at St Petersburg, at Novosibirsk and at Ussuriysk. The Delegate General of this entity is actually the Definitor General, Br Konrad Cholewa, while the President of the Foundation is Br Stefano Invernizzi.  Besides him, the Foundation is composed of two Italian Friars, two Russians and one Pole. All three presences are very distant from each other, which means that the brothers do not have the possibility of meeting very often.  In each of the three presences, they carry out ordinary pastoral work in the parishes and manage works of charity, such as a Catholic school for poor children in Novosibirsk and a house called “Centro Tau” for the homeless in Ussuriysk.  They also support religious women of various institutes. One of the brothers teaches theology in the theological seminary in St Petersburg. 

The Catholics in Russia represent only 0.5% of the total population of the country, therefore the Church is a church of small communities.  In one of the villages belonging to our parish in Ussuriysk, a 100 km from the Church, only one family is Catholic, so every Saturday the brothers go to them to celebrate the mass in their home.  Only one Catholic child attends our school in Novosibirsk.  The other children are Orthodox or Muslim.  In this context, the mission of our confreres also involves interreligious dialogue.

From February 6 to 25, the Definitor General, Fr. Konrad Cholewa, accompanied by the Director of the Development Office, Fr. Nikola Kozina, visited the Foundation of San Francesco d’Assisi in the Russia Federation.

Fr. Konrad commented upon his return: “During our visit in Russia, we had the opportunity to meet and to speak with the people of this country of different confessions, with the priests, the religious sisters, the bishops who work there.  My sense is that this is a country which has a great need of God, of the Gospel, of priests, of love… Even if the greater part of the population declares itself Orthodox, half of it is not baptized and has never crossed the threshold of a church. Our task was to visit the brothers, in the name of the Minister General, and to encourage them in their difficult mission, to meet the people they serve, to support the pastoral and charitable works carried out by them. It was a long visit, in terms of both its duration and the distances to travel. I thank the Lord for our brothers who serve the people of God in Russia with such dedication.”

Fr. Konrad concluded by saying, “If anyone feels the missionary vocation to work ‘in the East’, the Church in Russia awaits him with an open heart.” 

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