JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.
This week : Serbia and Russia
Installation of a kitchen in a retirement home for priests in Kikinga
Some years ago, Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin had to address the problem of caring for his retired priests who, after many years of faithful service, had become frail or sick. He knew this was a problem that would become even more acute in the future and that he simply could not close his eyes to it.
At that time there was only one retirement home in the diocese, which was already fully occupied and otherwise unsuitable for retired priests, and so he decided to establish a new retirement home. In the town of Kikinda, on the border with Romania, he found an empty house that had been occupied until 1993 by the Sisters of Divine Love, who had bequeathed it to the parish.
With help from ACN, the bishop has been able to convert this building to serve his needs. It has a small chapel in the attic for the celebration of the Eucharist which will be open to all, both in the house and in the surrounding area. There is also a separate floor reserved for elderly Sisters, in addition to the accommodation for the retired priests. On the ground floor there a day care centre for those in need is being planned for, which will be run by the diocese in collaboration with Caritas Serbia.
Since the centre has to support itself and be economically viable – an extra wing will be added, which will serve to accommodate the elderly from the local town of Kikinda. In this way the centre can be incorporated into the state social system and receive state support, and at the same time it will be a blessing for the elderly of the town, since at present the elderly must wait for two years for a place.
Everything is almost finished now; all that remains to be done is the installation of the kitchen. Bishop Ladislav Nemet has asked ACN to help, and we have promised him $21,400.
Our support for the prison chaplaincy work of the Orthodox Church – and the blessings it has brought
The Orthodox Church in Russia is one of the few institutions attempting to help inmates in the country’s prison system. ACN has been supporting its work by helping with the construction of prison chapels and the provision of religious literature. Father Igor, who is responsible for the prison chaplaincy service in Nizhny Novgorod, has personally baptized almost 400 prisoners since 1998.It all started in a very modest way. “When we began providing our pastoral ministry in the prison, all we had was a tiny room in the laundry area where we could pray. We bought some paint and painted the walls. Later, the prisoners with artistic ability decorated the walls with icons. I heard confessions in an adjacent room. Very soon I was able to observe many changes in people’s souls. Half a year later there was a group of them who came, as a matter of course, to morning and evening prayer. And on Sundays, when I came to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, they had already prepared themselves during the week with fasting and prayer, for confession and the reception of Holy Communion.”
What saddened Father Igor, were the many people who actually possessed many talents and gifts which they could have used for the good of society, had fallen on evil ways and used their gifts and their intelligence for the wrong ends. He believes it is due to the spiritual emptiness in many people’s souls. For many of them, their time in prison, with the help of this pastoral support, is a chance to find their way back to the right path.
Many of the former inmates whom Father Igor has supported over the years have since served their time and been released. He still keeps in touch with many of them today. He has married them and baptized their children, and many of them continue to come, Sunday after Sunday, to church. And a few of them, who have managed to become successful and build up a new professional life for themselves, also support the work of the Church financially and have themselves become true benefactors. As Father Igor explains, “In actual fact, many people who have been sent to prison are well disposed towards the Church. In my experience, they think a lot about their sins and about the meaning of life. People whose lives run smoothly often think they don’t need God.” Surprising though that may sound at first, it is exactly what Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “It is not the healthy who need the physician, but the sick.”