CHICAGO, September 3, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A LifeSiteNews.com reporter attended the annual meeting, near Chicago, of the Institute on Religious Life, an organization that trains and assists Catholic religious communities, including ones just starting up. One of those groups is forming to do missionary work in Eastern Siberia, in areas suffering severe economic and social hardship, and where abortion rates were unbelievably high. One sister said, “In Russia the average woman has had five to ten abortions and some of the priests tell us some have had as many as thirty.”

The Sisters in Jesus the Lord, still in the process of formation and seeking approbation of their bishop, are based in St. Paul Minnesota and hope to send missionaries into one of the most spiritually neglected and remote areas of the world. They are associated with another newly formed religious order for men, the Canons Regular of Jesus the Lord, who have been doing missionary work in Siberia since 1992. Before their arrival at Holy Mother of God parish in Vladivostok, the parish had not had a resident pastor since the communists shot the last one in 1925. The communist effort to destroy the practice of Christianity was very successful; the fathers in Vladivostok estimate that only about 1% of even the majority Russian Orthodox population is in any way a Christian believer.  The sisters hope to live and work in Vladivostok, the easternmost port of Russia, and have visited several times. When the Canons Regular arrived in 1992, there were only five Catholics in the entire city. Since then, they have established five parishes, soup kitchens, homes and refuges for impoverished elderly and orphans, but the first thing they do is set up crisis pregnancy centres. Sister Julie Kubista, the foundress of the budding community of sisters and a former Maryknoll missionary, worked to help supply the parishes with necessities and raise funds. She says the community started simply. “I said to them one day, ’ What’s the thing you need most?’ We were helping them will all sorts of projects, orphanages, boy scouts, food for the poor, but he said, ‘We need sisters.’ So I said, ‘Yeah? Okay, I’ll see what I can do.’ ”  Kelly Whittier, recently given the religious name Sister Maria Stella, the community’s first novice is excited about the work which she hopes will focus on pro-life activities. “I’m just trying to learn about post-abortion ministry. There is someone going to Russia from Rachel’s Vineyard retreats at the end of this month. So I’m hoping to go for that training. They’ve started six crisis pregnancy centers in Russia.” The mission society’s newsletter, Vladivostok Sunrise, says that at least 600 children have been saved from abortion through the society’s ‘Adopt-A-Birth’ programme. Sister Julia says that the economic situation is bad and the spiritual and mental depression caused by communism has made it difficult for women to think of having children.

Fr. Myron Effing says in his newsletter, “The Russians say that the situation is so bad they have to have abortion. I say that the situation here is so bad because they have abortions.” One Russian woman who attended the society’s Rachel’s Vineyard retreat said, “We simply cannot live on as the same person when children are being killed right next to us..We all mourn the unborn.” Another said, “I felt comfortable to share my thoughts with others and get rid of my burden. Here you can talk about such things and no one judges you.”

There are many obstacles to overcome such as visa restrictions and training. The enterprise is entirely privately funded. They receive no funds from official Vatican sources because of the delicate state of relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.

To contact the sisters:  Sisters in Jesus the Lord 525 Thomas Ave St. Paul, MN 55103-1631 (651) 230-3337 info@cjd.cc   Read about the work of the Mary Mother of God Mission Society:  http://www.vladmission.org/aboutus/aboutus.htm   See photos of Kelly Whittier’s entry to the novitiate:  http://www.vladmission.org/vocations/sisters.htm   Read all about the new community:  http://www.cjd.cc/aboutus.htm

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