Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Vladivostok
For the past couple of weeks since I have been in Vladivostok, I have had the opportunity to attend mass at the Mary Mother of God Catholic Mission church. It is located conveniently close to VSUES. I only have to walk about 15 minutes to get there. I am not actually Catholic, but since I grew up in the Episcopal Church, I find that I can still follow the liturgy without difficulty.
Two masses are held each Sunday—one in Russian at 12:00 pm and one in English at 2:00 pm. So far, I have only attended the English service. The English mass is sparsely attended, but regular attendance for the Russian mass is between 30 and 40 people each week according to one of the seminarians.
The church is staffed by two priests, who are both from the United States, along with a number of seminarians and nuns. Several of the seminarians who live at the monastery located right next to the church also attend VSUES. They hail from Indonesia and the Philippines, so although they have been in Vladivostok for some months now, they are still taking classes to improve their understanding of the language. After the service this past Sunday, they invited me back to the monastery to celebrate two of the sisters’ birthdays. We shared cake, tea, and a couple of Filipino deserts made for the occasion. When we were finished, they even sent me back to the dorm with some extra cake. I had no problem with that.
Turning to a bit of history, Mary Mother of God church was constructed in 1908 as part of an expansion of Catholic parishes in the east resulting from the Trans-Siberian Railway and an agrarian resettlement decree issued by Pyotr Stolypin. During the Soviet period, churches across Russia were closed by the government and many were demolished. Mary Mother of God church in Vladivsotok was spared from destruction, and instead was converted into a library. Then, after communism fell, the Catholic Church began to reestablish its parishes throughout Siberia and the far east regions.
The current two priests at Mary Mother of God mission arrived immediately after the city of Vladivostok reopened to foreigners after the Soviet period. When I asked Father Daniel about how long he had been in the city, he told me that the city opened in January of 1992, and he along with Father Myron arrived on February 10. Father Daniel added that they were most likely the oldest foreign residents in Vladivostok. Only two people had obtained their visas ahead of the priests. To father Daniel’s knowledge, both of those people have long since left the city.
My experience at the Mary Mother of God Catholic Church has been very positive. The building itself is beautiful, and the people are friendly and welcoming. I’m looking forward to returning to services there in the coming weeks.