Belarus: Faithful through time

The profoundest truth of the Gospel is this: God is our Father, and we are his children. This thought from Pope St John Paul II belongs at the beginning of every work of mission and new evangelisation. In Eastern Europe, above all in the region of the former Soviet Union, people need to be made aware once again of this and other such fundamental truths of faith and love. In his new parish, not quite two years old, in Hrodna, Belarus, Father Henryk Jablonski is starting with the young families with children. They are being drawn in from the countryside, into the city outskirts, close to where there is work and schools. His parish, named after St John Paul II, is currently in the process of building a parish centre with a large chapel and small flat for the priest, so for the time being Sunday Mass is usually celebrated in the open air, while the catechetical sessions take place in the family homes. Father Henrik himself is living for the time being in a room in a tower block some 10 km away from his parish. Every day he travels to the hospital to celebrate Holy Mass and visit the sick. Often he also helps out in neighbouring parishes. He regularly travels to Poland to raise money for the church and for a car. But it is still not enough. And the young families are poor, and the sick and elderly are happy simply to be able to get by somehow. The new evangelisation can be a challenging task. We have promised him €10,000 for a car.

Until the church is built, Father Henryk must continue to celebrate Holy Mass in the open air.
Until the church is built, Father Henryk must continue to celebrate Holy Mass in the open air.

In Ukraine the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are also working in support of the new evangelisation. They organise catechesis with the young people, offer pastoral care in the workplace, visit children’s and old people’s homes, offer retreats for adults – in short, an all-round programme. One particular problem for the families is when one, or even both, of the parents goes abroad to work, thereby dividing the family. Months of separation like this can burden the relationship, and doubts can creep in. To walk faithfully through time is the name of love, according to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Not all couples hold out against the inevitable temptations. When this happens, strength is needed to forgive. What sounds so simple can be extremely difficult in practice. Through their retreats for married couples, the Sisters are striving to help the spouses to find this strength. Ultimately, it is the strength of trust in God. “If we accept that God’s love is unconditional, …. then we will become capable of showing boundless love and forgiving others”, writes Pope Francis in “Amoris Laetitia”. Sometimes, however, it is simply the daily routine, the absence of romance in life, the bad habits that creep in, the lack of communication and the living without thinking about God that can burden a relationship. The Sisters have asked our help (€4,000) for their retreats, so that they can help couples to make a new beginning in their marriage, find the grace of loving forgiveness and a new dawn of love for themselves and their children.

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