Rebirth of Most Holy Mother of God Catholic Parish in Vladivostok, Russia


Spring 1991

Mr. Andre Popok, a young Soviet naval officer from Kiev, converts to Roman Catholicism. This occurs after he reads restricted religious literature as part of his political indoctrination course to become a Communist political officer. He is sent to Vladivostok, headquarters of the Soviet Pacific Naval Fleet, in summer 1991, when he graduates from the naval academy.

Summer 1991

Andre Popok and his friends place ads in local newspapers in Vladivostok searching for other Roman Catholics in order to establish a Catholic community. Once formed, the Catholic community of Vladivostok writes to the newly appointed Bishop Werth in Novosibirsk, asking for a priest to come to reopen the parish. They also apply for government registration as a legal religious organization

November 1991

After visiting Bishop Werth in Novosibirsk to inquire about the possibility of serving in Vladivostok, Fr. Myron Effing enters Vladivostok illegally to gain information about the new Catholic community. (Technically, the city was still closed to all nonresidents without special permits, so he had to pay a small fine.) Fr. Myron meets Andre Popok and the newly gathered Catholics.

November 10, 1991

Although the Vladivostok cathedral is still an archive building and owned by the state, Fr. Myron celebrates the first Mass on the steps in front of the building. Russians and Americans attended. There were no hymns sung as Russians knew no hymns. An icy wind was blowing and Fr. Myron had to wear a hat and gloves, in addition to a winter coat beneath his vestments. The event was announced the previous evening on cable television. Vladivostok cable TV also taped the Mass, and news of the event was broadcast all across Russia. Additional information is in the Vladivostok Sunrise newsletter issue Number 1.

November 15, 1991

Bishop Werth accepts the applications of Fr. Myron and Br. Daniel Maurer to be the first resident Catholic clergy in Vladivostok.

December 21, 1991

On instruction from Bishop Werth, Br. Daniel is ordained a deacon in Benton Harbor, Michigan, for service to the Church.

February 11, 1992

Fr. Myron and Dc. Daniel arrive in Vladivostok to stay. Further details, along with descriptions of the city and living conditions, are in Vladivostok Sunrise newsletter issue Number 2.

February to December 1992

Sunday and holy day Masses are celebrated in a small hall on the ground floor of the Palace of the Pioneers (the former Communist youth organization).

The priests also publish a booklet “The Words and Actions of the Parishioners at Holy Mass.” At this time, there is no official Russian translation of the Mass and prayer books differ in their translations. In addition, the priests initiate the translation of a book of prayers for the home and the translation of “The Early Church Fathers and Abortion” by the American Life League.

Pentecost Sunday 1992

Fr. Myron baptizes 4 adults (5 more are baptized in July). Four other adults join from other Christian denominations. Fr. Myron and Fr. Dan take turns instructing the catechumens, but begin looking for a fulltime catechist.

September 1992

Br. Daniel is ordained a priest in Vladivostok by Bishop Werth. He’s the second Catholic priest to be ordained openly in Russia since the Communist revolution, and perhaps the second Catholic priest ever to be ordained with prayer of consecration in the Russian language. Further information and Fr. Dan’s reflections are given in the January 11, 1993 issue (No. 5) of the Vladivostok Sunrise newsletter.

December 25, 1992 to December 25, 1993

Due to increased attendance, the Sunday and holy day Masses are celebrated in a larger hall, the House of Trade Unions. Work proceeds toward the return of the church to the Catholic community.

September 15, 1993

The Primorsky Krai state legislature votes 21 to 3 to return the Vladivostok cathedral to the ownership of the Catholic parish. As part of the agreement, the Catholics assure the Department of Culture that they agree to install a pipe organ and allow the building to be used for occasional organ concerts. Excellent articles about the return of the church and the incredible bureaucratic pathway involved are in Issue No. 7 (January 1, 1994) of the Vladivostok Sunrise newsletter.

October 3, 1993

The first Mass is held inside the church building since the closing of the parish more than 60 years earlier. The archive still occupies the building, but the central nave of the top floor is cleared so that Mass can be held inside. Television coverage of the historic occasion is provided by the government TV channel.

December 31, 1993 and January 1, 1994

In the evening of December 31, we finally receive the keys to the building, just as the Feast of the Most Holy Mother of God begins. On January 1, the titular feast of the parish, pastor Fr. Myron celebrates Mass with the parishioners. Now, priests no longer need to pack, transport, and unpack suitcases filled with chalices, hosts, wine, and other necessary items for Mass at other sites. Since January 1, Masses and services have been celebrated in the church every day.