The Catholic community have been in existence, in the region of Chita, from the early nineteenth century. This community was predominantly Polish by origin and the members of this community worked in the Nerchinsk mining plants since 1939. In 1859, after the departure of the exiles from the Nerchinsk Factory, there were only seven Catholics in this area, so the priest suggested that, "it would be useful to build a Catholic Church in one of the cities where there are most Catholics". In Chita, Kyahte or Verkhneudinsk there were about eighty Catholics. In 1861 the decision was made to build a Catholic Church in the city of Chita. By mid-1878 the Church was finally built, and on September 10, 1878, it was consecrated under the patronage of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
After the end of World War II in 1948, the Church building was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church and up to the present time it is the Orthodox Church in honour of the Holy Resurrection of Christ. Today, the parish of Saints Peter and Paul is in the city centre of Chita. A new Church was built in the year 2001 and on July 22, 2001 this church was solemnly blessed by Bishop Mazur SVD. About eighty (80) parishioners gather for the Holy Mass in this parish Church. There are several groups like, the group of the living rosary, a group of ministers, youth group, Bible sharing group and also a group for preparing people for the reception of the sacraments. In our group meetings we inspire their faith journey and teach them the values of Christian living that is, being honest, wise and truthful person. It is a privilege to support these groups and ultimately the congregation itself towards the fuller knowledge of Christianity.
We welcome many people, especially, the children and the young adults, who come to us in need of support. Many of them are from difficult family situations. We try to help them financially to overcome some of their challenges and encourage them, step by step, to analyse their current situation. Many of them have shown the progress in their life and their faith and spirituality has played a major role in this progress.
Once, during a youth retreat, along with sisters from the “Order of the Handmaids of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate Conception," we conducted a special program: "kilogram for the poor". A group of twenty young people went to different places in the city to meet the homeless and poor people and to give them some food. While sharing their food from our youth, these people began sharing their current life situation. This made our youth to think differently and made them stronger to face the challenges in life and never give up when difficult situations arise. They boldly say, “I Have a hope for the better future, I won't give up!"
During the winter season, we also get many people, who are homeless. Many of them suffer from cold and hunger in these cold months. The sisters continue to support them and we help them through our charitable work. The winter here lasts from September to May. We provide clothes and hot meals to about thirty of these people. As we serve them hot soup and we also take the opportunity to have a conversation with them. Often these conversations lead into their daily lives and their current living situation. They share their experiences with homelessness, especially their fear of death in the cold winter nights. They are very grateful for our support, especially the hot meals and the warm clothes provided by the sisters. Often we end up praying together with them before we depart on our separate ways.
In our service to others, we see God. We encourage and provide opportunities to our parishioners, especially the young ones to join us in these charitable works. We often ask our congregation, especially the youth, to give assistance to the poor. This assistance is called as "Kilogram for the poor." The parishioners work with passion and enthusiasm to bring clothes and other things that are needed for these people in the winter. During Advent and Lent, they offer food for the poor and the youth engage actively in this good work.
It is a great message for us that assisting a poor person is a privilege and we must take up this good work. Poverty makes us understand that our life is a gift from God; it is like the wheel of a car, which spins constantly, despite the condition of the road. The "Kilogram for the poor" programme gives the parishioners, and the young people, an opportunity to understand their own life. Life is beautiful, but sometimes anything can go wrong. Therefore, we, together with the laity, the young people and the sisters continue to help the people who are poor. At the same time, we learn a lot from them, especially how to survive in the challenging situations of life. This work of charity makes us strong spiritually and gives us hope in the darkest times of our life. Let us face our future, aim for a happier life and do not deviate from the dreams.
By: Fr. Adrianus Jehadun SVD.