“Small but lively” – that’s how the apostolic administrator of the Catholic Church in Kyrgyzstan, Father Anthony Corcoran SJ, describes the Catholic community in this Central Asian republic, adding “The sisters are its real treasure”. In the letter below he describes this treasure and asks Aid to the Church in Need’s support (€3,000) for their life and apostolate:
“When we think of the missions, we imagine distant lands, high mountains, dense jungle, rugged roads. But the true mission territory lies in hearts and souls. Discovering these contours demands a special kind of pioneering spirit. The sisters have this spirit. Their intuition for the cares, concerns, and feelings of every single person is what distinguishes their special role in our mission.
One of the babushkas, the little old grandmas, whom I got to know in Siberia, where I used to work during the time of the Soviet Union, once described the intimate bond between the sisters and the people of the community they served, in these short words: ‘All for God, and all for us’. As a missionary priest who by the grace of God has been permitted to spend many years working alongside such women, I can only confirm what she said. At present we have six Franciscan Sisters who specialize in education working here in Kyrgyzstan and, even though there are no Catholic schools as yet, the charism and the spirit of Saint Francis are tangible in their tireless eﬀorts to inspire people – believers and seekers alike – with love for God. In their joy, their prayer and their total commitment they are true witnesses to the special love of God for the little and the poor.
For me as a missionary it has always been a great joy, and indeed a great consolation, to see how close the loving bond is between the sisters and the ordinary people. It is a particular kind of relationship or, as my babushka would have said, a ‘reciprocal belonging to one another’. This mutual bond opens hearts, and this profound trust also generates a certain moral authority. And this unique dynamic in their relationship is particularly evident in the vocation of the sisters within the Church.
A bishop from a neighboring missionary diocese often used to comment that you can tell the diﬀerence when the sisters are there, for the faith life of the community is deeper and more active. And whenever our priests talk together about the importance of the work of the sisters in their parishes, they always come to the same conclusion: without the loving care, without the willing assistance and the prayer-borne accompaniment, without the visible witness for Christ, the harvest of the mission would be markedly poorer, not to say sparse. One priest remarked: ‘The sisters prepare the hearts of the children and the faithful for the encounter with Jesus. Then, when the Lord comes, in the sacraments, in the Word and in the community, he finds these open, pure hearts waiting. What could be a greater blessing for the mission?’ The example of the sisters inspires courage, including in me. I am infinitely grateful to God for them.” Mgr. Anthony Corcoran.