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What it is to be a new missionary in Siberia

       Yakutsk - Aldan SDB community, Russian Federation (Sakha autonomous republic), 1 October 2022 -- The 30-year-old Salesian presence in Siberia (Russian Federation) of Yakutsk (major city) and Aldan (city-rural zone) was launched by the courageous Slovakian Salesians. Thanks to the support of the Rector Major it is slowly becoming an international community, composed not only of Salesians from Slovakia, but also from other continents. Two young practical trainees (Rwanda and India) are now already doing their specific formation for priesthood (theology) and recently one Korean Salesian reached Yakutsk. Fr. Mathew Moon was sent from Seoul in accordance with the mutual agreement between two provinces and now is a student of Russian language and is slowly entering this land, culture and religion.

       How was your journey of faith?

       I was baptized as an infant and naturally came to faith through my parents. Although I committed many sins, I believe that God is leading me. I believe that living amid repeated self-reflection and renewal is my journey of faith. I am not holy, but a holy God calls me to his way.

       What attracted you to the Salesian vocation journey?

       I think about two points - ‘kindness’ and ‘accompaniment’. Salesians are characterized by ‘loving kindness’ and accompany young people in this manner. Although there is a great deal of patience in it, outwardly it will be revealed as kindness. I have been also attracted by ‘Pastoral love’ to the Salesian vocation, and I think my vocation is also strengthened when I feel that I am putting this love into practice for young people.

       At the age of 13, I became acquainted with the Salesian Society and began attending regular vocational meetings. I grew up in the Salesian community and I think I am still growing in it. I am emotionally immature and lack patience. Throughout my community life, my confreres have been very patient with me. I think that God is waiting for you a lot, now and also in the future. In my future journey, I have to look at myself straight ahead, acknowledge myself, and humbly make an effort to present myself to the community.

       What were the happiest moments and experiences in Korea?

       I remember that four years after ordination I was assigned for 2 years in Chuncheon. I worked at the Youth Counseling Welfare Center. I was working with school students who were little bit lost and with other school dropouts. I was providing meals for them and running various human character education programs. I was happy to have relationships with young people and share personal stories with them, and I was happy to be able to give them even a little joy.

       What motivates you to be sent as a missionary?

       One year before my perpetual profession, I participated in an international volunteer group going to Cambodia. At that time, I had a dream of missions while watching the missionaries and local people. In my eyes, they mostly looked happy. Then I made my perpetual profession, and was ordained as deacon and priest. Amidst all this I asked myself “If I can’t live happily here either, what kind of mission are you dreaming of?” And I skipped my missionary dreams. While living like that, I really encountered a very difficult time for me: Burnout symptoms appeared in my body and mind when faced with problems such as difficulties in relationships, emptiness, and the inability to live a spiritual life. During this time, I received a lot of help from my fellow confreres. And at the end, I felt for myself that my inner energy came from God. At that time, I made up my mind: Before I get any older, I have to express my missionary petition, that seemed still remaining in me. I wondered if God would lead me on that path, so I started praying and presented my petition to the provincial superior. I think, that those who walk the path of vocation, those seek God in the midst of difficulties. In it, I believe that God has a plan for us, and that each of us should ask for the strength to live humbly. I can never respond to God’s call with my own strength.

       What are the beautiful things and challenges of Yakutsk-Aldan (Якутск-Алдан) community?

       I've only been here for 3 months, so I honestly don't know much about the situation here. And I can't speak the language well, so I can't express my thoughts.

       This year marks the 30th anniversary of entering the Russian territory of Yakutia (Aldan) from the Slovak province. Father Joseph Toth, who first set foot on this land at that time, is still there. Since then, young confreres from Slovakia, some from Russia and recently also missionaries from other countries have joined this mission. International community life is really beautiful.

       In Russia, the Orthodox Church is the national religion. In this national (religious) atmosphere, I want to feel how Catholicism is reaching them through the community living here. Russia is now in a war. Many people are supporting this war. From the end of September, a mobilization order was issued, and men were sent to the battlefield even from our city. People are agitated by this phenomenon, but they also accept it as a natural action for the country. What is the truth of this war, and what kind of decisions we can make as Christians and what attitudes we can maintain in these circumstances is a challenge.

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