Sr. Maria Barbara and Sr. Maria Anna
about their mission in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan
Dear friends and visitors of the 4th International Day of Prayer of the Lady of All Nations.
We come from Bavaria and are two missionary sisters of the Family of Mary Coredemptrix. We would like to tell you something about our daily life at our mission post, showing how the Lady of All Nations as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate also realizes her plan for peace and redemption in the East.
The Lady of All Nations touches everyone in a very personal and special way, and this is shown in the example of Babushka Walja. She is one of the many old and poor grandmothers in the Ukraine, living alone in a small room in one of those big apartment blocks. Babushka Walja did not even have something decent to wear. Her pullover and small coat were just rags. They were so worn-out at the elbows that one could see her bare skin through a big hole. The whole day she had been drinking only tea, having used the precious teabag so often that it hardly colored the water. A piece of bread, carefully wrapped, lay on the table, but that was for the next day, Babushka told. Her pension was too small but because it was almost Lent, it gave her the opportunity to get used to it.
When we gave her the prayercard of the Lady of All Nations, she had a good look at it and exclaimed happily: “The Lady looks just like me! She is also standing with her bare feet on the earth! I have to go barefoot as well, because my shoes are so worn out.”
During one of our next visits, we prayed the prayer together. Very carefully, almost tenderly, Babushka Walja took the prayercard and said: ”I pray the prayer not only in the morning and in the evening, as you asked me to do, but very, very often every day. Then my heart grows very silent. In the morning I can only eat or do something after having said this beautiful prayer!” She ardently pressed the prayercard to her heart and sighed: “If only all people believed in God!”
In essence every human being has a longing for God,
which our next example proves.
In March this year, just three weeks after the first Ukrainian prayercards had been printed with the imprimatur of the auxiliary bishop of Kiev, Stanislaus Szyrokoradiuk, we were invited to visit the local prison, where more than 3000 men and women are detained. Provided with three thick packets of the new Ukrainian prayercards, we set off.
The long dark corridors and the heavy iron doors, which the guards opened for us, impressed me. Finally we got to the surprisingly clean and tidy, but very small cells, where five to six prisoners live together. Because there is no material left anymore for them to work with in the workshops, they are confined to these small cells. It was a great surprise for us to see that in each cell the prisoners had made their own little altar with icons of Jesus and Mary. Without exception they were happy to receive the prayercard of the Lady of All Nations.
When finally we said goodbye to the prison director and gave her the remaining prayercards, she expressly asked us: “There are many more people here, who would like to have this prayercard, not only prisoners but also guards. Could you send us another packet of these prayercards?” Then I thought: “How true it is when the Lady of All Nations says: ‘All have a right to it’.”
All really have a right to it, the right to their Mother. Also our little and big guardians, the beggars, the homeless, the abandoned children, who live in the streets. Therefore we made it a practice to give not only a much sought-after piece of chocolate but also a prayercard of the Lady of All Nations to the poor and homeless beggars, of whom there are hundreds in Kiev. When you drop a coin in the outstretched hand of a beggar, they normally don’t even look up, as their hard lives have made them callous and disinterested. When, however, one of these tormented women sitting on the pavement saw the prayercard in her open hand, she raised her head, looked at us and said gratefully: “That’s just what I needed.”
My fellow sister Martina Elizabeth had a very touching experience on one of her regular visits to the homeless at the station. There we usually distribute tea and rolls, especially in the winter when it is bitter cold. On one of those visits she met a man dressed in rags which were completely stiff with dirt. All his possessions he carried with him in a plastic bag. Of course he was happy with the tea and rolls but it was not until the sister gave him the prayercard of the Lady of All Nations that his face lit up. Warily he brought a packet of yellowed papers out of his inside pocket.
Carefully he opened the paper and an image of the Mother of God came out, completely clean. Full of joy he showed it to my fellow sister and said: “Every evening I take out this icon and pray before it. You know, there is nobody who loves me. I have no friends, no family, but I know that the Mother of God is always with me. She loves me.
I think it very beautiful that Mary in her first apparition in Amsterdam on March 25, 1945, the Feast of the Annunciation, says: “They will call me the Lady, Mother”, for we all need the love and care of a mother. Many of the neglected children, however, whom we are taking care of, have to grow up without this motherly love. Taking care of them is the main task of our varied mission in the capital of the Ukraine. But to win the heart of such a wounded and disowned child is not at all that simple. Their bad experiences and frequent disappointments have made them very secretive and distrustful. The Lady of All Nations, however, to whom we have especially entrusted these children, always helps us in a striking manner to find a way to their hearts.
Finally a beautiful example shows how the Lady of All Nations herself sees to it that she becomes known among the police of Kiev.
Because Kiev is a relatively big city and the people we take care of, are living over a widespread area, we have to drive many kilometers every day. It may happen that sometimes we drive too fast and the police stop us to give us a ticket. Thus it once happened that sr. Martina Elisabeth, just returning from a visit to a patient, was stopped again. Sternly the policeman addressed her: “How often are you going to promise not to drive too fast? Do you know that you made that promise already four times?” Sr. Martina Elisabeth could remember the policeman but it seemed her a bit exaggerated that they had met each other already four times. “You don’t believe me?” the policeman said. “I’ll prove it to you! Follow me to the car.” He put down the sunscreen and four prayercards of the Lady of All Nations came out in a row. Both began to laugh. Finally the policeman even asked our sister for a fifth prayercard, this time for his wife.
Now my fellow sister Maria Anna would like to take you along to Kazakhstan, to the mission post of Scherbakty, close to the Siberian border.
“Please, let me keep the prayercard.”
In our city an eighteen-year-old boy recently died of tuberculoses, because his mother did not have the money for treatment at the hospital. The woman came to us at the Catholic Church to ask for help for the funeral and told the following story: “My son had a prayercard of the Lady of All Nations. When I wanted to give something precious to a man who had greatly helped my family, the prayercard of the Lady of All Nations came to my mind. But my son, who was gravely ill, begged me urgently: Please mother, not this prayercard! Please, let me keep the prayercard, I am so attached to it.”
Shortly afterwards he died peacefully and his mother was very happy that she had fulfilled his last wish.
“I was swearing all day”
One day a woman knocked at our door and asked: “Please, give me again such a prayercard. My whole life long I used to swear. But since I have this prayercard of Mary, I say the prayer every day and now I no longer swear. But last week I gave the prayercard to someone who came to my rescue and immediately I started swearing again. Please, give me another prayercard.”