Yakutia - 25th Anniversary of Catholic Mission

article       intervista


Catholic community of Yakutia looking to the future - closer to the EAO region
Silver Jubilee in Yakutia - Vision by the Salesians of Don Bosco
Precious Church periphery in Yakutia looking forward
How can we help the remote Yakutia mission?
How can help the EAO region our Northern mission in Siberia?

In past two years the remotest Salesian mission in the world (Yakutsk - Aldan) make few significant steps to foster communion with the world wide Salesian Congregation (and in a special way also with the EAO region): Last August 2016 the Mission Councilor sent his collaborator to assist the Yakutia mission strategic plan drafting (Fr. Alfred), last September 24
the Rector Major sent two new missionaries (first two non - Slovakian) for Yakutia in the 148th missionary expedition and the EAO regional  councilor recent visit offers new vision for the small & beautiful mission in the periphery.

Why is the remote Siberia (Yakutia - Sakha Autonomous Republic) in Russian Federation so important?

In this 25 years old missionary presence we recognize with Pope Francis another Salesian or Church missionary experience that offers many points of inspiration, shows the way forward or dynamics of growth and makes visible the importance of communion world-wide.

When we ask: "What is the contribution of the Yakutia Catholic community and Salesians to the world wide Catholic community or World-wide SDB community to the SLKn province (Slovakia-Azerbaijan-Yakutia)?" - then we discover a small and beutiful dynamic of the periphery. 

At the distance of 9000 km from their mother province (Slovakia - Bratislava) we touch with our hands that it’s almost impossible to accomplish the mission in Yakutia without large involvement of many Salesian family members beyond SLK province.

In  Yakutia we meet both European (Russian) cultural influence as well East Asian cultural impact (shamanism, connection to some EAO countries like Korea, Philippines, China etc). 
Any small help from both cultural zones is very helpful in this fragile mission in need of more human (SDB or lay mission volunteers), Salesian charismatic experience and other necessary resources.

In many ways Yakutia mission conditions are extreme: cold winter (8 months) with -50 or 60 C below zero, few scattered population over a territory 10 times bigger than the Philippines with about 980.000 of population, difficult langauge (Russian and Yakutian). It's a true periphery for the whole Catholic world community, there the faith is not yet fully rooted. 

How can the EAO region provinces help this remote mission in a concrete way?

 * Invite the Yakutia Salesians to the EAO regional events as observer (sectors or formation meeting, annual meeting of the provincial and delegates)

 * Invite some possible missionary Congregation of Sisters (Salesian Family - like Caritas Sisters of Jesus, Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary etc) for a necessary apostolate (any contribution is welcome - from the Kindegraten, mission station, family visits in the villages. At present there is no female religious congregation in Yakutia.

Possible temporary missionary commitment open to EAO provinces (at least 3-5 years, including the study of Russian language). Since this year the Yakutia presence becomes international with arrival of two young practical trainees (South Asia and Africa)

* Possible learning from starting small (provincial) Delegations within the EAO region. Yakutia Salesians are dreaming about becoming a (provincial) Delegation with more autonomy and responsiblity for own growth

* Foster the important visibility of Yakutia within the SDB World is important and any possible exchange (e.g. visit of one candidate - now a prenovice - in Seoul, February 2017)

 * Deepen the historical awareness and learning from Salesian history of Siberia (during the World War some 50 SDB from Germany died around the camps of Siberia, Fr. Joseph Yamagouchi from Japan spent few years after the war in Siberian camp as well...).

This is a gentle inviation for prayer and attention to our  six (4+2) most Northern based confreres in Asia!

Yakutsk, Autonomous Republic of Sakcha, Russia Federation

October 1, 2017

Celebrating the Silver Jubilee in the Periphery (I) - Yakutsk
Gratitude for implanting the Catholic community in the remote corner of Siberia
Catholic thanksgiving in Yakutsk

More than 9000 km from Bratislava (Slovakia) where the Rector Major with the whole Salesian Family of Slovakia celebrated the Beatification of Blessed Titus Zeman with 25.000 faithful, a small community of 4 Salesians (Rector Fr. Pavol MIchalka) celebrated in the Holy Spirit Church in Yakutsk with 150 Catholics and non Catholic well-whishers the Silver Jubilee of this remote Catholic presence of Yakutia. 

The Silver Jubilee celebration started with 11 AM Eucharist in the parish church (consecrated in 2009), presided in Russian by the EAO Regional councilor who congratulate in the name of the Rector Major to the SDB and parish community. Fr. Vaclav expressed the thanks to all missionaries who worked in Yakutia over past 25 years as well to all Yakutia faithful and friends who welcomed Don Bosco and the Catholic community and participated in its growth.

After a wonderful family meal in the nearby Don Bosco Youth Center (also a Salesian community residence). Among the 150 participants are visible especially few families with small children, both Russian or Yakuts ethnic background. However also here we don't miss the Filipina oversea domestic workers and many other nationalities. It was indeed a Pentecost lunch prepared with contribution of all parishioners. 

In the afternoon was organized a simple music event with testimonies shared by Fr. Jozef Toth (Aldan), some of the parishioners of Yakutsk and Aldan who contributed to the building of this small parish community. Our parish youth and many professional musicians (friends of our lady organist) contributed to this wonderful moment of gratitude. Also the presence and sharing of our friends - protestant pastors made this moment a good memory. At the end Fr. Marian Peciar, the parish priest expressed his gratitude to all who contributed to this uplifting experience.


  Since 1992 about 25 SDB and 120 Lay Mission Volunteers from Slovakia shared few years of their life for the implanting of the Church in this remote corner of the Globe. Since the pioneer times of Fr. Jozef Pravda in Aldan until now about 500 believers were baptized in this large territory between Yakutsk and Aldan (distance 500 km) with very scarce population. Indeed the distance to other 'nearby' Siberian parishes runs between 1500 or 2000 km. Indeed one of the most challenging missionary environment. 

The SDB community is composed by four Salesian missionary priest from Slovakia (Provincial Fr. Jozef Izgold, SLK) and is excited to welcome in few weeks time also the first two non-Slovakian missionaries who received last Sunday their missionary cruficix at Valdocco (148th missionary expedition) - they heed from India and Burundi.  











Interview with Fr. Jozef Toth

October 5, 2017

Aldan, Sakha Republic (Yakutia) - Russian Federation

I dont' know why not all Salesian are missionaries!
Happy dedicated life of a mission founder in Yakutia

Interview – Fr. Jozef Toth
Aldan, Yakutia (Russian Federation) – SLK province missionary

Fr. Jozef Toth (65 years of age, Slovakian-Hungarian family origin, since 1992 in Yakutia, the only one remaining members of the founding community (3 SDB: with Fr. Jozef Pravda, Fr. Marian Kysel)
Why a Salesian missionary?
From early childhood I felt compassion and close relationshiop with Indian population. Already in the SDB initial formation thanks to Fr. Sutka (Slovakian missionary in Ecuador) I felt a strong attraction to the Gospel proclamation to other nations. In this call I was strengthen through the missionary movies and Letters from Africa (by Fr. Pravda). It was a growing desire to share the faith with others culture people.
Why Siberia, Yakutia?
Instead of Shuar tribe in the Amazon (Ecuador) when in 1991 Fr. Pravda made a first prospection trip to Siberia – Yakutia, I was enthusiastic and my provincial Fr. Kaiser asked me to accompany him on his September - November prospection trip to Russia. During our stop-over in Novosibirsk with the Catholic bishop we get know that in Aldan (Yakutia) there is a need for teaching of religion in the public schools and villages. At that time not even the orthodox missionaries arrived. Aldan is a small town (16.000), but everybody was open to us. And after our report to the superiors, at the end of 1991 the Rector Major, Fr. Viganó gave his green light.  Then followed the preparation of 3 SDB for the July 1992 missionary expedition, and I was the youngest with 40 years. We left from Slovakia, Bratislava on July 11 and arrived to Aldan on July 18th through Samara, Novosibirsk and Chulma.
Your most joyful moments in Yakutia?
  After the Mass we have a friendly talk with our parishioners, free talk about our mission work effect. In the 1990th the effect was amazing. And two Catholic ladies shared: ‘Without faith and Catholic faith our life would be different. We got a life meaning, different life vision, family-like relationship with our neighbors. Your ‘being together with us’ in the same harsh life and weather conditions of Siberia is a powerful sign. They appreciated the meaning of our missionary life. The same mission work gives hope. I’m very grateful for my missionary vocation. And sometimes I’m wondering why not all SDB are missionaries!
   For us – the missionaries in the periphery or frontline mission – simple visit attention from the Slovakia provincial missionary animation delegate or visits from the General Councilors are always a great encouragement. Indeed God’s touch is our great strength!
Most difficult moments?
We faced many sorrowful moments, like in the summer of 1998, when one 13 years old girl in the Oratory died. She was from a difficult family, but also a very good parish animator, good model for our parish youth, but due to the late medical intervention she went fast to heaven.
In our daily life I don’t’ feel really big difficulty, since I’m accepting the environment as it is. But also comparison between the missionary pastoral in the first 10 years (1992-2001) where everything we were forming lively and growing community struck a great difference with the period after 2002, when the numbers went down to a certain stagnation and remained only 2 SDB missionaries. It was a painful period, although since 2011 our situation is improving and we are on the right track now.
What is most important for the evangelization of Yakutia?
To get know people, their character, their culture and religion and also build deeper inter-personal relationship. More professional missionary preparation would be needed also from my side. When I’m approaching as a friend, people are open to share their pain and heart issues. Personal contact with Jesus is my deepest desire. We received a lot of encouragement from our lay leaders and elders in the village evangelization visit. Trying to get closer to the young people of today!
Impact of 25 SDB and 120 volunteers who served in Yakutia since 1992?
Our volunteers are appreciated for their practical commitment, house care (girls with the kitchen, house maintenance) and especially as the Oratory animators. They spend a lot of time with local children and youth and are very effective in our mission (music, assistance, group work or catechesis in Russian). And also the local parish grew stronger with their help (confession preparation and other faith life journey moments). After one week in the Khatystyr or other villages near Aldan or in Yakutsk they were really an indispensable part of our larger educative – pastoral community. It was not easy for them to stay alone as the only volunteer, not easy to live in the apartment, challenged by home sickness, harsh climate or difficult language. For them was better to stay at least in two. There were also many local Yakut  volunteers with us who played an important role in our mission.
Why the Yakutia people join the Catholic Church?
For the Yakut people their God is located ‘too high’, they have no chance to communicate with Him, only through the spirits through the intermediary work of the shamans. There are various spirits of sun, nature.. the roots of their religion are shamanistic. When I was teaching daily in the Evenko-Yakut village public school (1700 of inhabitants), I get know the parents of our students. And they asked me: Why do you believe in God of Jesus? Who is Jesus? And I have been trying to reply and share my faith with them. Their children also participated in the summer Don Bosco camps and their desire for grace and faith was slowly growing. In the school not even one spoke about Jesus Christ. After 5 years in the village were the baptism  of the first family and the catechesis went ahead.
How to get a friend with the Orthodox clergy and faithful?
In the beginning they were very cautious about us: Why did you came here? This is our territory and the proselytizing became the issue, and our bishop asked as to facilitate. But during the first meetings at the human level we made many human relationship, friendship visiting the families. Now we are with the present (three) parish priests in Aldan. When do we meet in some events, or in the town we greet cordially each other with respect, spiritual encounter as consecrated peopl. Next step would be some concrete joint action. ‘We needed 15 years, we felt you as a competition, but you go your way, work and space is enough for all, mutual respect.’ Bishops and Patriarchs, Pope and Patriarch’s meeting are a good model for us here in the field.
What does it for your 3 years Mongolia (2001-2004) missionary presence?
It was my first missionary love, desire, since it was my old dream to live in Mongolia, already 10 before my arrival. I felt at home – nature, people and culture. New experience of an international community, more and more amalgamated. After return to Yakutia I was sad, but this first mission in 2004 was in crisis and I the accepted the invitation of Slovakia provincial and we were only in two SDB here. In those difficult times. I still remember and greet them all, from UB Bishop Wens, CICM – Centre and other missionaries, our past pupils. Happy to return for a short visit. It was a great enriching by the intl. community and growing. Mission.

What kind of help for Yakutia mission do you need?
Happy with the younger generations and first two local vocations (grateful!) and younger missionaries. Spaces for youth and oratory to revive, fraternal community is no more consistent than in the past – at least 3-4 in each place. And now we are growing and trying to accompany the new incoming missionaries. Now the frequent visits to here are helpful for our enthusiasm, direction search. During many past yraer there was a break.

What is the meaningful of Yakutia mission for SLK provincial community?
A sing of wider opening of our mother province, life giving movement, blessing to our local Slovakian communities in prayer, best the volunteers and benefactors who have now experience with the universal church – here only 530 km distance between, 2500 Magadan, 1600 – 3000 km parishes distance. 

Greetings to the Australasia readers
God’s blessing for all readers, to be on fire with missions, thanks to the RM, Slovakia provincial for the support of this periphery mission and revival of communion – thanks to all those who are praying for us, helping us (benefactor) .. May God give them good health, presence….