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Oblates in a Difficult Mission:

On a Mission Newsletter - Fall 2013



TurkmenistanIt isn’t an easy task to re-introduce the Catholic faith to a country where Catholicism was outlawed for almost a century. But that is exactly what the Oblates have set out to do. In 1997 two Oblates arrived in Turkmenistan, a nation bordered by Iran and Afghanistan. These Oblates were the first Catholic presence in the country since Catholic churches were destroyed by Russian revolutionaries in 1917.

Today three Oblates serve in Turkmenistan: Fr. Andrzej Madej, Fr. Rafal Chilimoniuk and Fr. Pawel Szlacheta. These men are the only Catholic priests in a country of five million people – of which there are only about 150 Catholics.

Fr. Andrej Madej, OMIThe Oblate community in the city of Ashkhabad began humbly. “We could not proclaim the Gospel loudly, so we whispered,” said Fr. Andrzej, superior of the community. Because they had no church, the Oblates invited the community to celebrate Mass in their apartment. At first no one came. Then the congregation began to grow. Over time it expanded to 30 participants – most of whom were from the diplomatic community. Local residents are beginning to worship with them as well.

Today the Oblates celebrate Mass daily. They are also busy with various ministries, including social outreach and meetings with persons who are interested in the Catholic faith. In order to share the Word of God with more people, they are training lay ministers to evangelize throughout the country.

While Poland provides the Oblates for the mission, the United States Province provides its funding. “Like all missions we have financial problems,” explained Fr. Rafal. “The 

most difficult for us is to cover running costs like house rent and salaries. Because we are still using the diplomatic umbrella we are forced to hire drivers and a secretary.” The Oblates even have dreams of one day building a church for their tiny but growing faith community.

The Oblates in Turkmenistan are hopeful for their mission’s future as they continue to spread the Gospel message.

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