Help for the renovation of the Carmelite convent in Karaganda
Kazakhstan – formerly part of the Soviet Union in Central Asia – is today geographically the ninth largest state on the earth. Yet it has a popuation of just 16 million souls, 47% of whom follow Islam, while 46% are Christians of various confessions – above all Orthodox (44%). There are somewhere around 184,000 Catholics living in Kazakhstan today, above all of German extraction or else the descendants of Eastern Europeans formerly deported to Central Asia, for example Poles, Ukrainians and others.
It was in 1998 when, at the request of the local bishop, three Polish Carmelite sisters first settled in Karaganda. The building that was to become their new convent was in fact a run-down kindergarten which first of all needed to be converted and renovated. At the same time a chapel was bult and an upstairs floor added, in which the sisters have installed workshops where they bake hosts and produce plaster statues. Initially there was also a greenhouse in which the sisters grew flowers for sale, but soon afterwards the market was flooded with cheaper flowers from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and so the sisters were unable to make the flower growing pay.
Today there are nine sisters living in the convent, four of them from Poland and the other five from Kazakhstan. The youngest of them, Sister Agnes Maria of the Divine Heart, took her perpetual vows in 2013. Again and again there are young women who show an interest in joining the community. For example, there is one young woman who regularly spends time in the convent. However, before she can enter she must first of all complete her vocational training.
Ever since it was first established, our benefactors have regularly helped for this Carmelite convent. The sisters are most grateful for your help. “We are profoundly grateful to you for all the material aid you have so far given us, and also for your prayers and spiritual support”, they write. “We assure you that we pray every day for all our benefactors, and once a month Holy Mass is also celebrated here in our Carmel for the same intention.”
But now the sisters are once more asking our help. For at the time when the old, dilapidated building was being converted into a convent it was still extremely difficult to get hold of suitable building materials. Much of it had to be imported from Poland in fact. The result was that some of the work was done on a more or less makeshift basis. So now, after 17 years, more renovation work is needed, and at the same time the building needs to be insulated against the cold. We are planning to give the sisters 17,000 Euros, so that the most urgent work can be done.