Help for the seminary in Kemerovo-Novokuznetsk
It was back in 1994 when the then newly established Russian Orthodox Eparchy of Kemerovo-Novokuznetsk (north-northeast of Novosibirsk) set up its own theological school where, in three-year courses, the priests so urgently needed for the diocese could be trained. After a full ten years this school was „upgraded“ to a seminary, with a five-year academic formation. Since as early as 2001 ACN has been supporting the development of the seminary and sharing in the joy at the increase in vocations – from 34 seminarians in 2001 to 126 today. Last year (2014) alone they were able to ordain six priests and seven deacons.
But, needless to say, that means that the costs have risen also. Again and again, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN has stepped in to help – with the installation of a printing press, with the enlargement of the library and its equipment with modern, mobile, space-saving bookshelf units and with new books, for the purchase of a minibus, for the construction of a storehouse and bakery in the monastery of St Panteleimon in the village of Bezrukovo, quite close to Novokuznetsk. This bakery is now supplying not only the brothers in the monastery but also the seminarians with their daily bread, and thereby helping to keep down the cost of living.
Now we have agreed to help once again – this time with a contribution of 37,800 euros towards the cost of training the seminarians during the current academic year.
The establishment of new eparchies (dioceses), the training of good priests who can then be close to their people, the social involvement and the increased youth work – all these things have helped to ensure that the number of the faithful in the eparchy of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk has doubled, if not tripled, in the last few years. So says Metropolitan Aristarch Smirnov of Kemerovo, who is also the rector of the seminary. He is profoundly grateful for the help of ACN – and not least because this aid has also had an extremely positive impact on ecumenical relations. ACN was able to bring together Metropolitan Aristarch with his opposite number, Catholic Archbishop Joseph Werth, both of whom have since then maintained very cordial relations with each other. These blossomed especially in 2008 when the two men were able to exchange the gift of some particularly precious spiritual relics. So it was that Bishop Werth was able to give the eparchy a relic of St Nicholas.
„Kemerovo is one of the most outstanding examples of friendship between our two Churches“, said Peter Humeniuk, ACN’s section head responsible for our projects in Russia; this was during a visit last year to Metropolitan Aristarch, whose seminary has already established partnerships with a Catholic institution, the Theological Faculty in Naples/Italy, and similarly with the Theological and Pastoral Institute and Academy of the Polish diocese and city of Rzeszow.
Another flourishing example of good ecumenical relations is the newly established partnership between a Russian Orthodox grammar school, with 300 pupils, and an Italian grammar school. As Father Sergei Konstantin, the parish priest of St Tatiana’s church in Kemerovo, puts it, „In today’s world we Orthodox have the same problems as the Catholics. And we have to tackle them by learning from each other.“