I used to live with my grandmother because the government inspectors said I could not stay with my parents, she said. Now I live here and I like it a lot. I have many friends, and the adults are kind.
A major part of the convents work takes place some seven miles away on Moscows outskirts in a 10-story building. An entire floor is leased to the sisters where about 60 young women from the Martha and Mary Convent are training to be nurses. All but six of them board at this college and attend lessons in classrooms along with other nursing students.
Many of these young women are not just medical students, but are also considering a religious vocation. Meanwhile, they all intend to qualify as nurses after the three-year course.
Tatyana Kalnikova, director of the education program, said: The girls are training to be highly qualified nurses. They study medicine as well as theology.
According to Ms. Kalnikova, two German nongovernmental organizations finance the program. It is also helped by a Moscow housing cooperative that renovated the building.
We exist thanks to an agreement between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ministry of Health, who both own the building, she added. We train the girls to carry the light of God inside their hearts, but also to know about the world outside, its needs and to assist people in need.
As in the old days, the communitys routine combines prayer, study and service. They wake up at 6:30, take breakfast and then pray in a small chapel. At 9 they start school. Lunch is at noon, after which they continue their studies until 4. In the evenings they study theology, music and enjoy some free time. The young women, in their late teens and early 20s, come from all over Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Their studies and accommodation are paid for, but they must often pay for their trips home.
Inna, a 20-year-old from Latvia, has sparkling eyes, an impish grin and studies at the college.
My parents are not religious but I used to go to church and Sunday school with my friends; there wasnt much else to do, she said.
I became more interested in religion and occasionally went to a monastery, where I was baptized at the age of 10. My parents were concerned at first, but now they are happy that I am studying to be a nurse. But I want a religious life as well as a medical career.
Just as it did in the early 20th century, the Martha and Mary Convent serves the poor, sick and helpless, and gets by on minimal funding. It is a haven for the disenfranchised in the midst of the uncertain world of todays Russia.
Like the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Mother Elizabeth, who is picking up the thread after a 74-year gap, is wholly dedicated to the work of the Martha and Mary Convent even to the point of disregarding her own personal safety.
Through role models like the two Elizabeths, Russia is rediscovering God and perhaps, at last, finding its own redemption and way forward.
Post a Comment |
Eileen Reinhard is editor of CNEWA WORLD.
Our correspondent at large, Sean Sprague, travels throughout CNEWA’s world.
Tags: Sisters Russia Women (rights/issues) Soviet Union Socioreligious programs