Father Effing Excited About The Future Of The Asian Church
Father Myron Effing, a member of Mater Dei High School’s Class of 1959, has lived in Vladivostok, Russia, since 1991. He calls the region “the Florida of Russia” because the city is located on a finger of land at the very southeast corner of the massive nation. From that perspective, Vladivostok is positioned like Miami – at the very southern tip of the main peninsula, which is bordered by the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
Many folks may not equate Vlodivostok with Asia because they consider Russia more of a European country. However, it is appropriate to consider Russia part of Europe and Asia.
Hardly anyone could dispute that Father Effing lives in a town with some fascinating neighbors – Japan to the east, and China and North Korea to the south.
“We’re in Asia,” he said on Oct. 9, after celebrating Mass at Mater Dei. “I am very excited about the future of the Church in Asia.” Father Effing’s grand-niece and grand-nephew, Mater Dei freshman Kelsey Wassmer and senior James Wassmer, served the Mass for their great-uncle.
Father Effing usually gets home for a visit in the fall. “Before going to Russia, I served in vocations,” he said. “By the time students went back to school in the fall, there was a time where I could get some vacation in. My schedule has stayed the same in that regard.
“It’s a new day in Russia, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” Father Effing told Mater Dei students, faculty and staff during his homily. “It’s wonderful to see President (Vladimir) Putin going to Communion and making the Sign of the Cross.” Father Effing clarified that President Putin is active in the Russian Orthodox Church. “Churches are open everywhere,” he added, “and the government is promoting family life.”
“The Communists eliminated religion,” Father Effing said. “They eliminated the family. Russia was the first country in the world to offer abortion on demand. Now, the government encourages couples to have big families.”
Father Effing recalled that his first task when he arrived in Russia – invited by local Catholics who had begun the work of rebuilding their parish after Communism fell – was to locate remaining Catholics in the country and begin re-establishing parishes. “As Communism took over, a lot of Catholics left Russia for other countries,” he explained. “Once we got going on re-establishing parishes, the next step was evangelizing the next generation.”
Today he is leading efforts to provide ministry to students from other countries who are attending school in Russia. “We have Mass in English and in Spanish now,” he said, reciting a list of students’ homelands that include Columbia, India, Pakistan and others.”
“The big thing now is vocations,” Father Effing said. “We have four seminarians from Pakistan, four from Vietnam and 30 from Indonesia. The Catholic Church all over Asia is getting stronger and stronger. I pray and hope for real religious freedom in China and North Korea.”
Because of the generations of Russians who did not – could not – grow up in loving families or in the Church because of Communism, Father Effing said the Catholic Church in Russian still also ministers to many orphans, poor and elderly.
Father Effing has founded nine Roman Catholic parishes in Russia since arriving in 1991, and he currently is responsible for three of them.
You can learn more about his work – and about ways you can help – by visiting www.vladmission.org.