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Diaconia: Monasteries in Social Work
The Convent of Our Lady of Kazan in Kaluga
The Tolga Convent of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin
St. Anastasia's Convent of the Epiphany in Kostroma

The Convent of Our Lady of Kazan in Kaluga

Concern for the neighbour - this is the primary task that the Orthodox charitable mission "The Orthodox Samaritan" in the diocese of Kaluga sees in its work. Among those who work in this mission are nuns and novices of the Convent of Our Lady of Kazan and sisters from the convent's sisterhood.

The work has been carried out in the following three fields:

  1. Assistance in meeting the spiritual needs of believers, and religious education.
  2. Distribution of humanitarian and other aid among low-income people.
  3. Work with children.
To help meet the spiritual needs of low-income believers and those who for various reasons cannot come to church, predominantly the sick and the elderly, the convent, with the help of the mission, has arranged for them to be administered free of charge such sacraments as extreme unction, baptism, communion, as well as such special services as the blessing of their dwelling places and funeral services at the Convent's Church of St. Gurius of Kazan, at homes, in hospitals, at the House for the Elderly, in children's sanatoria, at the orphanage and in other places.

The requested services have been accompanied by talks on religious subjects and distribution of religious books. Sisters from the sisterhood have looked after handicapped in the House for the Elderly and at their homes, serving their needs and giving them spiritual support.

The Orthodox Samaritan mission has also been involved in the work in prisons and reformatories. It has arranged for convicts in the prison at the Tovarkovo settlement to be administered baptism and confession and to have talks. The mission has also organized prayer services for convicts on feast days, with presents given out. This prison and the reformatory in Kaluga have been given Orthodox books for their libraries.

In distributing humanitarian aid, sisters have worked in close cooperation with such public charities as the Association of Handicapped from Childhood and the Association of Mothers with Many Children. Sisters have handed over to them clothes, food, wheelchairs, toys, medicines received as humanitarian aid to be distributed among members of these organizations. Throughout the year, handicapped and poor people who come to the Convent for help receive either small amounts of money (the total sum for a year has amounted to one million rubles), or food, and, if circumstances permit, hot lunches.

The Mission and the Convent have shown a special concern for children. Noteworthy in this respect are their efforts for arranging on a regular basis the administration of communion to children in children's sanatoria, the orphanage and the asylum. They have also been engaged in arranging free baptisms for orphans, children from low-income families and babies in the intensive care ward of the maternity house, as well as communion for children in the regional hospital, the boarding school for children with poor hearing, etc. In total they baptized some 200 children and administered communion to 1000 children in 1996.

It has become a good tradition for the Convent sisters to visit children with cerebral paralysis at the Kaluga-Bor children's sanatorium on the occasion of church festivals. During these meetings with children, sisters explain them the feasts and fasts and give them candles and icons. On Easter they sing Easter hymns and give children Easter cakes. Last Easter, sisters brought Easter greetings to children in the Azarovsky Orphanage as well. The spiritual father of the Mission performed the rite of the blessing of the orphanage. The children received Easter cakes, and sisters sang Easter songs.

Children from troubled families have been a serious problem demanding continued attention. It has been partly solved now as an asylum called "Hope" opened in Kaluga to help educate these children. Before the asylum was opened, children used to come to the Convent either by themselves or were brought by their neighbours, acquaintances or just strange people, asking to accommodate them for a while because of troubles in their families. Some children stayed a week, while others a fortnight, still others a month or even longer. Once a small 10 year-old girl by name of Galya was brought from a family of alcoholics. The girl's elder sister imitated their parents in their behaviour, while her elder brother was serving a term in prison. Galya stayed at the convent for two weeks when her mother died. Later the girl was placed at the new orphanage.

This year, God willing, we shall come to the orphanage to bring Easter greetings to the children. We shall give them Easter cakes and sing Easter hymns for them.

Sister Anastasia
Mother Superior
Telephone for contacts: (08422) 4-20-17

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The Tolga Convent of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin

Stretching out along the left bank of the full Volga River several kilometers away from the city of Yaroslavl is the old and beautiful Tolga Convent. Monasteries have been the pillars and strongholds of Orthodoxy in Russia from old times. So has been the Tolga Convent, a zealous guardian of the true Orthodox faith, for almost seven centuries. The true Orthodox Christian faith, however, has been intrinsically bound up with the works of charity. Just as works are dead without faith, so "faith is dead without works" (Jam. 2:26). During His earthly life, the Lord taught people to be merciful and love one another. He Himself was a source of mercy and healed many sick people. In His parable about the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30), the Lord showed us how we should treat one another. One cannot love God without loving one's neighbour.

Monasteries have been a source of help and consolation for people in all times. Living themselves on donations from benefactors, monasteries nevertheless never have stayed away from people in trouble. For long years the Tolga Convent has been an asylum and a consolation place for the sorrowful, the sick, the weak and the deprived.

Nowadays the Tolga Convent is rising up from ruins. The monastery walls still remember the terrible wounds inflicted by the hateful hands of theomachism. But under the wise leadership of the Mother Superior Barbara and through the selfless efforts of the monastic community and the charity of Yaroslavians, these heavy wounds are being gradually healed. Despite her numerous troubles connected with the restoration of the convent, Mother Superior Barbara has time to see who needs what and where and to give effective aid.

The convent has taken a lively part in the fate of the orphans in the "House for Babies". Sisters have arranged for over one hundred of them to be baptized, There is nothing more precious on earth than the human soul for which we are called to fight here on earth against the forces of evil. The convent has often been visited by Sunday school children from many cities in Russia. Talking to our priests and guides, children gain spiritually and enjoy the fellowship.

There are no people more miserable than those in hospitals and prisons. Here, too, the Tolga Convent has stretched out a helping hand to those who suffer. In this terrible time of unemployment, the convent has fed over two dozens of poor people daily. But there are not only sorrow and need, but also joy to share. On feast days, Mother Superior Barbara would visit the Tolga village to give the villagers not only her blessing but also presents. With what a joy and excitement would war veterans and poor families await her coming and how grateful are they for her sharing their joy!

The diocese of Yaroslavl has opened some more convents. Many of them need support, and Mother Barbara has done everything possible to give them material support and wise counsel.

It is not accidental that Mother Superior Barbara has been elected the person of the year in Yaroslavl. People are always grateful for the good done to them and pray to God for their benefactors. 

Sisters of the Tolga Convent
Telephone for contacts: (0852), 55-24-08, 55-25-08

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St. Anastasia's Convent of the Epiphany in Kostroma

Founded in 1426, our ancient monastery has recently marked its 570th anniversary. From 1864 to 1917 it carried out enormous educational and social work in its orphanage for girls, alms-house, chemistry, hospital and other institutions.

The convent was closed for 65 years after the 1917 Revolution. It was in March 1991, on the eve of the Day of the Fyodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God, that the convent was opened. It was like a miracle.

Despite our own difficulties we have taken the path of social service for people. Working to restore the convent itself, the sisters still remembered the Gospel's words "Whoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me" (Mk. 9:37) and fulfilled them by opening in 1993 an Orphanage of St. John of Kronstadt, for "faith without works is dead" (Jam. 2:26). There are 30 orphans and children abandoned by their parents in the orphanage now.

The children first turned out to be affected by various diseases, but now they can look after themselves on their own. They are taught in five specialized classes, learning to sew, to keep house, to cook. The orphanage has a medical station with a specially equipped isolation ward, a comfortable dormitory and an excellent game-room with a lot of toys designed to develop children. The sisters with a pedagogical and musical education work with the children, giving them their hearts, while the children respond to their care and love with spiritual growth and physical improvement. Last April a deaf and dumb girl was admitted. After staying with us for a few days she began to speak and can now pronounce some simple words.

Since 1991 the convent has run an alms-house for the elderly, handicapped and mentally deranged people. There are 40 of them. They have received medical aid, thorough care, special diet and spiritual nourishment. There is a medical station working at the house around the clock, supplied with all the necessary medicines and a well-equipped isolation ward for patients with serious illnesses. There is a highly-qualified and experienced doctor, always ready to give aid.

At present there are 100 sisters in the convent fulfilling various obediences in the orphanage and the alms-house. Thus the time-honoured tradition of charity has been continued under the protecting veil of the Mother of God. The monastic life in the convent has been sanctified by an ages-long prayer and monastic feats of the martyrs who gave their lives for the Orthodox faith and Motherland.

Mother Superior Innocentia

An orphanage

The orphanage at St. Anastasia's Convent of the Epiphany has existed for two and a half years now.

It admitted weak and mentally and functionally deranged children in 1994. Continuous care and attention towards the children have brought good fruit. The girls have become calmer, more friendly and more healthy. Invited specialists conduct classes for them in specially equipped class-rooms, teaching them to love work. The girls learn to sew under the guidance of a skilled tailor-educator. An icon-painter introduces girls to the art of icon-painting, instilling in them the love of art and developing in them an interest in creative activity.

The children's health has improved. Thus, Yulia, 13, had suffered from epilepsy. Now she looks quite a healthy child. Angelina, 7, was brought to the orphanage very weak, with severe skin allergy and squint. Now she is a beautiful and healthy child studying music. Her skin has cleared up and her squint is effectively disappearing without medical interference, to doctors' amazement.

The smallest ones enjoy the best attention and care. A qualified specialist gives them special developing lessons. Working in their class-rooms according to their abilities, the children become kinder and cleaner. Their faces become brighter as they learn to love all living creatures, "a dog, and a bird, and a pussy-cat". They can already consciously express their relations to one another. Significant in this respect are the compositions they wrote on the occasion of the 570th anniversary of the convent in which they gave very moving descriptions of their friends, teachers, and their best-loved Sister.

Like flowers, children feel warmth and love and respond to them. The orphanage likes to welcome guests. Here the guest are sure to receive warm welcome. The children will sing for them their own songs, and the guests will forget their troubles.

Sister Gracheva
Teacher at the orphanage

 Telephone for contacts with St. Anastasia's Convent of the Epiphany: (0942) 57-47-07

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