According to Father Madej, there are not more than 64 baptised Catholics, about 50 Catechumens and an equal number of ‘friends of our faith’ in the Central Asian former Soviet Republic, which has some 5 million – overwhelmingly Muslim – inhabitants. “But catechetical work with adults and youths, prayer, particularly the Holy Rosary, and, most of all, the celebration of the Eucharist helps us survive and gives our community an inner dynamism and strength” the 55-year-old Polish missionary said.
Fr Madej, who is based in Asgabat, the Turkmenian capital, added: “Psychologically, we do feel isolated (from the rest of the Church): There are just two Catholic priests working in the country, but no nuns and no churches. Mass and all other religious activities have to take place in private homes.”
He went on to explain: “When I met with Pope John Paul II – five months before his death – I showed him a stone from Kopet-Dag mountain and said: ‘Holy Father, one day we hope to build a Catholic church in our country.’ The Pope then blessed the stone, which I am now keeping in my room, but hopefully not for a very long time.”
.- Father Andrzej Madej, OMI, head of the mission ‘sui-iuris’ in Turkmenistan, spoke to Aid to the Church in Need recently of the tiny group of faithful Catholics who he serves in Turkmenistan and how their strength is sustained by the Eucharist.