Next Sunday Fr. Carlos Zepeda will celebrate Mass for Our Lady of Fatima Chapel as its new pastor. Fr. Zepeda has made several visits to our chapel as a seminarian, and so he is well known and appreciated by us. We welcome him while at the same time being sad to see our dear Fr. Sandquist go. We are comforted knowing that Fr. Sandquist leaves us to be able to attend more fully to the formation of the seminarians in his charge. May God bless him in all his efforts to bring forth more laborers for the harvest.
Fr. Zepeda will be stationed at Mountain View, Arkansas, with Fr. Geckle, our first pastor, and will travel to Oklahoma every weekend to celebrate Mass at Edmond and Chelsea.
It is a great grace for us to have a spiritual descendant of the Cristeros to shepherd us during this time of great persecution from the government.
Fr. Alexander Kryssov, a Russian priest who was ordained by His Excellency Mark Pivarunas, CMRI, on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, Oct. 7, 2008, traveled to Omaha from Moscow for the ordinations yesterday at Mater Dei Seminary. He will say Mass for us this Third Sunday of Advent, and we look forward to welcoming him to Our Lady of Fatima, Chelsea, Oklahoma. How pleased must our holy patroness be to have him visit us, for we cannot think about Fr. Kryssov without being reminded of Our Lady of Fatima’s words. (Please note, Holy Mass will be at the usual time this week–1:30 pm, confessions at 1.)
The story of Fr. Kryssov’s conversion, seminary training, and ordination is intriguing and edifying. Excerpts from several online articles describing these events may be found below. It is good also to recognize Bishop Pivarunas’s and Fr. Casimir’s efforts in nurturing Fr. Kryssov’s vocation. May God reward them.
The first excerpt is Fr. Kryssov’s own story that was published in the November 2006 Adsum and subsequently included in a broader article published by The Daily Catholic that includes interesting commentary by Fr. Casimir. Please click here to read the whole thing.
“The story of my spiritual journey begins when I was a student at the University of Moscow being educated like all the other people in the Soviet Union. I did think a lot about God, but I never read the Gospels or any other religious books. One day I realized that I truly did believe in God, but I needed a church. Although I knew there were many Orthodox Churches in Moscow, I was sure that the true Church could not be just Russian–it had to be universal.
“Although I had never been in a Catholic Church, nor had I ever met a Catholic, nor read any Catholic books, I knew I must be a Catholic!
Now I had a problem–I needed to find a Catholic Church in Moscow. Although I did not know where it was, I did believe that the Catholic Church had to exist in Moscow. But how could I find this Church? It was very dangerous in Communist times to ask anybody about the Church. So what was I to do?
“One day I was in the subway station in Moscow, and saw the public telephone. Since it would be no risk to call from the subway station because nobody knew me, I decided to call Moscow Information Service and asked for the address of a Catholic Church. The woman responded with a not too friendly voice, ‘We do not give information about religious institutions.” So now, what to do?
“The next day from this same station I called this service for the second time, and I asked for the address of the Central House of the Atheists. Another woman, much more friendly than the former, gave me an address. Arriving at this address, I saw this woman (who acted like she was a ‘priest’ of the Atheists) and told her that I am a young teacher of History who has a class of young Atheistic boys and girls, and I need to explain to the children how all the Christian Churches are no good. I knew about the Orthodox Church, but I have never visited the Protestant or Catholic Churches, and I need to know this to better explain the fallacy of the Christian faith. This woman lauded me as a young and brave Communist hero.
“So she gave me the address of the Protestant and Catholic Churches in Moscow. Immediately, as I got into the street, I threw the Protestant information in the garbage can. This was on Friday. The next Sunday I was at my first Catholic Mass!
“Near the church were three KGB cameras which registered all people who entered the church. One of my friends told me the story. One day as he went into the Church, he saw that one of the cameras was following him. He turned, took off his cap, and saluted the camera. Next moment the camera bowed to him.
“This church, the Church of St. Louis, was one of two Catholic churches in all of Russia which was open at this time. By the grace of God, this church had only the traditional Catholic Mass. After my Baptism, I had no more fear of the KGB; my only fear was that I might not remain a Catholic.
“Even before 1990 when the iron curtain came down, we had the traditional Catholic Mass and Sacraments. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed, with our new liberty came the New Church of Vatican II. Our old Lithuanian priest, Father Stanislav Mazejka did not accept the modern Church. He continued to celebrate the traditional Catholic Mass in his private chapel until his death in 1995 at age 90.
“After Fr. Mazejka died, we requested a priest from the Society of Saint Pius X and a priest was sent to Moscow two or three times a year to celebrate Mass in a private apartment.
“In 1999, we established our traditional chapel in Moscow and we had Mass once a month. Nevertheless, it wasn’t very long until we realized the contradictions in the position of the Society of Saint Pius X. So, in 2003, we ended our collaboration with the SSPX and had recourse to the Society of Saint Pius V in the United States. Fr. Baumberger arrived in Moscow in 2004 and stayed for one week. We were very content about his theological position; however, he was not able to supply us with a priest on a regular basis. He, himself, could come only once every two years. This would not have been a good future for us.
“So, we addressed letters to Bishop Dolan, Bishop Sanborn, and Bishop Pivarunas. After two weeks, I received a call from Fr. Rissling who asked me, ‘Do you need a priest?’ For us it was a miracle! Bishop Pivarunas had contacted Fr. Rissling in Germany who providentially speaks fluent Russian to provide us with Mass and Sacraments.
“In November, 2004, I began my preparation for the priesthood under Bishop Pivarunas. Last year I studied under Fr. Casimir Puskorius at Mount St. Michael’s and this year I am continuing my studies at Mater Dei Seminary in Omaha. Please pray for the Catholic faithful of Russia.” (Father Alexander Kryssov, Adsum, November, 2006.)
In Nov. 2008, Bp. Pivarunas comments on Fr. Kryssov’s ordination:
Words cannot describe the joy and happiness of Father Alexander Kryssov from Moscow, Russia, at the reception of the holy priesthood. It is truly remarkable that the tradi- tional Catholic faithful in Moscow (St. Pius V Chapel) had persevered after the death of their elderly traditional priest from Lithuania. They were able to preserve the faith with- out the benefits of Holy Mass and the Sacraments. I am sure at times the prospect of having a resident priest seemed, humanly speaking, very grim. How wonderfully has Our Blessed Mother heard their prayers!
Fr. Kryssov was accompanied by two young men who were so appreciative of the opportunity to witness the ordination of their good friend and fellow Catholic. This has been a ray of hope for the spread of the Faith throughout Russia. As we have mentioned in the past, St. Pius V Chapel in Moscow is in need of our support, and donations can be directed to Tim Drahman at Mount St. Michael. ~ Most Reverend Mark A. Pivarunas, “Letter From the Rector,” Adsum, November 2008
On Christmas 2008, Fr. Kryssov wrote a letter thanking all the people in Spokane who had congratulated him on his ordination and sent him greeting cards. It was published in the February 2009 Adsum:
More than two months I have been a Pastor of our Catholic community here in Moscow. At last, Holy Mass is celebrated in our Chapel regularly! This is a great happi-ness! Also, I hope that I could visit Russian cities where
many Catholics have strong wishes to organize Traditional Catholic Chapels for Traditional Holy Service.
Really, when I returned to Moscow, we met serious difficulties with local modernists and Lefebvreist circles that, unfortunately, work against us. Also there is a problem with material (financial) support for our Chapel in Mos-cow. But we realize that Russia is on a perfect way of conversion into Catholicism, into the True Catholic Faith; and we do realize that this way couldn’t be easy. We see that we are just in the beginning of the crucial but excellent way!
Pater Alexander Kryssov Moscow, December 25, 2008