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Emails from Siberia

Fr. Kevin Gillespie, SJ, shares with us two recent emails from fellow Jesuit and former Holy Trinity priest Fr. Thomas M. Simisky, SJ who is currently missioned in Siberia running Russia’s only Catholic secondary school. These messages shed light on the current state of Russia’s poor, working class communities during these tumultuous times.

February 27, 2022 at 10:12:51 PM EST Hey Ron [Fr. Gillespie is copied],

Thanks so much for your prayers and concern. And I really appreciate the offer to come back to Wolfington should it become necessary. Fortunately, all quiet in little, old Tomsk. As you can imagine, the 5 of us in the house have had lots of talk around the dinner table (2 Poles, 2 US, 1 Armenian). The situation here is still safe, so we're all staying put. Looks like I may be here for a while (famous last words). Unfortunately, the effects of sanctions will hit us soon. Already, the US embassy sent an alert that many foreign credit cards no longer work. And if we lose the SWIFT system, we'll be in a real bind for fundraising. But, not much to do but to trudge ahead. I continue to feel grateful to the Society for this mission, especially in such interesting times. The Russian people I'm with every day are a great source of inspiration and consolation. And plenty to keep me busy, with my work at our school, the parish, grad school classes at Tomsk State Pedagogical University, and I was just hired to teach English to undergrads at the university (which gives me a little stipend of $90/month, more than the $30/month on personalia I've been spending). I also recently started celebrating Mass in English for the many international students at Tomsk's 6 universities. Most of them are from Africa, India, and South America. Please give my best to the community. I'm always thinking of you and often enjoy reflecting back on many fond memories of my time in Georgetown. Enjoy a pizza at Il Canale for me! Peace, Tom Friday, Apr 8, 2022 at 5:40 AM

Dear Friends,

Peace of Christ! Like you, I have no greater desire than that our sisters and brothers in Ukraine may have peace and that there will be an end to this senseless tragedy. Every morning we as a school gather to pray for the Risen Lord's promise of peace. Every evening our parishioners join in the rosary as a humble offering.

We now prepare to immerse ourselves in the mysteries of Holy Week. May our ancient Judeo-Christian liturgical traditions of Passover and the Triduum console and inspire us to lives of ever more faithful service. This year, I feel blessed to have been placed with a poor, humble, suffering Christ in Siberia, so clearly seen in our Tomsk Catholic School and Parish communities.

This year for Lent I decided to give up everything that the sanctions would take away, which turned out to be quite the austerity on both a personal and professional level. Through the grace of God, we have been able to keep school operations going, even as new challenges pile up each day (including the email service I had been using for these updates suspended all Russian accounts). We are doing the best we can to carry forward our Jesuit, Catholic mission, albeit in very simple ways right now.

Thank you for your prayers and generous support for this, the only Catholic secondary school in Russia. Please know of my prayers for you and your families.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

Fr. Thomas M. Simisky, S.J.

If you would like to support Fr. Simisky's work at the Tomsk Catholic School, please click here. You can also read more about his experience in Siberia via his column in America Magazine.


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