The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the martyic end of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers and Holy Grand Duchess Elizabeth. A reliquary containing the hand of St Elizabeth and a relic of her companion St Barbara will be brought from the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” in New York City to Minsk on May 19, 2018. Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Senior Priest of the cathedral and Vice President of the Synodal Youth Department, will bring the reliquary, which is taking place with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslavsk, and supported by the Synodal Youth Department of the Belarussian Orthodox Church and the St Vladimir Youth Association in the USA.
“Upon arriving in Minsk, we will head for Holy Trinity Cathedral in the nation’s capital, where Metropolitan Pavel will greet us,” said Fr Andrei. “This is the very hand that was brought from St Mary Magdalene Convent in Gethsemane, Jerusalem, to the Synodal Cathedral in New York in 1981 to coincide with the glorification of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. The reliquary, which will arrive on May 22, will be in Minsk—first at the cathedral, then at St Elizabeth Monastery. Divine services will be performed before the relics from early morning to late at night, so that believers can pray to one of the greatest Orthodox holy women of the 20th century, St Elizabeth and her aide, Nun Barbara.”
-What will the youth accompanying you do during this trip?
-During their five-day stay in Minsk, the kids will volunteer at an orphanage sponsored by St Elizabeth Monastery.
There will be eleven young delegates. For almost all of the young men and women, this will be their first-ever visit to Minsk or even to their historic homeland. This new generation of our youth grew up in a united Church, they have no memory of our past division.
During their visit to the Belarussian capital, they will join the Theological Academy and the diocesan Youth Department at a symposium on the preservation of Russian Orthodox faith and culture. Our kids are preparing presentations to reveal to the Orthodox youth of Belarus how their families preserved the Orthodox faith and Russian culture for the decades they lived abroad. The young people themselves, despite living in their environment, don’t lose the essence and purity of Orthodoxy. Of course, participating in the symposium and unofficial meetings will help the kids make new friends. Pilgrimages and a cultural program will also be provided.
– For a few years now, Russian and Sunday schools of the Russian Church Abroad in America have participated in the “Piggy Bank” project. What will you be raising money for this year?
– This year the proceeds of what our schoolchildren collect in three American dioceses totaled $12,500, which will go towards building a park at an orphanage for invalids with psych-physiological issues. It will be open not only to the orphans themselves but other “special” children with developmental needs. These children don’t need swings or electronic games, they need love and support. The dynamic of their development depends to a great degree on contact with others. The nurses at the orphanage help the children participate in moleben services, the Mysteries of confession and Communion, they tell them about God, they do crafts with them, play developmental games and go on nature trips.
St Elizabeth Monastery will help build this unusual playground with the help of donors. It will occupy five parcels of land, each devoted to a specific function: helping with taste, touch, smell, vision, hearing. The venue will include a petting zoo with domesticated animals. There will be a garden, multi-sensory trail consisting of alternating tree bark, sand, grains, gravel and other materials.
It is important for our children to participate in the project through their donations. The nuns were overjoyed when they heard that we are bringing the kids’ collections.
We consider the “piggy bank” project to be very important in teaching parish children to help those in needs, to donate, taking the example of Holy Grand Duchess Elizabeth, the founder of Marfo-Mariinsky Convent of Mercy in Moscow. Our children physically participated in helping the kids in Minsk by bringing their piggy banks to school during Great Lent, after which parish rectors would send the donations to us for the orphanage.
We’d like to thank the nuns of St Elizabeth Monastery for their forthcoming hospitality, and the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Eastern American Diocese of ROCOR for covering airfare and costs.