By the grace of God, we have begun our new mission in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
On Sunday, March 17th, in our new parish of St. John the Baptist, the Holy Mass was celebrated by the bishop of all Uzbekistan, Msgr. Jerzy Mansulovich, who, with great happiness, welcomed us and our Institute which then began to work in this country. At the Mass, we were able to meet some of our future parishioners, some 20 persons, among which were 5 children and two young adults who were responsible for preparing a welcoming lunch for us after the Mass. We organized a little entertainment (a fogón) which was acceptable to all.
Priests traveled from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, for the occasion: Fr. Pedro López, the superior of our Delegation, and Fr. Andrés Jauck and Fr. Lorenzo Senaccholi, and three sisters of the Servants: Mother María del Amor Divino, Sister María Mater Voploshonnovo Slova and Sr. María Mujabbati Isó. Also, Mother María Zastupnitza and Sister María Pojimskaia came from Chimkent, Kazakhstan.
As it is known, the city of Samarkand possesses a rich history as it was central on the famous silk route and a splendid city, the most important and most extensive capital of the Tamerlane empire (also known as the Amir Timur in Uzbekistan), at the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th century, when it reached its highest architectural and cultural peak. Its schools or madrasas of Registan are famous, as well as the mosques built in that epoch, among which is the Bibi Khanum mosque.
For this reason, Samarkand is a very touristic place. We have experienced this in the short time that we live here, since not a day has passed in which a tourist did not come to visit our Church.
In regard to the Catholic Church, it is a grace to be able to begin our apostolate in this church of Samarkand, which was built more than a century ago, in the year 1916, by the parishioners themselves. A great majority of them come from Polish, German or other European background. With the rise of the USSR, the parish was taken and used as a gymnasium («спортзал»), as were the other 11 Orthodox Churches which were present at the beginning of the Russian rule of this city were taken and used for diverse reasons. Of these, today only three remain. At the end of the fall of communism and the Soviet Empire, the building was returned to the Catholic Church and those who were responsible to restore it to good condition so that there could be worship again there, were the Conventual Franciscans, who were given the pastoral care of the Missio Sui Iuris of Uzbekistan, and thus also the parish of St. John the Baptist. It was in the year 1999 that the renovated church was consecrated. These religious, with great labor, attended to the pastoral care of this parish over all these years. Since last year, the parish was left without a permanent priest and was attended to by a parish priest from a nearby city, Bujara, about 280km away, who was present Saturday evenings until Sunday at noon. Due to the lack of priests, the superiors of this religious congregation decided to leave the parish and establish only one permanent community in Bujara. That is why the bishop asked us to take charge of it.
The Institute has the important task of continuing the work of these religious, while at the same time contributing its own imprint. There are many things that can be done. We ask your prayers that we may be able to do all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, also, that God may bless our Institute and the Catholic Church in Uzbekistan.
In Christ and Mary,
Fr. Esteban Curutchet and brother Alberto Aleman