Russian missionary visits Franciscan, shares his story

Staff Writer

“When God gives you a call, you just go,” said the Rev. Michael Shields during his talk on his 20 years of missionary experience in Magadan, Russia, a city full of memories of the Stalin Gulag labor camps.

Three members of Regina Angelorum – Hannah Castree, Katelyn Miller and Theresa Weisbrod – spent two months on missionary work with Shields, and after they did, they wanted to bring him to campus.

“When we were there for a mission trip, we were just surprised by what risks he was taking,” Castree said. “Being there, preaching, and doing all the missionary work that he is doing is such a striking image of what Pope Francis asks us to do in the present. We just wanted to bring his message here, to share his missionary work with others just as he shared his with us.”

Shields is the only priest within 800 miles, often finding himself back in his native United States of America in order to receive confession, medical care and even just to give talks to fund for his parish. This isolation is due to the repression of Catholicism in Russia. Shields looked past this and has done a multitude of things for the parish, such as get funds to open the church where his parish celebrates the liturgy.

“Most of the people in my parish are often scared to come, or to share what they believe in because they fear isolation from family, friends, and even in the workplace,” Shields said. “Others are scarred from the Gulag labor camps that they were forced to be in for being catholic; these people are called the repressed.”

Shields shared many of his stories through a video showing how his day-to-day life is structured in Magadan. The video showed his missionary work with the repressed as well as with women who have battled Russia’s strong acceptance of abortion (for every 10 births there are 13 abortions).

Shields continues to grow in his missionary work, often inviting those who wish to go on missions to visit Magadan, Russia. Currently, he awaits a young man who has accepted this call, and is hosting three sisters that help him.

“It is striking to see how relatable it is,” said student Lauren Abeyta. “Suffering isn’t the best thing, but in a world where we are usually perceived to escape that suffering and see this is surreal. At the same time, it saddening and uplifting; it gives me the ability to see that we, I, can be a change in the world by bringing our faith and suffering to those who want simply need to hear they’re not alone.”

If anyone is interested in answering the call to be a missionary in Magadan with Shields they can contact him at [email protected].

“In Magadan, I found what I was searching for,” Shields said. “In all this suffering, in all this pain, but most of all, in all this joy I found what I was looking for in Jesus Christ. I find Christ in everything here. But most of all in the joy these people, and this city can offer.”

To conclude his talk, he offered those who attended a Russian blessing asking us to respond with “И с вами,” which is Russian for “and with you.”

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