In 1992, three missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary arrived. Since then, the number of Catholics has risen to 1,500. The first Mongolian was ordained priest in 2016. Currently, a second is studying in a seminary. The "faith of these people is as courageous as the bands of grass that shyly emerge from the rocky ground" of the of Gobi Desert.
Ulaanbaatar (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church of Mongolia celebrated its 25th birthday on Sunday. In 1992, three missionaries arrived in the "Land of the Blue Sky" and set out to re-establish a Church founded, according to tradition, in the 6th century but crushed by centuries and 70 years of Soviet rule.
The three religious of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) began their mission from a rented apartment. The future prefect, Mgr Wenceslao Padilla, was among them.
Since then, more than 1,500 people have converted to Catholicism in six new parishes. The Catholic community has also set up health and education facilities that are appreciated in the country.
Since 28 August 2016, the Church has also had its first local priest, Joseph Enkh-Baatar. Ordained deacon in 2014, he went to a seminary in South Korea. Once he returned, before he was ordained, he visited all local parishes, spending at least a month in each.
At present, another Mongolian student is studying at a seminary whilst baptisms continue in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Father Giorgio Marengo, a Consolata missionary who has lived in the country since 2003, told AsiaNews that in a place like Mongolia, "where the majority of the population is Buddhist and Shamanic, there is a strong overlap between religious and cultural affiliation. The only way to evangelise is to reach the heart of people by whispering Christianity."
Father Lusuka Mende, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ulaanbaatar, in an interview with Vatican Radio said: "There are many kindergartens. With Caritas Mongolia, we have realised farming projects in the Gobi Desert. We also help Mongolians returning from abroad to be socially reintegrated."
Some obstacles placed by the authorities hinder the growth of the young Mongolian Church. One is the fact that only Mongolians can own property, which does not help a Church of mainly of foreign missionaries. Another is the obligation for foreign institutions to hire staff that is 75 to 95 per cent Mongolian.
Still, at Easter this year, Father Marengo said that "the faith of these people is as courageous as the bands of grass that shyly emerge from the rocky ground" of the of Gobi Desert.