In 1991 when the Communist regime fell there were no Catholics in Mongolia. The next year with the adoption of a new constitution that recognised religious freedom various Salesian priests from Vietnam dedicated their mission to the rebirth of the local Church, rebuilding places of worship, helping the population after decades of dictatorship.
For Catholics “although the community is small, the local church is keen to help people and the country develop, expanding the chance of education for everyone, promoting the participation of all people in new and creative social activities” that can contribute to the rebirth of the social fabric.
In fact the Vietnamese Salesian mission runs a kindergarten, a technical school, soup kitchens, two farms and a shelter for 120 disable children.
Salesian social work groups are also actively involved in helping street children in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and women victims of abuse.
However, the Church’s involvement is not limited to social activities but also reflects the need for evangelisation as Pope John Paul II noted several times during his pontificate.
The Polish Pope in fact appointed the first bishop to Mongolia in 2003, Fr Wenceslao Padilla, to head the local Apostolic Prefecture.
The results are clear. In 1991 there were no Catholics in the country, but by 2006 they numbered 600, including 350 native Mongolians.
Thanks to Salesian-sponsored vocational courses, the local Church welcomed its first Mongolian seminarian, Enkh Baatar, in 2008.
In 1997 Sts Peter and Paul’s Cathedral was completed. In 2004 the first edition of the new Mongolian language Bible was published, including several traditional Catholic prayers.
About 60 missionaries from different countries are operating in the country, spread out across the four parishes established since 1991. The last one to be set up opened in 2007 in Darhan, an industrial town in northern Mongolia.