Source: St. Elizabeth Convent
A fragment of the meeting of the Sisterhood with Fr. Andrew Lemeshonok devoted to the 20th anniversary of the Sisterhood
Fr. Andrew: Recenlty we celebrated the feast day of St. Catherinet. On the same day in St. Peter and Paul Cathedral the 25th anniversary of the first service was celebrated. 25 years ago the first moleben took place there, in the building which had served as an archive-office for many years. Since that day the new life of the cathedral began. Several months later God brought me there as well, so that I served there as a deacon and later as a priest. On the feast day of St. Catherine our convent also had a cause for celebration. 20 years ago Metropolitan Philaret vested the first sisters of mercy during the service. That was quite solemn! I think that was unforgettable for the sisters who were there. I cannot remember how many of them were there…
The Sisters: Twelve.
Fr. Andrew: You see, there were twelve of them… The number of the apostles. The Sisterhood existed already, and we visited the patients of the hospital, but on the feast day of St. Catherine the Great Martyr that point was finally reached.
Everything is rather simple and clear in the Sisterhood. And this simplicity is what we are looking for in our life, because our world confuses and deforms everything. You need at least ten years to understand what you want and what to do next. It is just madness… There is a tendency in the world today – not to let people come to themselves, to rethink or understand something. Anyways, we continue our struggle. Every day is more difficult than the previous one. The Convent, the Sisterhood – one big organism which suffers from many diseases, and it even seems that there is no way to cure them. But then there are the remedy and the Healer. And these are our hope, which gives us strength to live and to move forward and think about our future. One needs courage and effort. Each sister and each brother should do their best, because our ministry is cooperative and everyone contributes to our work.
Everything changes. Some people have left us, others have passed away… At the same time some new people have joined our ministry. Only God is always the same. We have overcome a lot of challenges already, but there will be even more of them to endure. Perhaps they will be the most difficult for us and will demand even more responsibility. You know that children have their own tasks and requirements, while for adults the requirements are different. It is because adults have different criteria and abilities. Let us hope that everything that we have started there will have further development. The only thing we should remember is that we must not trust in sin, which is sometimes rather persuasive in its arguments… Perhaps, someone else wants to say something?
Sister Helen: I would like to ask the sisters, who were the first of us, to step forward. I was in the Sisterhood when Metropolitan Philaret blessed us for the second time. I remember that he was crying from happiness, because our sisters could not get permission for their service for a long time. So it was natural, that we all were happy. I felt like as if I was in Heaven, as if I found the exact place where I had to be and needed nothing more. I knew how to live, I had a spiritual father, I had God, and all my sorrows had gone. God gave us strength. You know, I have a weak heart, and I have suffered from this all my life. But then I could sleep only two hours and nothing hurt, nothing bothered me. What's more, physical exertion is bad for my back, as I have spinal disc disorder. So what?...
Fr. Andrew: These are just the little things of life.
Sister Helen: I remember that the sisters and I, who are nuns now, had to sleep between the boxes, because there was no other place for us. We fell asleep because of exhaustion, but we had little time for that. We had to rest quickly and continue our work then. We cared for each other and God strengthened us. Today everything is fine, although our work became much more difficult.
Fr. Andrew: It is harder to live today, because earlier we had God’s grace helping us. Now we have to work on ourselves, as we see our own weaknesses and faintness.
Sister Helen: If there is no necessity, then you will not change yourself. It is definitely true. But we do not want to. How do we want to live? Quietly, in joy and peace. Need to pray? Well then, I can read the morning or the evening prayers, or maybe even an akathist or something else… No, this is simply unacceptable! We should always pray and should do it wholeheartedly.
And what concerns the sisters… I am happy to see them all. And the convent itself is the source of life for me. Thanks to the Convent and our ministry I remain alive. This is the only way to live for me, and I simply cannot live differently…