Pilgrimage Organizer, Speech Therapist, and the Mother of a Big, Second Family

Priests’ wives talk about their service in the Church. Part 1

On the feast of the holy Myrrh-Bearing Women, which Russian believers sometimes call “Orthodox Women’s Day” (this year it fell on May 19), we asked the wives of some priests of the Vyatka Metropolia of the ROC to talk about their Christian service in the family, in the Church and in society.

Many matushkas, as priests’ wives are usually called in Russia, perform their multifaceted labors in the sphere of education, developing pilgrimage itineraries, working as teachers, doctors, speech therapists, church choir singers or conductors, glorifying the Lord with their singing, meeting people in the church shop, instilling the gift of faith in children with special needs… And, of course, all of them see a special role of a woman in taking care of her family and helping her spouse. Talking about family traditions, their work and hobbies, these women have sincerely shared with readers what helps them overcome difficulties, what joy they feel when they observe the good fruits of their labors, and how happy they are in their service.

There are trips that combine my service as an organizer of pilgrims and the family”

Nadezhda Shapoval, head of the “From Vyatka” pilgrimage service:

Fr. John and Nadezhda Shapoval Fr. John and Nadezhda Shapoval This May, our pilgrimage service turned twenty. Its work is based on Christian service. Our priority is to familiarize people with our shrines and churches of the land of Vyatka1 of the Vyatka Metropolia. I think it is important for people to know the history of their churches, icons, and local saints.

I never imagined that I would become a priest’s wife. I married an ordinary layman. Ten years later, at the age of thirty-five, my husband told me: “I want to enter the Vyatka Theological College [now seminary], full-time.” I understood the responsibilities that a future priest’s wife had—both the inward, spiritual, and the outward, in the public eye—but I had to accept his choice. Father John was ordained by Metropolitan Chrysanthos of Vyatka and Slobodskoy. He served as a deacon for six years, and then Metropolitan Mark of Vyatka and Slobodskoy ordained my husband a priest and sent him to serve in the village of Istobensk. And for about twelve years now, batiushka has served as rector of the ancient Holy Trinity Church, which has never been closed.

Nadezhda Shapoval with pilgrims Nadezhda Shapoval with pilgrims     

There are trips that combine my service as an organizer of pilgrimages and the family. We have the following tradition: for several years in a row, on New Year’s day, I take pilgrims on a trip to the ancient monasteries and convents of Russia. We develop new, interesting itineraries every time. During our trips, we learn about locally venerated saints and attend services in the churches we visit. Fr. John Shapoval, who accompanies the pilgrims with me, supports people with spiritual advice. Among our pilgrims there are those who go regularly on our “prayer trips”, while others may be new to this. Recently, married couples have become more actively involved in such trips.

​Nadezhda Shapoval ​Nadezhda Shapoval     

Greetings to all female pilgrims, colleagues, staff workers, priests’ wives and all Orthodox women of Russia on this wonderful feast—the day of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, which falls on the Paschal days when we all greet each other especially joyfully with the exclamation: “Christ is Risen!”

My great-grandmother, grandmother and mother are priests’ wives”

Priest Mikhail Pentin and his wife Galina Priest Mikhail Pentin and his wife Galina     

Galina Pentina, singer of the parish choir of the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos of Kirov and teacher of church singing at the Sunday school of the parish, wife of the rector of the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God of the town of Sovetsk, Priest Mikhail Pentin:

Christian service is always about kindness, the ability to give, to sacrifice from the bottom of your heart, to bring joy to people. It so happened that I became a fourth-generation priest’s wife. My great-grandmother, grandmother and mother were all wives of priests. From childhood we had an awareness that a priest is the pillar in the church, and his wife is the pillar in the family, responsible for the microclimate and comfort at home. But a parish is a big family. A priest celebrates services in church and is engaged in organizational matters, while his wife creates a good atmosphere there, so that people can be drawn to church. For parishioners, she often acts as a guide, a connecting link to the church.

I was born after my mother Tatiana moved from Kostroma to Sovetsk and had begun to arrange the life of the parish. Then Sunday school was born there, which turns twenty this year.

Priest Mikhail Kovalsky with his wife Tatiana and little Galina Priest Mikhail Kovalsky with his wife Tatiana and little Galina     

My father was busy with his ministry and was responsible for many practical issues—churches always require attention—and my mother created an atmosphere inside the parish. There were regular parishioners and traditions—organizing Christmas and Paschal concerts. And if my mother devoted herself mostly to classes with children in the Sunday school, I inherited the cause from my father, Priest Mikhail Kovalsky, who as a priest paid great attention to choir service.

My father dreamed of becoming a choir director, but he entered the seminary. But he loved sacred music from his childhood. He selected the repertoire for the services of the church cycle and held choir practices. Sharing his aspirations, I have served in the choir since the age of two. Now that I sing in the church choir, I remember that as a child I listened to this or that spiritual work. In my understanding, the church choir plays a huge connecting role between the priest and the parishioners. The prayerful mood the choir sets will be conveyed to the priest and the parishioners.

​Future Archpriest Peter and Grandmother Marina Bakhtina ​Future Archpriest Peter and Grandmother Marina Bakhtina     

A model of good Christian service in our family is my maternal great-grandmother Margarita. She has eight children, and she is a priest’s wife as well. When my great-grandfather, Archpriest Vladimir Stepanov, was transferred from parish to parish, the whole family moved with him. You must accept that your husband belongs to the Church, and you, his wife and children, are his family and cannot leave him. You should be wise and understand that this is your service—through him you should serve God. My grandparents, Grandmother Marina and Archpriest Peter Bakhtin, are also a model of Christian service.

When it comes to life in general, it is important to do everything for God. Do any work that you undertake for God. This way it will be possible to perform it efficiently, and most importantly—according to your conscience.

Family comes first”

Ekaterina Churakova with Father Dimitry and children Ekaterina Churakova with Father Dimitry and children     

Ekaterina Churakova, a speech therapist, wife of the priest of the Church of the holy Martyrs Faith, Hope, Love and their mother Sophia in Kirov, Priest Dimitry Churakov:

I see my Christian service in the life I live as a priest’s wife, combining raising the children with my job as a speech therapist. As an active and well-educated woman, I always wanted to do something for the good of society, while living exclusively for household chores is boring. Being a philologist by education, I received by qualifications as a speech therapist over a decade ago. When my children were small, there was no opportunity to take them to a speech therapist, so I decided to become one myself—first of all to help my children. Then I began to help others as well. And now that I’m busy with work, my children understand that their mother is a role model for them, thus she fulfils herself, and at the same time they are given more independence. They do some housework themselves, taking care of each other. Working as a speech therapist has become my vocation, because I love children. It is no coincidence that we have four of them, and I am able to help them and do my share in providing for the family simultaneously.

Ekaterina Churakova with her husband, Priest Dimitry, a cleric of the Church of Sts. Faith, Hope, Love and Sophia in Kirov Ekaterina Churakova with her husband, Priest Dimitry, a cleric of the Church of Sts. Faith, Hope, Love and Sophia in Kirov     

But the family comes first, so I work four hours a day at most. I reserve energy for my children. Our two older daughters and son go to school, and the youngest daughter is a preschooler.

Since weekends together are a rarity for us, because my spouse is a priest and celebrates services in church on weekends, we try to gather in the evenings in our family circle. My husband, Fr. Dimitry, and I try to support each other, and he takes part in raising our children.

We have a family tradition of getting together on the major feasts—Christmas and Pascha. At Pascha, we always bake kulichi (Paschal cakes) according to the old Russian recipe for our family, friends and acquaintances. My eldest daughter Lisa and I baked over sixty kulichi this year. We want people to feel the taste of real pascha cheese, cooked with love from exclusively natural, good products: butter, raisins, candied fruits and nuts.

We celebrate Victory Day with our family; we always place flowers at the eternal flame, sing military songs at home, and invite guests.

In the summer we try to take trips together. For example to Diveyevo Convent or to Blessed Matrona in Moscow. For the children, a trip to another city is always an occasion for joy. We try to think about our trip ahead of time, and to make it merry, interesting and informative for the children (with visits to museums, zoos, puppet theaters; the Nikulin Circus in Moscow made a special impression on them). On the other hand, these trips educate them in patriotic and spiritual terms, since they familiarize themselves with holy and meaningful places.

When planning my days, I keep a balance between my job, the children and myself, and my inner state. When there are many children, everyone needs to be given time and attention. You always keep your finger on the pulse so that you as a mother can provide support. And all this requires inner strength, so it is especially important for the mother of a large family to stay healthy, fit and balanced.

Family traditions are about being all together”

​Lyubov Boyarintseva with Fr. George and children ​Lyubov Boyarintseva with Fr. George and children     

Lyubov Boyarintseva, director of the Nika children’s church choir, teacher of the First Children’s Music School in Kirov, wife of the priest of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Fr. George Boyarintsev:

I met my future husband when we were students of the conducting and choral college. In our last year of school we registered our marriage and got married in church. We had a student wedding: a male student quartet sang at the church; Vladimir Stromov—the bell-ringer of St. Seraphim’s Church, and then a second–year student who sang with us in the united student choir, rang the bells; and the cameraman was our classmate, now Priest Igor Shilyayev. The car for the newlyweds was provided by the then ruling hierarch, Vladyka Chrysanthos. It was very joyful, warm and sincere.

Lyubov Boyarintseva and the Nika children’s choir at the service in the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kirov Lyubov Boyarintseva and the Nika children’s choir at the service in the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kirov     

I have been studying music all my life, and my choice of this profession was obvious. I started teaching from the age of nineteen, and so far my occupation has not changed. It had always been a children’s choir. However, three or four years ago I began to lead an adult mixed choir, which consists of parents and graduates. It’s an amateur choir of people who can’t live without music.

A husband and a wife are a single whole, one mind and one vision of the world, and they complement each other. One other half always feels what is happening with the other and thinks about how to help him or her. Sometimes words of support are vital—it is very important that you are not alone in your vision of the world, that someone is ready to defend you with might and main. My husband is our choir’s father-confessor. He knows all my students, their interests and hobbies. He taught me how to edit videos of my students for competitions, type parts in computer programs, and write music; he also helps me organize concerts.

Fr. George and Lyubov Boyarintseva with children Fr. George and Lyubov Boyarintseva with children My husband is a clergyman of the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist of our city, and as part of his duties he sometimes travels to serve in churches of the district, where there are often no singers. Then I always accompany him, and we sing the service with the children’s choir.

Music is a subtle guide to the spiritual world. At the service, children feel their involvement in what is happening through music and spiritual singing, and it is easier for them to stand through the service and understand it. We so wanted our children to sing in church so that they could find friends and like-minded children in the choir. After all, who your children communicate with is very important.

For us, family traditions mean being all together: at work, at services, at children’s contests or competitions, or just spending weekends together. If we manage to organize a family trip, it is a great joy.

For me the main thing is when love reigns in the parish and in the family”

Elena Izhik. Celebration of the blessing of a new belfry in the village of Sredneivkino Elena Izhik. Celebration of the blessing of a new belfry in the village of Sredneivkino     

Elena Izhik, wife of the rector of the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Sredneivkino of the Verkhoshizhemye district, the Kirov region:

For seventeen years now I have been Father Stephen’s wife and the mother of three wonderful daughters. For me the parish is a large, second family—not only in Sredneikino, but also in Verkhoshizhemye, Zonikha and Voronye. For me, life as a priest’s wife has proved to be very unique, yet difficult.

Elena Izhik with Fr. Stephen and children Elena Izhik with Fr. Stephen and children I try to share in all the difficulties that Fr. Stephen has to face as a clergyman, and my daughters and I try to support him. I help my husband in the service (I sing in the choir), I am always involved in the preparations for church events, and support charity works organized at the parish. Father and I try to bring our children to God and kindle the fire of faith in their hearts.

For me, the main thing is that love reigns in the parish and in the family. Because family is the most important thing in our lives. It is the most precious and valuable gift from God. I believe that a real family is built when the people dearest to each other support each other and do not abandon each other in difficult times, which motivates you to move forward and reach new heights. This makes them really happy for you.

Faith in God and trust in Him help me overcome various difficulties in life. And family is a place where you can be real, yourself; it is a reliable support that helps you solve any problems in life; it is a strong home and harmony.

Church is a place where I sacrifice myself to God through singing”

Natalia Pistsova with her youngest daughter Natalia Pistsova with her youngest daughter Natalia Pistsova, singer at St. John the Baptist Church in Kirov, wife of the cleric of St. Seraphim’s Cathedral in Kirov, Priest Vasily Pistsov:

I started singing in the choir when I was a child. From the age of five I mastered singing and reading. I grew up in an Orthodox family—my parents raised me accordingly, instilling in me the most important ideas about God and my neighbor. Singing and Church are an integral part of my life, because as long as I can remember, I have always sung—this is my second self. The church is my home: it is a place where I offer myself to God fully through singing and serving Him.

Batiushka and I are raising four children—three girls and one boy. The oldest is sixteen, and the youngest is three.

Natalia Pistsova with her husband, Fr. Vasily, and children Natalia Pistsova with her husband, Fr. Vasily, and children The priest brings a moral element into raising children, instilling in them the most valuable concepts about God and people, and gives answers to their questions. I try to instill in them the right habits, the right approach to life and different situations, and most importantly, I help them learn how to make good decisions. It is a very interesting and complex process (because there is a struggle, free will is manifested, with each of them having his own). At the same time, it is important to understand that every child is an individual and needs an individual approach; and of course, I have the task of remaining a true friend and example for them.

My hobbies are drawing, academic singing and sports. I also really like needlework.

We love to relax together outdoors, which allows us to take a break from the fuss of life. The great Orthodox feasts greatly unite us, because each of us contributes to the creation and preservation of family traditions. The most important thing is to keep in mind that love, joy, humility and piety must accompany us along our life’s paths.

To be continued…

Prepared by Lada Bayeva
Translation by Dmitry Lapa



1 The unofficial name of the Kirov region, situated in the north-east of the European part of Russia. Its administrative center, the city of Kirov, was called Vyatka between 1780 and 1934 after the river with the same name that flows there; the Vyatka Metropolis of the ROC covers the territory of the Kirov region.—Trans.

Gill Byron6/13/2024 1:22 pm
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