On May 7, 2016, in St. Nickolas church in Kiev, the first Oblate and first priest ever from Turkmenistan was ordained – Fr. Anton LITVINOV.The new priest received the Sacrament of Holy Orders from his Oblate brother, Bishop Radoslaw ZMITROWICZ, Auxiliary of Kamyanets-Podilskyi.
Turkmenistan is a vast country, 80% of which is a desert. Since the first Oblate came there 19 years ago, after a century of atheist propaganda, there are around 300 Catholics. At the beginning of the 20th century, in Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, there was a Catholic sanctuary, which was taken away from the faithful and completely destroyed by communists after it had suffered major damage from an earthquake. It seemed that it would be extremely difficult to re-plant the seed of faith in the desert, but a request for a priest for Turkmenistan came from Krasnovodsk – the place where Fr. Anton Litvinov was born. To respond to this request of the Church, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were sent there. Despite extremely difficult circumstances, they continue their service there, and their mission has resulted in this priestly vocation.
Standing joyfully at the altar next to the Bishop was a Polish Oblate, Fr. Andrzej MADEJ, who has served for these past 19 years in Turkmenistan. With the Bishop, Fr. Andrzej was one of the first Oblates who came to Fr. Anton’s village.
Acknowledging the historic character of this ordination, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Oblate Superior General, wrote to the newly ordained: “I rejoice with you and all the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Ukraine and Turkmenistan for the grace of your ordination and on this day of your First Mass! I am filled with gratitude to God for your vocation which is a wonderful fruit of the Holy Spirit working through the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Turkmenistan. You are the first Turkman Oblate and we hope that many young men from your country will follow your example and become great missionaries for the Church. I give thanks to God that you have said ‘Yes!’ to his call and have persevered in following Jesus. I thank your family for the good values and the faith which they have given you.”
The event was attended by Oblates from all over Ukraine and from Crimea. Fr. Anton’s mother came from Turkmenistan; his relatives and friends arrived from other countries. The longest trip was made from Canada by Fr. Tomasz KOSCINSKI. The Oblates’ Polish Province was represented by the Vicar Provincial Vicar, Fr. Marian PUCHALA. St. Nickolas church in Kiev was filled with laity and religious women, rejoicing with Fr. Anton who had served there during his time as a deacon. (Fr. Pavlo VYSHKOVSKYI)