Samarkand (Agenzia Fides) - "Summer is a privileged time to increase faith, and here in Uzbekistan the Lord is granting us the grace to carry out a truly important work of formation and deepening of spirituality. Last year we priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word had just arrived in Samarkand and were unable to organize many activities because it was necessary to restore the church and all the parish environments; now that we have renewed spaces, we are happy to make them available to all Uzbek Catholic communities. Only a part of the summer has passed, yet we are already very happy with the results achieved so far". This is what Fr. Ariel Alvarez Toncovich, priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and parish priest of the church of St. John the Baptist in Samarkand, Uzbekistan said, talking about the summer pastoral activities dedicated to children and young people from all the parishes of the Central Asian country. One of the most beautiful fruits, the work of God's grace, reports the missionary, is the first religious vocation of an Uzbek girl, who expressed the desire to consecrate herself to God: a "little plant of faith" - he notes - that will be have to be cultivated on the path which has just begun in the Institute of the Incarnate Word, which will lead her towards the consecration of life.
Among the pastoral activities, the first pastoral appointment, in the month of July - says Fr. Ariel Alvarez Toncovich - was dedicated to the little ones: "For five days, we welcomed 22 children from Fergana, Bukhara and of course Samarkand. It may seem a small number when compared to other realities, but for the Church in Uzbekistan it is an important result. We spent the days dedicated to historical walks around the city, organizing mountain tours and games related to the Gospel. In this way, the children had the opportunity to have fun and learn", explains the missionary.
Also in July it was the turn of the young people to meet in the parish of St. John the Baptist: "We hosted 27 young people from all the Uzbek parishes. Also in this case - observes the missionary - we organized recreational activities, combined with formative moments, which touched on interesting topics for the daily life of young people. Furthermore, we tried to create the ideal conditions for the children to come and talk about their problems with us priests: many have told us about their concerns, including vocational ones. This is one of the most beautiful fruits of the experience. The five days were characterized by an atmosphere of joy, and the participants said they had lived according to 'a spirit of true Catholic Church'. It is a comment that made us reflect a lot".
In this period, the parish of Samarkand hosts the summer oratory dedicated to the children of the city: "We have about ten, and for us it is a beautiful thing because when we arrived there were only two. They come from families that have some Catholic grandfather or great-grandfather. In some cases, the parents are not baptized, but they want the children to come to us. As a Muslim grandmother, who regularly accompanies her grandchildren to the oratory, told me, the Catholic community is seen as a chance to give one's children a 'rich and open' education. Another grandfather told us that he sees the parish as a healthy environment for his grandson to grow. Often these children invite their peers, who of course we can only welcome if the parents agree and sign a permit. Many of them, at the wish of the families, will be baptized and will begin catechism". The greatest fruit of this work, explains Fr. Toncovich, is the first vocation to consecrated life in Samarkand: "One of the girls from our parish asked to enter the monastery: she is 21 years old, she always comes to mass and one day she talked to us about her vocation, saying that she wanted to consecrate herself to God, but she did not know how to do it because the only community of nuns present in Uzbekistan are very far from our city. A few months ago she entered the congregation of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and she began her novitiate path. This represents a reason for great joy for us also because, as John Paul II said, vocations are a sign of the vitality of parishes". Currently the small Uzbek Catholic community, made up of about 3,000 baptized, counts, throughout the country, 5 parishes: in addition to that of Samarkand, there are about 700 faithful in the capital Tashkent and there are others present in Bukhara, Urgench and Fergana. (LF/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 5/8/2022)