NOT many people would associate the vast expanses of Mongolia with Catholicism, but that is changing. Mongolia may be home to the world’s youngest Catholic Church—established in 1991 after the fall of communism—but it is a place where the Faith is slowly but surely growing.
In 1992, Bishop Wenceslao (Wens) Padilla—a Filipino from the Italian Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary—and two fellow missionary priests, travelled to
Mongolia to build the Church ‘from scratch’ in a country known to other missionaries as the ‘hardship country.’
Bishop Wens recalls that when he first arrived, the country—which was mostly comprised of nomadic herders—had no knowledge of Christianity and was struggling with alcoholism, domestic abuse, minimal government social services and extreme poverty.
Building the Church in Mongolia
Today, throughout the vast and remote country of less than three million people, proudly stand six Catholic churches.
Missio Scotland—as part of the Pontifical Mission Societies worldwide—has supported the Mongolian Catholic Church through its generous and faithful donors and helped build the very first church in Mongolia just three years after Bishop Wens arrived.
The vast majority of its Catholics have come to the Faith later in their lives—very few were born into Catholic families. One of the biggest challenges facing the Church in Mongolia is that there are few locally born priests or sisters so the Church relies heavily on local Catechists to develop learning materials and ways to bring the Gospel into the everyday lives of Mongolians.
Missio Scotland supports the training, resources and work of the Catechists and seminarians, plus many community development projects for those living in poverty. Due to the poverty in the country, the Mongolian Catholic Church receives no local income and needs our prayers and financial support to continue to build the Church and through it the Kingdom of God in the remote areas of their country. By supporting us, you are supporting all of these outreach activities in Mongolia.
“Jesus said to St Peter: ‘Upon this rock, I will build my Church.’ And I’m thinking that was also addressed to me when I came to Mongolia,” Bishop Wens said. “Without the Church, without the Congregation, sending me to come to the mission, I could not be in Mongolia. And without the support of funding institutions, without their collaboration, without their partnership, we could not have this mission.”
Thanks to the spiritual and practical outreach of faithful missionaries every year, more and more Mongolians hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and accept Jesus into their lives.
One such Mongolian is Gantulga, who, along with his family have had their lives dramatically transformed after accepting Jesus into their hearts. They live in the rural town of Arvaiheer, some 440km from the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. The family first learned of the Catholic Church when they moved to the town after tragically losing all of their livestock. They were one of a few lucky families to be given a ger—a traditional Mongolian round tent dwelling—while his wife Uurtsaikh and the children started attending activities run by the local Catholic Church.
“There is a positive influence of the Church in this whole community,” Gantulga said. “Their lives have been changing for the better and you can feel that there is a change. There is more joy and happiness around us and there has been a big change in the lives of many people.
“When I started going to Church and feeling how God’s mercy reaches me, I felt that I had to receive Baptism.”
The prayers and generous support offered Missio Scotland directly benefit the Mission Church in places like Mongolia where the young Church is growing, filled with zeal for the faith, but lacking resources for its outreach to families and those in need. Such support is a concrete way to ‘build our Church’ and to deepen our relationship with Jesus.