The month before we left for Magadan, I began to struggle with doubts about our mission’s effectiveness. I began wondering, “Is this mission really going to bear fruit?” Having spent last summer doing the catechetical program Totus Tuus, it was difficult for me to see how we would impact people by teaching English. Instead of, for example, helping children understand the true presence of the Eucharist, this summer I would be teaching the A,B,Cs. On top of this seemingly insignificant task, I don’t speak Russian. I began to ask myself, “How will I make a difference in people’s lives if I don’t even speak their language?” These doubts really took a toll on me, and I began to get discouraged. However, I trusted that I was in Our Lady’s hands. I had been praying to Our Blessed Mother a lot during our preparations for mission (for example, renewing my consecration to her), and I strongly suspected that she, being the loving mother that she is, would have something special in store for me in Fatima.
When we arrived in Fatima, the first thing we did after settling into our Airbnb house was go to Mass at the Chapel of the Apparitions. After Mass, our team dispersed to different places throughout the Shrine to pray. Lisa Nguyen and I headed over to the Shrine’s adoration chapel to make a holy hour. I began my holy hour, but, being tired from traveling, I found it hard to stay awake. So I decided to get up and walk around. I left the chapel, and, as I prayed and walked the holy grounds of the Shrine, I stumbled into a chapel in which confessions were being heard. Feeling led there by Our Lady, I sat down and began to prepare for confession. I prepared and then went into the confessional with the English-speaking priest. Among other things, I confessed doubting the effectiveness of our mission to Russia. After I confessed my sins, the priest asked me why our team was going to Russia. I explained that we were going to Russia largely in response to Our Lady of Fatima’s promise that Russia will be converted. Then the priest said something that I will carry with me for entirety of mission (and possibly my life!). He leaned over, looked at me, and said, “This is not your mission. It’s Our Lady’s mission! As long as you put Jesus and Mary at the center of your mission, you will be fine.”
These words spoke right to my heart. “It’s Our Lady’s mission!” Yes, this is not my mission, but Mother Mary’s. Upon reflection on this truth, I saw how in my preparations for mission, I had become too concerned about the human aspects of our mission, e.i. the fact that I’d be teaching English and that I didn’t know Russian. I had forgotten that a mission’s fruit ultimately depends not on us but on God. I felt at ease knowing that this mission was not mine but Our Lady’s. After hearing Father’s words, “This is not your mission. It’s Our Lady’s,” it became clear to me that this two month mission to Magadan will truly be fruitful, not because of my efforts, but because it is apart of Our Lady’s larger mission: the conversion of Russia. Regardless of my efforts and the fact that I’m teaching English, this mission will touch lives. Why? Because it’s not my mission; it’s Our Lady’s. She desires it, and because it is in her hands, it will bear much fruit.
I am reminded of the image of a tapestry that Katalyn Miller, one of the first missionaries to Magadan, received while on mission here in Magadan. Throughout mission, she was presented with the image of a tapestry, and she reflected on how a tapestry is made up of thousands of threads which together produce a beautiful picture. Reflecting on her work in Magadan, she recognized that she was only a small part in God’s plan. Now four years later, I too am reflecting on how the eight of us missionaries are only a small thread in the beautiful tapestry Our Lady is creating in Russia. I feel so blessed and am thankful to Our Lady for calling me to be apart of her beautiful mission! Please continue to pray for us so that we may continue to be instruments in Our Lady’s hands for the glory to God!
Joseph Young and the Russia Mission Team