Oziornoje, a small town in the middle of Kazakh Steppe shows how the Lord can turn wilderness into a lovely Mary’s Garden… Its first inhabitants without wanting it, came there in 1936 during the Stalin era – people of Polish origin unlawfully displaced from the Soviet Ukraine. They were welcomed by a vast and completely empty land. They lived through the first summer in tents, until, by the time winter came, with an invaluable help of Kazakh people, they managed to construct simple dugouts (called ziemlyankas).
Oziornoje - Altar
Their personal freedom was restricted. They were forbidden by the then authorities to move without getting a permit and they always had to report their residency to the local authorities. Hunger and diseases which decimated their population, were widespread. The repatriates would not have survived if not for their living faith. For among few personal belongings, there was something they would carry with themselves anywhere, against any kind of restrictions. It was the spirit of prayer, especially rosary prayer.
Hunger grew even worse in 1941, when the war between Stalin and Hitler broke out and all food was taken for the needs of the battle front. The people started to pray, personally and in community, saying the rosary in secret. Their trustful prayer was heard soon and on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25, 1941, next to the town, a huge and deep lake began to form. Before long, it was full of fish and fed not only the inhabitants of Oziornoje but also those coming from other towns. Now in the place of the lake, a statue of Our Lady of the Fish is standing, manufactured in Poland and blessed by St. John Paul II during one of his visits to Poland.
OZIORNOJE – NOW
Present day Oziornoje is altogether different. It counts with only around 600 inhabitants but the houses are nice and neat, each one with its small flower and vegetable garden. The House of the Lord is there too. The fruit of a long and painful years of waiting and toilsome construction… It was consecrated in 1993 by a Polish Bishop John Paul Lenga who had been ministering for many years in Kazakhstan. Prior to it, in 1991 a priest from Holland, Fr. Nico Hogland donated a statue of Our Lady for Oziornoje expressing his wish that the new church would be dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace. His petition was granted and thus, the Queen of Peace came to establish her Kingdom in this land thirsty for peace. Her unassuming presence would be highlighted again very soon, for the benefit of all. In 1994 Bishop Lenga proclaimed Our Lady Queen of Peace to be the Main Patroness of Kazakhstan and the entire Central Asia. One year later he entrusted Kazakhstan in a very special way to her motherly care and St. John Paul II renewed this act of entrustment during his pastoral visit to Kazakhstan in 2001.
One of the most beautiful initiatives in Oziornoje is the All Day Eucharistic Adoration that has been initiated on 25 March 1996 and has been held ceaselessly ever since. Without a doubt, this perseverant prayer has contributed to granting the Parish Church in Oziornoje the title of the National Shrine of Our Lady Queen of Peace for the entire Kazakhstan. Pilgrims from all over the country and from abroad come to it, walking and by coaches each year, from spring till autumn, particularly in summer (July 7, parish patronal feast of Our Lady Queen of Peace and August 15, The Assumption). In August 1999 youth meetings were started by the Community of Beatitudes. They gather young people from different parts of the country for a few days spent together in prayer and holiday relax.
Isn’t it wilderness turning into a beautiful Mary’s Garden? Yes it is. However, more blessings were about to touch this small town removed from any semblance of civilization, although not removed from the Lord’s sight…
ANOTHER STAR IN THE CROWN OF MARY
St. John Paul II in his book called “Rise, Let us be on our Way”, reminds his words uttered in Manila in 1995 during his second visit to the Philippines: “Asia: this is our common task for the Third Millenium!”. Being aware of this summons, “Communita Regina della Pace” Association welcomed joyfully and eagerly an invitation extended to us in autumn 2009 by His Grace Archbishop Tomasz Peta who ministers in Kazakhstan, to incorporate this country into “the prayer peace crusade” and to create there a Centre of Prayer for Peace.
The initial talks with the Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Oziornoje and the then Parish Priest Rev. Lucjan Pocałun helped us to know the character of the place through its history. Consequently, in August 2010 we made our first, indeed splendid, visit to this place where Our Lady is loved dearly. We were overwhelmed by the atmosphere of sacredness of this land… The open space of the Steppe finally led us to the place where heaven meets earth. There we saw two church towers of Oziornoje…
“THE STAR OF KAZAKHSTAN”
The Marian Congress held in Petropavlovsk and Oziornoje preceded a momentous event in the life of the Catholic Church in Kazakhstan. During a solemn Mass concluding the Congress, on 3 July 2011 the Shrine of Our Lady Queen of Peace was granted with the title of the National Shrine and officially incorporated into the Work of “The 12 Stars in the Crown of Mary, Queen of Peace”.
Soon the Association took steps in order that the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the newly constructed chapel could be held in an altar designed especially for this purpose. The altar which would constitute a material sign expressing love of Eucharistic Jesus and also a sign symbolizing that this place belongs to the spiritual Work of “The 12 Stars in the Crown of Mary”.
A Polish atelier “Drapikowski Studio” undertook the accomplishment of the altar of Eucharistic adoration, called “The Star of Kazakhstan”. It is an impressive five-winged altarpiece (pentaptych) which artistically conveys the fathomless mystery and the depths of the Divine Mercy. Versatile and rich spiritual inspirations come, among others, from the gospel of St. Luke, called the gospel of mercy, as well as from the Roman Triptych of St. John Paul II. Therefore, before opening its panels, the altarpiece presents the figures of Abraham and Isaac (an echo of an Old Testament story of the trial which Abraham underwent when God asked the sacrifice of his only son, Isaac). Moreover, the figures of contemporary apostles of Divine Mercy, St. Sister Faustina and St. John Paul II are depicted too. After opening the wings of the altar, we see centrally a beautiful scene of Mary, holding tenderly her Son, Jesus, present in the Eucharist.
Once the altarpiece was ready, before all else, we carried it to the Vatican to ask the Holy Father’s blessing. Our desire came true on October 10, 2012 when “The Star of Kazakhstan” was blessed by the Pope Benedict XVI. Now the Altar was ready to set out for peregrination across Polish cathedrals and shrines. Large numbers of people full of zeal to pray and adore Eucharistic Jesus for the intention of peace gathered everywhere. It was great joy for us to see so many of them who understand the urgent need of prayer for this particular intention. The lasting fruit of this peregrination are new prayer groups in parishes and adoration chapels being established in spiritual union with the Work of “The 12 Stars in the Crown of Mary Queen of Peace”.
The following year 2013 was marked with a very important ceremony. On the Solemnity of Our Lady Queen of Poland, May 3, in Jasna Góra Shrine of the Black Madonna, the Altar was officially handed over to the Kazakh Church. This ceremony was celebrated in union with the Polish Episcopate and in the presence of His Grace Archbishop Joseph Michalik, His Grace Archbishop of Astana Tomasz Peta (the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Kazakhstan, the Metropolitan of Astana) and His Excellency Mr. Erik Utembajew, the Kazakhstan Ambassador to the Republic of Poland.
The solemn inauguration of the Eucharistic Adoration before the altar in Kazakhstan took place during the First Eucharistic Congress in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Astana, on July 6 and 7, 2013. Among those who were present there, there were: the then Primate of Poland, His Grace Archbishop Joseph Kowalczyk, the Apostolic Nuncio for Middle Asia, His Grace Archbishop Miguel Maura Buendia, the Leader of the Religious Affairs Committee, Mr. Lama Sharif, and the representatives of our Association too.
As a continuation of the Adoration that had been held ceaselessly since March 25, 1996 in Oziornoje, on July 2, 2014 the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in “The Star of Kazakhstan” was inaugurated there. It was then that the Shrine practically became a Star in the Crown of Mary Queen of Peace. The representatives of the local authorities were present: the Leader of the Voivode Committee for Religious Affairs in Petropavlovsk and Akim (Head) of Tajynsza Region. The “illumination of Kazakh Star” was initiated by a solemn Eucharist celebrated by His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah, the then President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” from the Vatican. The Cardinal stressed the importance of promoting the idea of prayer for peace in the world. He also appealed for care and prayer for Muslim-Christian relations in Africa. The President of “Communita Regina della Pace” Association, Mr. Piotr Ciołkiewicz pointed out in his speech that the altar was an offering of sacrifice and prayer of many Poles to Kazakhstan. Addressing the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Kazakhstan, he said: “I would like to express our gratitude to His Grace Archbishop Tomasz Peta for having invited us to bring this work for peace to Oziornoje”.
In June 2014 the altar “The Star of Kazakhstan” was located in the newly constructed chapel at the National Shrine of Queen of Peace – the Patroness of Kazakhstan. The prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament continue there ceaselessly since the chapel was consecrated. It occurs every day from 10 am to 6 pm, inscribing itself thus in a long tradition of Eucharistic Adoration which began in 1996. As Fr. Tomasz Bartczak, the Rector of the Shrine told us, many parishioners enroll for 2-hour blocks of adoration, some of them even more than once a month. The religious sisters and priests support them in prayer too. Each day the Divine Mercy Chaplet is recited in prayerful union with “Communita Regina della Pace” Association and with other places on earth where prayer for peace rises up.
Always being grateful to the Lord for His great deeds that we witness, we would like to express our deep gratitude to all who support this Work both spiritually and materially, without whose contribution the Work would not be possible. Let God’s abundant blessing be a reward for each and every one of you.
Last but not least, we wholeheartedly invite you to join our chain of hearts sincerely pleading to the Lord for peace on Earth. You might be able to offer a Holy Hour, Holy Mass, say a rosary, or offer up your sufferings for this intention. The world needs it very much. We also invite you to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org