Working with exiled nyelorussians in England
'C.H.1 Reporter JUST back from America, where he has been Interesting people in the unique work the Pope has asked him to do in Britain, is Fr. C. Sipovich, M.I.C., head of the tiny British community of Slav-Byzantine Rite Catholics, with headquarters at Marian House, North London.
For the last 10 years he has worked among his Byelorussian compatriots in exile here, most of whom are Orthodox, ever very much in the forefront whenever help is needed, cultural as well as charitable.
But there is a debt on Marian House. and the work has been expanded. Hence his visit to America.
There is another aipostolate to which Fr. Sipovich is devoted, that of making his beautiful rite known to Latin Catholics, together with its history and wealth of devotional lore. One of the finest of London mixed choirs sings at Marian House at the Sunday Mass.
On a recent visit to Marian House, Fr. Sipovich introduced me to his assistant priest, Fr. Constantine Maskalik, who has the unique " distinction " of having once served in the artillery of Russia's Red Army, though very much against his will. But that was before he became a Catholic.
This 39-year-old priest is a secular, unlike Fr. Sipovieh, who belongs to the Marian Congregation. But be also comes from the same district behind the Iron Curtain, Byelorussia. There, in his Orthodox days, the young Constantine helped in his father's farm, and had an inclination to enter religious life.
He would stay a while in one monastery after another, but found (he superior were prepared to have him ordained priest without insisting on prior scholastic preparation and religious formation.
This, Fr. Constantine told me. did not suit him at all. He felt that he had first of all to get to know something anyway about the religion of Christ to which he was so irresistibly drawn.
When be was conscripted into Stalin's army, he went on saying his prayers despite the sneers of his comrades, and actually taught them to at least one soldier who came secretly to him for instruction.
Stalin rewarded Constantine's steadfast adherence to Christianity by posting him to a Workers' Battalion, to hew stones for road building. Eventually there came his transference to the Polish Army, with campaigning in Italy, where he made Catholic friends, was attracted to the Church, and was received.
He studied at the Gregorian University, Rome, and was ordained in 1955. Since then he has been assistant to Fr. Sipovich at Marian Hoose, where the attractive little chapel with its artistic liturgical screen ('• iconostatis") draws an increasing number of people for Sunday Mass.