ULAANBAATAR (Dec 18, 2022): A Marian statue discovered in rural Mongolia has become a lauded symbol of Mary’s presence to the whole Mongolian Catholic community. The wooden statue was enshrined and enshrouded at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul here in an event where 400 lay and religious, including the Apostolic Ambassador, gathered in the cold after the procession to commemorate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
“Dear brothers and sisters, allow me firstly to convey to the faithful, priests and religious of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar as well as to the civil authorities here present the greetings of Pope Francis, who has entrusted me to generously impart to you his apostolic blessing and the assurances of his closeness,” read Apostolic Ambassador Alfred Schüreb from the homily prepared by Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Holy See, who was planning to visit Mongolia. The official visit of Archbishop Gallagher was canceled due to ongoing protests in Mongolia against its government. The Mongolian government decided overnight to postpone all official visits, reported the Catholic Church in Mongolia.
Ambassador Schüreb read during the homily the statue’s story, “Sometime ago in the city of Darkhan, a woman was searching through a waste pile for anything that might provide for her large family and for herself, when she came upon a priceless statue that had been wrapped in cloth. Mrs Tsetsegee, astonished, carried the beautiful lady to her own home, purely overjoyed that she had been chosen to find her.”
Tsetsegee then brought the statue to her nearby local church. From there, it has been transferred to the capital. Tsetsegee could not attend the commemoratory Mass due to an illness that has hospitalised her.
“What can we learn from this story?” continued Ambassador Schüreb, “That the Almighty God willingly chooses to humble Himself to the extent of getting mixed up in the dirt of our humanity.”
Prior to Mass, festivities for the Immaculate Conception began outside in -19°C weather. With the setting sun, this fell to -20°C before the hour’s end. Parishioners gathered with the statue held high, to sing and circumambulate the cathedral. They prayed that Thursday’s Luminous Mysteries of the rosary processing inside.
During the Gloria, participants enshrined the Marian statue upon a pedestal and invested it with the “Cloak of Blessing” (“Ивээлийн нөмрөг”). Bishop Giorgio Cardinal Marengo presided over the two-hour Mass, live-streamed over Facebook.
“When our Holy Father hopefully comes,” expressed Cardinal Marengo, “we will ask him to bless this statue and to officially give it a special name, so that we can remember this statue with particular devotion.” For now, Cardinal Marengo has named it “Divine Mother Mary” (“Тэнгэрлэг Эх Мариа”). In his pastoral letter, he announced 2023 as a year of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In preparation for the Immaculate Conception festivities, the church prayed a novena from Nov 29 to Dec 7. Since August, people from the Mongolian Catholic community offered personal accessories and cloth rags with meaning and value. Members sewed these into what became known as the Marian statue’s Cloak of Blessing with 340 pieces of fabric forming the shroud.
After blessing the prayers parishioners sent throughout the novena, Cardinal Marengo read out some of the prayers. He also said: “And now as you come to this church, please feel free to worship the Lord present here in the Blessed Sacrament, always waiting for us, and kneel down in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Later, Cardinal Marengo presented the letter of religious responsibility for 2023 to the senior priests of the parish.
Daniel Lindbergh Lang, from the US, is serving as a volunteer in Mongolia. Earlier this year, he served in Southeast Asia with the Catholic St Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society.