Spotlight on Spiritual Maternity: Anna Stang
Congregation for the Clergy
Anna Stang endured great suffering during the Communist persecution, and like many other women in her situation, she offered it up for priests. In her old age, she has become a woman with a priestly spirit.
Anna Stang was born in 1909 to a large faithful family living in the German area of the Volga in Russia. She began suffering for the faith as a nine-year-old schoolgirl. She writes, “...In 1918, in second grade, we still prayed the Our Father before class. One year later, everything was forbidden and the priest was no longer allowed in the school. People began to laugh at those of us who believed, showing no respect for the priests anymore, and the seminary was destroyed.”
When she was 11 years old, Anna lost her father and several siblings to a Cholera epidemic. When her mother died six years later, Anna was left to raise her younger brothers and sisters. Not only did they lose their parents, but, “Our priest also died at this time, and many religious were arrested. So we were left without a pastor! That was so difficult. ... In the neighboring parish, the church was still open, but there was no longer a priest there either. The faithful gathered for prayer, but without a priest, the church was very cold. I just used to cry, no longer being able to hold myself together. Earlier, this church had been filled with so much song and prayer! Everything seemed dead to me.”
Deeply afflicted by this spiritual suffering, Anna prayed from that moment on especially for priests and missionaries. “Lord, give us another priest, give us Holy Communion! I gladly suffer everything for you, O most Sacred Heart of Jesus!” All the suffering which she endured in the following years, she consciously offered for priests—even when the Communists raided their house in 1938 and arrested her brother and the husband to whom she had been happily married for seven years. Neither of them ever returned.
A Priestly Service
In 1942, the young widow, was deported with her three children to Kazakhstan. “It was hard, arriving in the bitter cold of winter, but we lived through it to see spring. In those days I cried a lot but I also prayed a lot. It was always as if somebody was leading me by the hand. Some time later, I found some Catholic women in the city of Siryanovsk. We secretly congregated on Sundays and solemnities to sing hymns and pray the Rosary. I prayed so often, ‘Mary, our beloved mother, see how poor we are; send us priests, teachers and pastors again!’”
The persecution subsided somewhat after 1965. “A church was even built in Bishkek (the capital of Kirghistan), and once a year my friend Veronica and I went there for Holy Mass. It was a long way, more than 1000 kilometers, but we were so happy to go. We had not seen a priest or a confessional for more than 20 years! The priest there was old and had spent 10 years in prison for his faith. While I was there, somebody lent me a key to the church allowing me to spend a long time in adoration. I never thought that I would be so close to the tabernacle again, and in my joy, I knelt down and kissed it.”
Before returning home, Anna always received permission to bring Holy Communion back to the Catholics in her city who could not make such a trip. “With the mandate of the priest, I baptized the children and adults in my city for 30 years; I led couples to the sacrament of marriage and buried the dead until my health no longer permitted it.”
Hidden Prayers...That a Priest Might Come!
You cannot imagine how thankful Anna was when a missionary priest visited her home for the first time in 1995. She cried for joy and said so movingly, “Jesus the High Priest has come!” At 86 years of age, having prayed for decades for priests and missionaries, she no longer believed she would see them again.
Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in the apartment of this exceptional woman who possessed a true priestly spirit. Out of reverence and joy for the reception of Holy Communion, she ate nothing for the entire day.
This testimony first appeared in the 2007 publication Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity, published by the Congregation for the Clergy. Reprinted with permission.