Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Servatius Parish, Maastricht

In the year of our Lord 1976, the small community dedicated to St. John Chrysostom and St. Servatius was founded in Maastricht, under the obedience of the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox parishes in Western Europe (often abbreviated “rue Daru”) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The same year, Father Guido - future Archbishop Gabriel - was ordained deacon then priest for this new parish coming under the cathedral of Paris, by Mgr Georges of Syracuse (Tarassoff). That is why we can consider this year as our founding date. Monsignor Gabriel died in 2013.

The seventies were marked throughout our country by a great missionary impetus aimed at building a local Church in the vernacular language. Thanks to the work of the late Archimandrite Adrian of The Hague Monastery, the most important liturgical books were translated, perhaps not perfectly, but for a young parish there was an opportunity here to celebrate the liturgical cycle.

At its beginnings our community took advantage of the hospitality of the Ursuline Sisters, who made a room available to us in their convent for liturgical celebrations. This room was very large and not accessible from the street. That's why we quickly searched for a property for ourselves. It cannot be said that our city, so ancient and so Christian - seven holy bishops in the first seven centuries - has a lack of chapels or churches: but all of them were too expensive, too large or not available for worship. The only possibility was to buy a store or an old house large enough to set up a place of worship, with the possibility of living there.

With God's help, in 1981 we found a billiard store. But the house, built at the end of the 19th century, was in a state of neglect. First of all, a new facade was needed. In 1985, the time had finally come and the new church could be inaugurated, although, inside, everything was not as we had imagined. But we still have time for this.

The dedication of the church was the start of a period of momentum and activity. At that time, the parish was completely Dutch-speaking, apart from two Greek parishioners, also Dutch-speaking. At the same time Maastricht was developing: since the nineties the first immigrants from the East had arrived - some for a limited time, before being "relocated": Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Serbs. But the liturgical language, Dutch, was an obstacle for them.

The beginning of the 21st century was catastrophic for Orthodoxy in the Netherlands: suddenly the number of priests dropped from 6 to 1: Vladyka Gabriel was appointed in Liège, Fr. Lambert left for Nantes, Fr. Martin died, Fr. Pacôme, diabetic, with both legs amputated, lived in a nursing home, and Fr. Seraphim, overloaded, abandoned the priesthood. Only Fr. Theodore remained with us. For a few months an American priest, chaplain serving on a NATO base, came to celebrate with us.

But it was not just the ecclesiastical situation that was changing. The demography in Maastricht was undergoing major changes. The university was showing unprecedented growth thanks to the influx of students from abroad, especially from Eastern and Southern Europe. As a result of the Maastricht Treaty (1992), the university received the right to award European (and no longer just national) degrees. A second (Japanese) university was created. Many higher education establishments in the city obtained university status. Above all, the language of instruction changed from Dutch to English. Currently 15% of the inhabitants of Maastricht are students, of which about half are foreigners.

After his election as Archbishop in 2003, Vladyka Gabriel left for Paris and the parish had to close temporarily. Reopened in 2005, new faithful came: students from Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Cyprus, Scotland, Albania… At one point there were 16 nationalities in the parish. There was also the possibility of doing a 3-month "post-doctorate"; thus tce was a constant "coming and going" of the faithful in the parish, but not of a Dutch-speaking priest, nor of a Dutch-speaking cantor. Gradually the liturgical language became Slavonic with a little English, while stubbornly keeping a little Dutch. Vladyka Gabriel sent a priest from Paris twice a month, usually a student from St. Sergius. Under Bishop Job this last possibility was suppressed, without offering another solution. I had to go to Poland to ask Metropolitan Savva to send us a student, who was offered the possibility of studying in Louvain (partially also English-speaking) and, in return, to celebrate two weekends a month in our parish. This is for a limited time.

Finally - in 2017 - the good Lord answered our prayers and Metropolitan John ordained a new priest for our parish: the priest Serge Kriger. Now again, services can take place on a regular basis, and in three languages!