Вoarding Home No.3 for mentally challenged elderly and adults with special needs was established in Minsk on July 12, 1982. It is a residential care facility where the elderly and the less able who suffer from chronic mental disorders and require constant support can live on a permanent basis.
An individual who is accustomed to the comfort of her home can hardly imagine what living in a boarding home is like… Why do the sisters of mercy come here? It is very important for them to help the residents of the boarding home to reach out to God and to begin participating in the life of the Church.
The patients who suffer from mental disorders may seem to be unable to understand the services and the Sacraments of the Church. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Everyone has a soul, and it is vital to feed it spiritually, in spite of all ailments of one's body.
A French scholar who works with such people visited this boarding home one day. He said that such people have a very short way to go to reach God. Usually, an individual has to rationalize everything first, so it is difficult for her to come to God. On the contrary, the mentally challenged perceive God with all their hearts. We take them to church and, even though they cannot comprehend something by reason, they strive for the Chalice, for communion.”
It was no accident that a church in honor of St Xenia of Petersburg was built on the territory of the boarding home. The senior sister of the Sisterhood recalls: “The boarding home is the place for those who will hardly ever leave it. Many of them grew up in the boarding home for children with special needs, and then they were transferred to this boarding home. When we started visiting the psychiatric hospital and then the boarding homes, many of the patients got the chance to take communion, and naturally, we wanted them to have access to Divine Liturgy.
That was how the idea to establish a church within the premises of the boarding home came about. No one gave a second thought as to how this church would be called… A priest from another parish asked us, “Who will be the patron saint of your new church?” “We haven't thought about it yet… A church is a church, that's all…” “I think St Xenia of Petersburg Church would be a good name for it…” Indeed, we agreed that it was the most appropriate name for this church — St Xenia of Petersburg Church.”
Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok: “The residents of the boarding home sing prayers in the church, and an akathist to St Xenia is served in this church weekly — you cannot see anything like that anywhere else. God's grace is visible in the boarding home, as if it covered this seemingly sorrowful place. The eyes of the patients after they receive Communion are amazing — they shine with celestial warmth. After you see them, you are sure to believe that God exists. There is also a Sunday school in the boarding home.
Those who live in the boarding home are very sympathetic with other people, they are very compassionate. They are simple, trustful like children, and more attentive. When they look at a person, they immediately see him through.
God loves these people, as they are precious for Him. The illnesses and sorrows that the residents of the boarding home have to face today are a shield that protects them from the lures and the vices of this world that might appear to be attractive to an outsider but is in fact dirty and pernicious in its essence. They live in a different world. It is not easy for us to stay in their world because there is no deceit, no hypocrisy, which is so typical of our world.
Yes, they may be rude, they may swear, their behavior may be far from the ideal. We should not idealize them. Nevertheless, they possess something that makes it possible for them to talk with God and to see deep into the personal problems of other people. Their world is the world of sincerity and simplicity. It is a different dimension, a different land. You feel different here because people are what they are.”