“There was nothing. There was no church structure. There was no Catholic — no Mongolian Catholic. We really started from zero,” said Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, CICM, bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture of Mongolia. He was recalling his 1992 arrival as leader of a team of the first three missionary priests in that far-off country, slightly smaller than Alaska and encircled by China and Russia.
In this land of harsh winters, searing summers, towering mountains and the Gobi Desert, the church, with Bishop Padilla at the helm, nonetheless found fertile ground for evangelization. From a Christian population of zero, he has seen Catholicism in Mongolia take root and blossom, growing to approximately 300 persons in a predominantly Buddhist country. One hundred more Mongolians are presently preparing for baptism this coming Easter. “The church is very new,” said Bishop Padilla. “I call it an infant church, a baby church.”