Biography of Servant of God, Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova (Mother Catherine of Siena, OP)

Biographical Description: Born December 23, 1882 [OS], into a family of the nobility in Moscow. Her mother died in childbirth and her father died nine days later of galloping consumption. She was raised with her four brothers in an atmosphere of goodness and love in the family of her uncle Nikolay Abrikosov, who by that time already had five children of his own. In 1903 she graduated from Girton College of Cambridge University. She was known by her classmates as “completely serious.” In 1903 she returned to Russia and married Vladimir Vladimirovich Abrikosov [a cousin]. From 1905 to 1910 they traveled in Europe and on December 20, 1908, she was received into the Catholic Church in Paris. In 1910 they returned to Moscow and in 1913 she was accepted into the novitiate of the Third Order of Saint Dominic as Sr. Catherine, in honor of Saint Catherine of Siena. She and her husband affiliated themselves with the Eastern Rite, and her husband was ordained a priest of the Eastern Rite in 1917. Soon thereafter she founded a women’s community of Third Order Sisters of Saint Dominic. [Corrections to this information received by letter to website of Assumptionist Archives from Pyotr Bezrukov, 10 February 2011: Anna Ivanovna belonged to the Byzantine (you call it Eastern) Rite of the Catholic Church not from 1917, but from the very moment of her union with Rome, December 20, 1908. Also, the Moscow Dominican community created by Anna Ivanovna from its very beginning belonged to the Byzantine rite – not just from 1917. The Moscow community of Dominicans that would subsequently be headed by Anna Ivanovna dates to 1913, not to 1917; the year 1917 is the year in which the parish community was officially constituted by Church authority, and it was in 1917 that Sister Catherine was elected superior and thereafter called “Mother Catherine.”]. Mother Catherine became the soul not only of the sisters’ community, but of the parish community as well. In the spring of 1923, after her husband, Fr. Vladimir, had been expelled from Russia, and foreseeing her own imminent arrest, she wrote to her husband in Rome: “In Russia Christ now wants only those who walk toward the complete sacrifice of themselves, like the sisters. So it seems to me that this is not a time for taking any kind of precautions – only a time for chivalry and holiness – and above all, for sacrifice and humility. . . . Obedience even to death on the cross and humility – these are the two virtues I teach the sisters.” During the night of November 12/13, 1923, she and nine other sisters were arrested in connection with a case against Russian Catholics. During the investigation and while in the prisons she conducted herself with steadfast dignity, evoking respect and giving an example not only to her sisters but also to the other arrested women, who were prepared to defend her. She continued on the path of spiritual perfection even in prison. In the indictment she was identified as the “leader of a counter-revolutionary Moscow organization with connections to the Supreme Monarchist Council abroad.” May 19, 1924 – sentenced under Articles 61 and 66 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR to ten years in prison [OGPU Collegium]. Before her departure, on the threshold of her cell, she met her convicted sisters and in her last words to them, recorded by one of the sisters, she said: “Most likely each of you, having fallen in love with God and now following Him, has asked more than once in your heart that the Lord give you the opportunity to share in His sufferings. That moment has arrived. Your wish to suffer for His sake has now been fulfilled.” She was sent to the political isolator prisons in Yekaterinburg – then in Tobolsk, then Yaroslavl, and in 1932 she was brought back to the hospital in Butyrka Prison for surgery. She was released early from prison on account of her health, but forbidden to live in the twelve major cities or the borderland regions. She settled in Kostroma. When she came to Moscow for medical appointments, she attended Mass and went to confession at St. Louis des Français Church. In 1933 she secretly met with young women interested in religious questions at the apartment of a Catholic friend, Camilla Kruczelnicka. August 5, 1933 – arrested in Kostroma and brought to Butyrka Prison for further investigation. February 19, 1934 – sentenced under Articles 58-10 and 58-11 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR to eight years in corrective labor camps [OGPU Collegium]. Sent to the Yaroslavl political isolator. June 1936 – transferred to the Butyrka Prison Hospital, where she died July 23. Her body was cremated the following day. The cause for Mother Catherine’s canonization was opened at Rome in May 2003, along with fifteen other “New Martyrs of Russia.” Excerpts from the deposition of Anna Ivanovna at her interrogation September 10, 1933: “I consider myself a proponent of a socio-political system of government as found in a democratic republic with a unicameral system of popular government based on the following constitutional premises: the complete equality before the law of the entire population with respect to civil freedoms: freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, inviolability of the person, etc. In the economic sphere, the interests of the large estate owners and financial oligarchs ought to be limited. I consider myself a proponent of a Christian Democratic party, which has as its goal the realization of the ideals of bourgeois democratic parliamentarianism not based on social origin. The Soviet system sanctions a politics of terror and the oppression of the person. The dictatorship of the Communist Party over the people has now been realized in the USSR.” November 16, 1933, Vera Khmeleva said at her interrogation: “Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova is a person most dedicated to her work; she is intelligent, well-read and a person who follows politics; she has a firm, unbending will that enabled her to endure nine years of solitary confinement and a serious surgery. She will go to all lengths for the sake of her goal. She is an organizer and leader by nature. After having sat in prisons from 1924 to 1932, she emerged full of strength and energy and once again set about her work. All the sisters once again came under her leadership.” Translator’s Note: A discrepancy in the year of birth (1881 in some sources, 1882 in others) may result from the 12-day difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars in the 1800s; December 23, 1881, on the Julian calendar would be January 4, 1882. Sources: Abrikossow, D.I., Revelations of a Russian Diplomat (Seattle, 1964), pp. 68-69, 131-134; Archives of the Assumptionists, Rome, 2ER.66, p. 1; von Burman, pp. 172-175, 534-544; GARF, f. 8409, op. 1, d. 10, l. 244-245; d. 75, l. 2, d. 113, l. 53-54, 281; d. 259, l. 225-228; d. 276, l. 218; d. 348, l. 79-101, 120-152; d. 520, l. 54; d. 1469, l. 324; Dzwonkowski, pp. 133, 375; Osipova (1996), p. 145; Osipova (1999), p. 325; Abrikosova et al. (1924 and 1934); Ott; Sokolovskyi, pp. 1-2; see also,