Following an age-old ritual, Perlimaa Gavaadandov pays homage to the sky by spilling a cup of freshly boiled milk tea just outside her yurt on the outskirts of Mongolia’s grasslands.
However, at the conclusion of her usual morning routine, the 71-year-old pauses for a quick Christian prayer and crosses herself over the breast.
“For me, I offer this to our god and pray, without losing our culture,” said Gavaadandov, a member of Mongolia’s tiny Catholic minority, which the Church estimates to number around 1,450 people.
It was important to keep alive Mongolian traditions alongside her Catholic faith, she said.
“I also teach my children to preserve this valuable heritage,” added Gavaadandov, who wore an orange deel, or traditional silk robe.
With Pope Francis set to arrive on Thursday in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, she and several fellow parishioners hope to greet him and follow his every step until he leaves on Sept. 4.
“I am so excited that he is coming and I’ll get the chance to meet him in person, especially since he is the leader of the Catholic religion,” she said. “I can’t wait to see him.”
Gavaadandov, who lives on the outskirts of the central city of Arvaikheer, became a Catholic about 18 years ago, soon after a mission set up in her neighbourhood, being drawn initially by her curiosity at the foreigners speaking accented Mongolian.