The Francisan Friars, along side other religious orders, relief organizations and countless civilian volunteers, are doing amazing things in support of those ravaged by the war in Ukraine.
From the very first moments of the Russian invasion, the Friars have been collecting and distributing much needed supplies, assisting with the transportation of those fleeing their homes and country, and providing shelter, food and comfort for refugees, both in Ukraine and in neighboring countries. This follows a tradition, dating back to the time of St. Francis, in which the Friars, at great risk to their own personal safety, have served the poor, oppressed and suffering around the world. Their history is filled with saints and martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in similar service. Thus, their work in Ukraine is extraordinary, but in no way out of the ordinary.
The Friars are present in Ukraine and they have been supported, since the start of the conflict, by benefactors such as the Companions of St. Anthony, and Friars from every corner of the globe.
To demonstrate the level of commitment the Friars have to these efforts, the Most Reverend Fr. Carlos Trovarelli, OFM Conv., Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, visited Lviv, Ukraine in late March.
During this time Fr. Carlos met with several local Friars and visited with members of the Franciscan Youth, as well as the faithful, at the Shrine Church of St. Anthony. While at the Shrine he provided the homily during a Mass commemorating the Feast of Our Lady of Grace, Patroness of the Archdiocese of Lviv. Fr. Carlos encouraged the Friars to re-entrust themselves, and Ukraine, to her maternal protection and to do everything that Jesus tells us. He emphasized that their reliance on God is necessary in order to properly recognize the signs of the times and respond to the needs of the community that the Friars serve.
During the fraternal meeting, the Minister General spoke about the situation facing the people, the Church and the Order in Ukraine, as well as the activities in other friaries during the ongoing hostilities.
Fr. Stanislaw Kawa, OFM Conv., the Provincial Custos of Ukraine, thanked Fr. Carlos and the Order for the financial and material help.
During Holy Week, Our Lady of the Angels Friar Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., the General Delegate for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) for the entire Order, visited Ukraine and Poland and, while in Poland, witnessed the amazing work the Polish Friars are doing in support of Ukrainian refugees, mostly children, mothers and grandmothers.
“Some Friars are busy preparing a place by organizing rooms, supplies, food, and ensuring there is a plan where grace can flow freely for those who are in need,” said Fr. Michael. “Other Friars eat and drink with the refugees or bring healing by accompanying them to the hospital or medical clinic. Children often arrive dehydrated and sickly.”
It’s not only the experienced Friars who are mobilizing the Order’s efforts in Poland, according to Fr. Michael.
“Friar Karol Haberek shared with me how he and the other Friars in formation go regularly to the train station to bring refugees to the friary for a different kind of washing of the feet, by the offering of a shower and some clean clothes before they continue their journey. The Friars often accompany their guests by way of the main square because they came to realize that taking a moment to watch people going about their everyday lives, always seems to calm the refugees.
“Our Franciscan bratki (brothers) embody the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Paraclete. For they work tirelessly in a spirit of holy flexibility, attending to anything and everything that comes their way, in a manner that brings consolation and strength to hearts that are troubled.”
A first-hand account of the work being done on the ground in Ukraine was offered by Fr. Nikolai Orach, OFM Conv., who serves at the Custody of the Holy Cross in Ukraine.
“Unfortunately, all of us are living here during a time of war,” said Fr. Nikolai of the Friars in Ukraine. “The whole world is united with us in Ukraine. We feel strongly compelled to help, in particular, those who have had to flee their homes, those who have lost their fathers, sisters and mothers; and the children who have suddenly become orphans. Our people are united in this time of terror, which was forced on us by the Russians.
“Here in Lviv, we are taking refugees who are arriving from everywhere in Ukraine. We give them an opportunity to stay here at our friary, to wash, rest and experience a moment of peace.”
Fr. Nickolai also spoke of a friary very close to the front lines, where the Friars remain with the parishioners living there, helping them and other Catholics who are trying to get through this difficult time.
“At this time, we feel strongly supported by our Friars around the world,” he said. “We are grateful to be receiving help with food and medicine which we are distributing to hospitals to help wounded soldiers.” †
Prayer for Peace
We fly to Your patronage,
O Virgin Mother of God.
Despise not our prayers in our needs,
but deliver us from all dangers,
since you alone are pure and blessed.
O most glorious Ever-Virgin Mary,
the Mother of Christ our God,
accept our prayers and present them to
Your Son and our God,
that for the sake of You,
He enlighten and save our souls.
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