Diocese of Knoxville joins pope in consecrating Russia, Ukraine to Immaculate Heart of Mary

Bishop Stika leads special Mass, called for by the Holy Father, at the cathedral    

By Gabrielle Nolan

Bishop Richard F. Stika heeded the call of Pope Francis to consecrate and entrust Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25.

Bishop Stika offered the act during noon Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville. The Mass in East Tennessee occurred at the same time Pope Francis led the consecration during a special Lenten penance service at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The Ukrainian flag flies at half staff marking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The flag was waving outside of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“Today is a day of history,” Bishop Stika said at the beginning of the Mass. “Pope Francis has invited all bishops of the world, together with all priests of the world, and every diocese, every nook and cranny where the Catholic Church is, and he has invited the Orthodox to join us as well…to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, consecrating Russia and Ukraine to her heart. For Mary is, indeed, the Queen of Peace.”

“Let us pray for all those people in Ukraine who have lost so much, and also the prisoners in Russia, who know so little about what is going on,” the bishop continued. “We place ourselves in God’s presence.”

The Mass took place on the solemnity of the Annunciation, which the bishop described as “the great conversation” during his homily.

“We have that great privilege of speaking to God from our hearts, from our lives, from who we are, wherever we are in our place of life,” he said. “We have the opportunity to speak to God.”

“So, on this feast of the Annunciation, the wisdom of Pope Francis, he invites us all to have that dialogue with God,” the bishop continued. “He invites us all to have a conversation with God, and [the pope] wrote the conversation… It’s a prayer of consecration, of taking who we are as humanity and admitting that we need God.

“It’s not a negotiation; we need God in this country, in countries throughout the world. You know, it is a horrific thing to see Ukraine being just so attacked…But you know, in other parts of the world it’s just as tragic. Sudan, Middle East, places that don’t get the publicity, and even on our own streets. Sometimes we just forget, we forget about other people…We cannot be indifferent to our sisters and brothers who live near us or away from us.”

People attending the daily Mass and consecration kneel in prayer as the consecration is prayed by Bishop Stika.

Bishop Stika encouraged those in attendance to not just pray that day, but “every moment of every day that we exist.”

“[The pope] invites us to look into our heart to see do we stir up trouble in our families, in our relationships, in our city? Do we buy into all that junk that’s on social media or in the media? Do we gossip? Do we judge? Do we demand? Mary said yes to that angel, so that someday the Prince of Peace would be born, a man who gave his life for our sins. Let us pray for peace.”

After his homily, the bishop invited everyone to kneel and together recite the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The consecration prayer stated:

“Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church, and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The ‘Fiat’ that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.”

At the end of Mass, Bishop Stika discussed the “unique connection in Poland with Father Martin (Gladysz), our associate pastor,” who grew up in the Diocese of Krakow.

The St. John Paul II Shrine in Krakow is receiving refugees so they may rest, shower, and eat before being placed with a host family or continuing their travels to reach relatives elsewhere.

“I’ve asked all the parishes this weekend to take up a second collection, which is going to go straight to the shrine of St. John Paul, so they might be able to take care of the needs of tens of thousands of people who have no sense of what tomorrow’s going to hold for them,” Bishop Stika said.

As of March 29, the cathedral’s parishioners have donated more than $89,000 to the shrine to aid Ukrainian refugees.

Bishop Richard F. Stika and Father Richard Armstrong were the celebrants at the Mass and consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25.

Concelebrating alongside Bishop Stika was Father Richard Armstrong, who serves as both a Latin Rite and Byzantine Rite priest in the diocese.

Father Armstrong is the pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Norris and the parish administrator at St. Therese Parish in Clinton. He also is the pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Eastern Byzantine Catholic Church in Knoxville.

“Growing up, my father was Ukrainian Greek Catholic, and my mother was Latin Rite Catholic, so I grew up really with both traditions and feel fluid in both,” Father Armstrong said, noting that his grandmother was from Ukraine.

“We have some ethnic Ukrainians that come to St. Thomas occasionally,” Father Armstrong said. “My parish is mostly a melting pot for all Byzantines, though—Melkite, Ruthenian, Ukrainian.”

Deacon Walt Otey and Father Armstrong recess from the sanctuary and nave at the end of the Mass and consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Father Armstrong’s Byzantine parish has been praying Moleben prayers, which are supplication prayers rooted in Slavic tradition and often prayed in Eastern Christian churches.

“We’ve been praying the “Moleben During Time of War,” and we get weekly updates from our own patriarch (Bishop Bohdan Danylo) about the situation in Ukraine, and just continue to pray for peace,” he said.

Father Armstrong said he was thankful and grateful for a “beautiful consecration.”

“The consecration entails, of course, offering to Russia and Ukraine the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and she is really known as the protector of Christians, protector of God’s people,” he continued. “So, we turn to her, especially in times of need, and the Byzantine churches, we go under her mantle for protection.”

The complete text of the consecration is available in both English and Spanish on the Diocese of Knoxville website, dioknox.org.

The livestreamed March 25 Mass and Consecration at the Cathedral can be viewed on the cathedral’s YouTube channel.

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