U.S. Ukrainian Catholic bishop visits refugees on war-torn border

By Catholic Extension
and staff reports

Bishop Bohdan Danylo, who leads the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat based in Parma, Ohio, is the first U.S. bishop to travel to the Ukrainian border following the Russian invasion.

Throughout his visit, Bishop Danylo met with other charitable organizations as well as ministered and provided relief to displaced Ukrainian refugees and children.

The trip was sponsored by Chicago-based Catholic Extension, which has supported the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America since 1979 by building churches and funding leaders and ministries.

Ukrainian-American Catholics have maintained strong ties with the Catholic Church in Ukraine, whose institutions and leaders are on the frontlines addressing the humanitarian needs of their war-ravaged kinsmen.

During his visit to the region March 25 – April 1, Bishop Danylo distributed to various organizations funds that have been donated by Catholic Extension and other benefactors to help Ukrainian refugees.

He met with clergy and volunteers who distribute food and medicine, including those in the border city of Przemysl, Poland, Bishop Danylo’s childhood home, which has become one of the main ports of entry for displaced Ukrainians fleeing their country.

“The Church in Ukraine is connected to the people,” Bishop Danylo said. “They will need our help, unfortunately, I think for a long time.”

Catholic Extension has launched an emergency fund to support efforts to help the people of Ukraine, which includes Ukrainian nuns and priests working to shelter, feed, and evacuate vulnerable families and children. Interested donors can visit catholicextension.org/ukraine.

“Whatever gifts or donations are given will be able to go directly to those who are the most in need,” said Bishop Danylo, who added, “I believe that prayer is stronger than even bullets that are flying over.”

Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the United States released a statement on the St. Josaphat Eparchy website in response to the war and suffering that is occurring in Ukraine.

“The events of the last days have shaken us to the core. The sight of Russian missiles exploding over peaceful Ukrainian communities, long lines of terrified residents fleeing their homes or huddled in metro stations for safety, and enemy tanks rolling through quiet residential neighborhoods evokes horrible memories of war-torn Ukraine of the last century,” the statement said.

The bishops encouraged the faithful to do three things:

“Firstly, to continue to pray as you have been, that Almighty God would end the conflict, ease the suffering of innocent people, and convert the hearts of the aggressors.

“Secondly, to continue to counter disinformation being disseminated by the enemy and to speak the truth about Ukraine. Ukraine is once again the center of attention of the American public. It is our obligation to inform Americans with objective facts.

“Thirdly, to continue to aid our suffering brothers and sisters, financially and materially. As Christians, we are called to respond generously to the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding before our eyes.”

Donations and prayers continue to come from East Tennessee to assist those in need.

“As a parish, we have given monetary donations to the eparchy to assist Ukrainian refugees in Europe,” said Father Richard Armstrong, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Byzantine Catholic Church in Knoxville.

A small mission parish that boasts about 30 regular members, St. Thomas has been under the Ukrainian Eparchy since 2009. Bishop Danylo visits the parish about once every three years.

All parishes in the Diocese of Knoxville have held a special second collection for aid to Ukrainian refugees in Poland per Bishop Richard F. Stika’s instructions.

“Please pray for the citizens of Ukraine who are living in difficult and dangerous times right now,” Bishop Stika said. “I offer my prayers that peace and freedom, which is rightfully theirs, return to them soon.”

“As I watch the events unfold in Eastern Europe, I am reminded of my own family heritage, and my thoughts are with Americans who trace their ancestry to that part of the world—some of whom may still have friends and relatives living there,” the bishop continued. “I pray for wisdom and compassion for our world leaders and that the aggressors in Ukraine recognize and repent of their oppressive acts. We ask God to protect the people of Ukraine. Amen.”

For those who wish to donate online to the special collection, visit https://dioknox.org/collection-for-ukrainian-refugees.

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