Two Ukrainian Catholic Churches in Calgary have joined a worldwide movement to support the devastated people of Ukraine who have suffered from the vicious Russian military invasion of their country.
Since the Russian forces started a war in Ukraine, parishioners at St. Stephen Protomartyr Ukrainian Catholic Church and The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church have launched several initiatives to help the Ukrainian people through this terrible crisis.
Thousands of items have been donated through various efforts and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been given.
Father Michael Bombak, of St. Stephen, says the response is incredible and he’s been “blown away” by the support.
“The first and most important thing we’re doing as a parish community, and Assumption is doing as well, is prayer. That’s number one. This whole thing has coincided at this particular acute area of time with our beginning of the Great and Holy Fast. And so we’re increasing our prayer and fasting usually at this time but we’re also doing it now with a special intention of supporting our brothers and sisters in Ukraine,” says Bombak.
“That’s number one what a parish can do and should do. That’s the first and foremost. Prayer and fasting. St. James says you can’t tell your brother that you love him and then not feed him and clothe him and take care of his needs. So we’ve had the parish mobilize in supporting the Eparchial fund - that’s our word for Diocese. All the churches in Alberta are collecting funds through Catholic Near East Welfare Association. That’s a Papal charity and that ensures that all of that humanitarian aid that we’re collecting is going to go to Ukraine and be protected that way.
“We’re very grateful for that. We’ve had a generous donor who is matching the funds to $500,000. So we are collecting money for that continually. As well, we are collecting non-perishables, we are collecting various goods, clothing for humanitarian relief. Assumption is joining us as well.”
Father Bombak says the church will continue with its Lenten services with special intentions for Ukraine and its people,
Mary Chudyk, Charity Director at St. Stephen, says all the donated items are being shipped by land or air to Toronto then by air to Warsaw in Poland. Meest, a transportation and delivery company, will drive the items to Ukraine where they will be distributed to people through various accredited institutions.
“I’m overwhelmed with the generosity of people and I’m grateful that people want to do something,” she says. “It’s just been fantastic. People have been wonderful offering support, offering encouragement, offering prayers, showing up and just helping us out.”
Dave Wandzura, a parishioner at St. Stephen, says he’s very, very sad about what’s happening in Ukraine and the people there don’t deserve this.
“They’ve actually gone through so much stress and strife in their life in the last hundred years . . . Right now, we have to send funds to the people who need it most . . . Support in any way. Prayer is one of the big ones and financial support and goods as well.”
Maria Dwulit, another parishioner at St. Stephen, who has relatives in Ukraine, says what everyone can do for the people of Ukraine is pray.
“They just need the power to fight this evil,” she says.
Father Bombak says the situation is a complete injustice - absolutely terrible to see the suffering of innocent people.
“Your immediate gut reaction is to hate. That doesn’t serve anyone in the long run. It needs to be stopped. Innocent people are dying. Innocent people are suffering greatly. People are being displaced. This is a problem that is going to affect generation after generation,” says Father Bombak.
“I was born in this country because of a previous persecution. My grandparents were displaced people themselves. You see that it’s going to have a huge impact inter-generationally. So your immediate gut reaction is anger - this sort of righteous decision that this has to stop. But that can easily turn into something that is a spiritual pitfall and that’s hatred. You have to avoid that at all costs. And yet still work as best as we can to make sure that this ends because it’s wrong.”
When talking to children about this horrendous time in human history, Father Bombak says people have to speak the truth in love. Bombak and his wife Kimberly have five children ranging in age from 13 years old to three years old.
“You can’t spare them from this. It doesn’t work. They know more stuff than we know in many ways. So you have to be truthful. But you do have to say the whole truth in a way that they’re going to understand and in a loving way,” he says. “There’s feelings of depression, helplessness.
“Our kids have voiced the concern of what can we do. That question is echoed not just with kids. We are receiving information through social media and the internet at such a rate that it feels as though we can’t do anything because we’re bombarded by that information so quickly. So my advice and the way I talk to my kids is we have to do what we can do. We’re going to pray for Ukraine right now. We’re going to pray as a family. We’re going to go out and support places that are supporting Ukraine. We can work here in the parish to support. Those are all viable options.”
Those wanting to make a financial contribution to the humanitarian efforts by the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton can visit here: https://eeparchy.com/donate/
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers