Can you hear the cries of families trapped amid the brutality and destruction of the grinding war in Ukraine? Do you feel the fear of mothers with children seeking safe shelter or food to eat? Your gift will ease the suffering of Ukrainian families this Christmas.
We have witnessed the destruction and suffering of this war unfolding since it began on February 24 last year. Your prayers and generosity can ease the suffering of children and families this Christmas.
Father Romuald Zagurski, OFM is pastor of the Franciscan parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Konotop, Ukraine. He heard the rumbling of 300 Russian military vehicles that first night. He also heard and felt the explosions. Refugees, mostly women, children, and the frail and elderly, sought safety and protection at his parish. Before that night was over, he had 35 people sheltering in the church basement.
By morning, the Russians had occupied the town. Fr. Romuald did not have supplies to feed and care for the people seeking his protection, so he risked going outside to scavenge for food and medicine for them.
Within a few hundred yards of his parish, he came across homes that were destroyed, exploded military vehicles, and dead bodies. He remembers being so scared that he was visibly shaking. But he continued bravely. He eventually found a place that was selling food, but the prices had already skyrocketed. He bought what he could afford, including one bottle of blood pressure medicine for an elderly woman in his care.
On his way back to the parish, he had to talk his way through a Russian check point!
The Russians eventually pulled out of Konotop, and Fr. Romuald ventured out to comfort and provide supplies to all local families who had lost loved ones, no matter what their faith.
Today, Fr. Romuald and his parish volunteers are still caring for refugees and delivering food and supplies to families close to the fighting. Just a few weeks ago, they brought food and water to people in Kherson, Antonova, and Kindijka. Three days later, three women they had helped were killed by a missile attack.
Fr. Romuald is just one example of our friars ministering to the refugees of this war. The Franciscan Province of St. Michael the Archangel is present in Ukraine with 16 friaries and 65 friars serving 54 parishes. Some are in areas that remain under the control of the Russian army.
At this stage of the war, most refugees are from eastern and southern Ukraine, the areas where the war is still raging. These refugees have lost their homes and their ability to earn a living, so they have migrated to central and western parts of the country.
There is food available in stores, but inflation has increased the price of goods much more dramatically than in our country. The cost of electricity has increased over 400 percent. Coal has increased 300 percent, and gasoline has increased 100 percent. The cost of food and clothing has also increased significantly, making it harder for families to feed and clothe their children.
Our friars help as much as they can, but as you can imagine, the need is so great that they are overwhelmed.
According to Father Cristian Kryvakivskyy, OFM, “each friar does something in our province to help. We go to zones and areas of conflict, to the border with Russia, even partially occupied territories, risking our lives to deliver lifesaving food, water, medicine, and other necessary supplies. We also shelter refugees in our parishes and friaries.”
Fr. Romuald, Fr. Cristian, and all our missionary friars in Ukraine need our help this Christmas! It is my hope and prayer that you will support Franciscan missionaries there as they stay and bravely continue to serve the refugees and the Church in this war zone. Will you stand with them in their time of need?
Your generous Christmas gift today will help our Ukrainian friars purchase, food, bottled water, medicine, and other emergency supplies for children and families.
Your prayers and support will keep the hope of the birth of Jesus Christ alive in the hearts of innocent people who are experiencing the horror and the tragedy of war. Please help our Franciscan missionaries respond to their cries for help!
We Franciscan friars always remember you in our prayers with infinite gratitude. God bless you!
Brother Andrew Brophy, OFM
P.S. Please send a generous Christmas gift today to help our Franciscan missionaries provide lifesaving water, food, medicine, and sleeping bags to innocent people who are trying to survive the tragic war in Ukraine.