Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center in New York John Barres and President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA Sister Donna Markham at the invitation of Metropolitan Borys Gudziak of Philadelphia made a visit of solidarity to Ukraine. Over a number of days, the delegation visited Lviv, Kyiv, Bucha, and Irpin and met representatives of the Church and various charitable organizations.
On the first day of their visit, 7 February, Sister Donna Markham and Bishop John Barres visited Ukrainian Catholic University, in particular Emmaus House, where people with developmental disabilities live in community with students and staff of the university.
Sharing his impressions of the visit to UCU, Bishop John Barres stated that he was impressed by the role played by students, staff, and graduates of the university in Ukraine’s fight against the Russian aggressor: “In every situation it seems like a graduate or alumnus of Ukrainian Catholic University has made a difference. Whether it’s giving a lecture on human rights or being in the mayor’s office in communications or some sort of public intellectual witness… These Ukrainian Catholics have a deep competence and commitment in their field and have a beautiful Catholic formation and spirit of Catholic mission in the public square. They’re making a difference. They are the leaven of the Gospel in the public square. And they’re able to engage the secular world toe to toe in a spirit of truth and charity. It is quite impressive to hear the beginnings of the university, and the vision of the university, and to see how it’s been fulfilled, step by step, with the Holy Spirit in the lead. It’s something, I think, that many Catholic universities around the world can learn from.”
Together with Metropolitan Borys Gudziak, Sister Markham and Bishop Barres took part in a funeral for two Ukrainian soldiers who died in the war, Yevhen Zapotichnyi and Oleh Kunynets. The funeral was held in the Garrison Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. Bishop John Barres, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, and Bishop Stepan Sus presided at the funeral Liturgy. In the name of the bishops of the USA, Bishop Barres prayed and offered condolences to family and friends of the soldiers.
The American delegation also visited the military hospital in Lviv and met Ukrainian soldiers who are there for treatment.
Sister Donna Markham and Bishop John Barres were also in Kyiv, where they met: the head of the UGCC, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk; Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas; and the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, Bishop Vitalii Kryvytskyi.
His Beatitude Sviatoslav spoke about the visit to the Vatican of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations and its meeting with Pope Francis, about the heroic witness of priests in the war, and the initiative regarding the liberation of Ukrainian military medics who are now in Russian captivity. The Grand Chancellor of UCU thanked American Catholic for their support and recalled the recent visit to Ukraine of Archbishop Timothy Broglio, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Afterwards, the guests made a brief trip to Bucha, where their guide was Ukrainian journalist Sofia Kochmar-Tymoshenko, a graduate of the UCU School of Journalism and Communications, who made a documentary film about the massive killings in Bucha.
The delegation also met with Fr. Myroslav Latynnyk, pastor of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Irpin. He showed where the church had been shot at and, as a memento, he gave the American guests a piece of shrapnel retrieved from the church.
“We’ve been reading the newspapers in the United States constantly, watching television all the time, because we’re really concerned about the people in Ukraine. And the television tells one story, the newspapers tell another story. But when you actually come here and spend time seeing the situation and speaking to people who are affected by it, it’s a very, very different reality. I was really very moved by the strength of the Ukrainian people, their resilience and profound faith,” said Sister Donna Markham.
We thank Sister Donna Markham and Bishop John Barres for supporting the Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom! Let us pray together for victory and the return home of all Ukraine’s defenders, alive and healthy.