Far from Kiev, the American Church keeps Ukraine close in prayer as Lent begins

WASHINGTON, DC — As palm fronds burned in a crackling fire at the Franciscan Monastery in the Holy Land in Washington, Atonement Father Jim Gardiner drew attention to a more sinister fire burning in another part of the world.

“There are other kinds of fires around the world that are breaking our hearts right now. We are seeing houses destroyed in Ukraine and elsewhere,” he told a crowd that turned out on February 27. gathered to watch palm trees ground into fine powder for use in the monastery’s Ash Wednesday masses this year.

Not far from the monastery, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in North America, lit up a few hours later in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Such displays of solidarity and unity among Catholics have become commonplace, even in the American church, where, like the rest of the country, church members are generally at odds with one another – divided along political lines on a number of issues.

But Ukraine seems to be a rare point of unity. As Russia intensified its attacks on March 1, carrying out major offensives in various cities in Ukraine, many Catholics intensified their prayers.

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas encouraged Catholics to participate in Ash Wednesday, March 2, accompanying Pope Francis’ call to fast and pray for peace in Ukraine.

“We deeply mourn all who are suffering from the unfolding humanitarian crisis and echo the repeated call of our church leaders that war is ‘always a defeat for humanity,'” the congregation said in a statement. Press release.

After Russian rockets damaged Kiev’s main TV tower, an administrative building and a hospital on March 1, Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known as CLINIC, called on US government officials to expedite extensions certain immigration provisions for Ukrainians already in the United States.

“Ukrainians will be forced to flee their homes and Ukrainians in the United States must be protected from returning at risk,” CLINIC said.

At the diocesan level, bishops with significant numbers of Ukrainians in their flock held special masses and prayer services to comfort those who were worried about friends and family in their home country.

Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, New York, tweeted Feb. 26 about a visit with the Ukrainian community to the Guardian Angel Church in Brighton Beach, saying he was “doing what Catholics do in times of tribulation: we pour out our hearts to God and ask for his protection.

Along with Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn Witold Mroziewski, Bishop Brennan celebrated a special Mass to pray for those suffering in Ukraine.

“I am sorry that we are gathered here with fear, worry and worry for those at home, especially for your own family members,” he said. “My heart breaks with your heart, but we are filled with that same sense of hope, and that hope comes to us because of Jesus Christ, who faced evil squarely in the eye and stood up on sin and death… God bless you tonight, God bless all your families in the days that’s to come.

Martha J. Finley