In Ukraine, Russian bombs damage a shrine

ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE FIGHTING TAKES PLACE IN EASTERN UKRAINE, Russian forces have continued to attack the west of the country. Many people, including priests like those who oversee the Marian shrine in Rudky, about 30 miles from Lviv, have learned what it is like to lose everything to war.

At 4:30 a.m. on March 22, the town of Rudky suffered a missile strike that set the parish house on fire. The two-room apartment where the vicar, Father Andriy Pekanec, lived was on the top floor. By divine providence, he was not there that day, because he had gone to celebrate the funeral of an uncle. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have been able to get out of the apartment in time.

Within hours, the flames destroyed the wooden dome and all the rooms in the residence. A very valuable nativity scene that was kept in the attic was also lost. As if the blaze weren’t enough, extinguishing attempts flooded the first and second floors, which housed the parish offices, training rooms and living quarters of the parish priest, Father Yuriy Vasylenko.

The roof and the chambers were burned until only the cement remained, and with them went all the furniture and the belongings of the priests.

Rudky became a parish in the year 1400, and the basilica dates from the 18th century. The Latin Rite church serves some 1,000 worshippers, although the shrine is also visited and loved by Greek Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainians. The church has become a place where all Christians are welcomed and can be together. In 2021, the shrine celebrated the centenary of the coronation of the miraculous image venerated in the basilica as Rudky’s Mother of God.
Fortunately, the priests of the shrine were quickly taken in by the faithful. “We immediately felt great support,” Fr Yuriy told Aid to the Church in Need (AED). He considers everything he has been through as a testimony to the unity of his community and a symbol of growing solidarity among the faithful.

Damage to Bohdanivka, a small village near Kyiv

Damage is estimated at approximately $87,000. With the help of craftsmen and parishioners, the renovation work of the presbytery has already begun. Considering the economic difficulties caused by the war, the ACN decides to join the effort and support part of the construction costs, so that the priests can move back as quickly as possible.

“Usually, when it comes to the very expensive reconstruction of church structures, we don’t start until the fighting stops,” says Regina Lynch, project manager at ACN. “But in urgent cases like this in Ukraine, there are projects we can and should encourage.”

In addition to this parish house, Regina Lynch recalls that ACN has also undertaken to renovate the Seminary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Vorzel, damaged and looted by the invasion of Russian troops at the start of the war, as well as to finance the purchase of new liturgical objects. .

—Maria Lozano

Martha J. Finley