By The Associates Leadership Team
The late Father Daniel O’Leary — priest, poet and prophet — described the washing of the feet as the whole heart of the Gospel, the most profound meaning of the Servant God. The war in Ukraine has invited us to act from this place of compassion and love, to offer, in prayer and in deed, what we are able.
Associates from across the United States – Canada Province have shared with the Associates Leadership Team some of the ways in which they have responded to the call of the Society’s charism to be the merciful heart of Christ in our broken world. Below are their responses.
“I grew up in a home where food was valued. At Catholic school, I learned the importance of the corporal works of mercy, the first of which is ‘feed the hungry.’ Feeding Ukrainian refugees resonated with our call to be open to the brokenness of the world, and so our family donated to World Central Kitchen. This group works with local cooks to feed refugees as they cross the borders into adjacent countries, as well as feed Ukrainians who have been displaced but want to remain in their country. I can only think that when these families receive a hot meal, we are acting as God's hands in the world.”
“What can I do as a 90-year-old with limited financial means? I can write a small check to Catholic Relief Services. They all add up! I can donate clothes I no longer need to Ukrainians who may immigrate to my area. And I can pray. I’m too frail to go to Mass anymore, but I say the rosary every night as a lay in bed thinking of those children. God bless them all.”
“We held a Prayer Service for my community at large, but specifically for our maintenance and cleaning crew who all derive from Ukraine as well as the Ukrainian students in our community. A special prayer was spoken in Ukrainian by one of our students. Pre-med students have invited the community to donate medical supplies for donation to Ukraine. I offered space in each one of my Theology classes to talk about Ukraine and Russia, and we prayed with intentionality together as well. Our Ukrainian students were particularly moved by the support they received from their classmates.”
“I identified a wonderful organization called the Direct Relief Org to which I sent a donation. This organization has received a ranking of 100% in every category checked by watchdog groups. Others might want to consider them as well. And it goes without saying that my prayer is with the people of Ukraine and Poland and those of Russia as well.”
“We held a reconciliation prayer service with the theme of ‘Peace.’ I worked with student leaders on it. Not only were the prayers about peace, but we asked each one in the school community to commit to “one way to be a peacebuilder.” Each wrote their commitment on a dove-shaped paper and posted it on a wall. It was beautiful to see each one's unique contribution/commitment — truly a community response. Then, when finished, they picked up a yellow-blue ribbon in solidarity with Ukraine from the altar and pinned this on their blazers.”
“Our relatives from Poland shared this: On Friday night, we socialized at a friend's house. They are hosting two Ukrainians - sisters in their 20’s. We brought pizzas and played games to try to give them a sense of normalcy. We also have another connection to a Ukrainian family. They had fled to Warsaw and we checked in on them — brought them a warm dinner to their hotel on Saturday night, and they attended Mass with us on Sunday. They are not as desperate as others. These children were brought here by their father, by car. They had to take care of paperwork at the Embassy. The children will fly to Finland to stay with family and their dad will return to Ukraine. We are now a connection for them here, and we assured them we will help as needed. We gave hugs, firm handshakes, wishing them good luck and peace.”
“As far as offering support to the greater community of Ukrainians, our parish will take up another collection of basic necessities this Sunday. These items and funds are going to Poland’s Catholic charity - Caritas, specifically Caritas, Warsaw. These items are being used in Warsaw as refugees come into Poland and they are being sent into Ukraine.”
“Mostly I’m praying for peace, praying for all who have been displaced from their homes and family. I’m praying especially for the young children, the sick, and the very old. In addition, I contribute to various charities that support Ukraine.”
“The war in Ukraine has affected me profoundly. I know two people living in Ukraine, Vira & Joseph. At this time, they are, as Vira says, ‘Still Alive.’ I have been praying for an end to the war and wondering how I might be of some help; because I feel helpless. Recently, I started listening to and praying with the ‘Pray as You Go’ app. I began on Ash Wednesday, the seventh day of the war in Ukraine. One day after my prayer as I reflected on the war, I drew an image of a women’s face. Her expression is sad. I decided to share the image with Vira’s daughter, Alexandra, who lives in the Chicago area. My little drawing reminded her of a Ukrainian artist living in Chicago who works in a similar style. So, I was introduced to Elena who is raising funds for wounded Ukrainian soldiers by selling her artwork. The next day, I went to Elena’s home and purchased one of her artworks. In this small way, I am able to help the men, women, and children who are actively fighting to save their lives and their country.”
“After the invasion of Ukraine, I texted my former student, a Russian national studying for a master's in psychology in lower Manhattan. She texted me back and said that she wanted to meet. So, we did. We walked around Governor's Island in the East River for about 2 hours. She told me that her Russian bank account was frozen and she could not retrieve any funds from it. She explained to me their long history. In listening to her, I realized that she is a refugee, too. She is caught, like the people in Ukraine between the whims of great powers that decide whether you live or die today, or are penniless tomorrow — even if you are far from the front lines. I am advocating on her behalf with colleagues in the school community.”
“I have been struggling with how to respond and engage. I have been mostly praying for the people of Ukraine, and remembering not to take any day for granted, to give thanks for the water that still flows from my tap, to praise God for the food on my plate and in my pantry. Marveling at the beauty around me, rejoicing that my family is safe and healthy, and that I am not gripped with fear and anxiety about an imminent bomb or missile attack, I try to remember to savor the ‘normalcy’ of each daily task. I am trying to live in the present, moment by moment, not succumbing to the fear of what is to come. I am taking in the profound fragility of life and the suffering. I am shedding tears and praying for the violence to stop. And asking what might I do to stop the violence: in Ukraine. In Afghanistan. In Ethiopia. In Yemen. In Haiti. I try praying for Zelensky for courage, and that Putin may be struck with an overwhelming tenderness and have a moment like Saul on the road to Damascus. And then I surrender that impulse to change other people and challenge myself to take on that enormous task of purging the violence and despair that lives within: See each person as Jesus might, forgive those who have injured me, welcome all that is, choose hope, and give what I can to those refugees and migrants living in my own community. I also pray for inspiration and creativity to break open our collective moral imagination so we can truly begin "to study war no more".
“Our School is raising funds for Ukraine by holding a clothing sale and giving all the funds raised to the Ukraine fund. A special prayer service was also held. Personally, I am supporting the Society of the Sacred Heart Central teams’ request for money to help the refugees in Hungary and Poland.”