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Project of the Week—Supporting Ecumenical Youth Meetings in Ukraine

Support and technical equipment for the annual ecumenical youth meetings run by the Franciscans at the Marian shrine of Bilshivtsi

Even before the pandemic, Ukraine faced numerous grave challenges. 70 years of communism have left a profound mark on society and aggravated today by corruption, economic crisis, lack of opportunity and a war in the east of the country. All these things are pushing many of the younger and better-educated members of society to leave the country. And now the pandemic has only made matters worse.

It is especially important to strengthen the faith of the young. For after the long years of atheistic upbringing many people have lost their bearings. Yet it is still evident that many young people in particular are genuinely searching for God.

In order to help young people put their lives on a sound footing and recognize God’s presence in their lives, the Franciscan Fathers have for some years now been organizing an annual youth meeting—now in its 19th year—to the famous Marian shrine of Bilshivtsi in West Ukraine. The shrine with its famous image of the Mother of God, to whom many miracles have been attributed, dates back to the year 1624. During Soviet times the church was desecrated and shut, but in the year 2001 the shrine and church were open once again. Today it is in the care of the Franciscan Friars and once again the destination for many pilgrims.

This Year’s Theme: Reconciliation and Forgiveness

This year the youth meeting organized by the Franciscans will run from July 11 to 14. The gathering will be preceded by a pilgrimage in which the young people will walk, singing and praying, starting from six different towns and cities and converging on Bilshivtsi. 

Prayers, religious instruction and Holy Mass will all be part of the program as will theatre performances, films and social gatherings. There will also be opportunities for confession and spiritual counsel and accompaniment. The gathering will be open to everyone, not only to Catholic young people. This year the meeting will be organized on the theme of reconciliation and forgiveness.

The Franciscans have asked our help for improvements to the technical equipment, especially the sound system and loudspeakers, for example. And they also ask our help to cover the cost of accommodating the young pilgrims.

We have promised them $7,500.

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