International charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is currently giving more than $750,000 in mass offerings to support priests in Ukraine who are caring for a population which is besieged and under bombardment. The stipends support almost 1,900 Catholic priests across the country, including 137 from the Greek Catholic archdiocese in Kyiv.
But what does a day in the life of a priest from the Archdiocese of Kyiv look like during the war?
“In our archdiocese, priests are on a schedule and take turns to serve. I have been back in the capital for two months,” Archpriest Vitaliy Herasymiv, treasurer of the Archdiocese of Kyiv, tells ACN.
“To begin with, I visited people from my parish who had stuck it out here the whole time. Only a few of them stayed in their houses. I brought them food parcels, but also offered them the sacraments, including confession, and the celebration of the liturgy.”
After the liturgy, there is an opportunity for the priest to catch up and chat with the people over tea and coffee. There is much to talk about, and conversation helps heal wounds and drive away fear.
With the help of Social Services, who have a list of internally displaced people, Fr. Vitaliy also organised the distribution of humanitarian aid. He even set up a humanitarian support centre in his parish. Before Easter, he visited soldiers at checkpoints: “We prayed together; we asked God to protect them and to protect Ukraine and prayed for peace in the world. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Josyf Milyan of the Kyiv Archeparchy also visited soldiers and civilians who had been affected.”
Far from a return to normality
While visits from various heads of state and international leaders may have led to thoughts of normality in the capital, the situation remains tense. “Kyiv remains restless. Some days ago, several missiles struck a residential building. There are serious problems with fuel. Most gas stations are closed, and at those which are open, you can only put in 10 or 20 litres. There are very long lines,” Fr. Vitaliy says.
He confirms that in his diocese, all the priests receive help, for example through mass offerings. Many priests also receive humanitarian aid in the parishes.
However, there are still needs to cover. The Archdiocese of Kyiv is now looking for help to purchase cars for its priests. “There are priests who do not have a car, or whose car is in very poor condition. In times of war, it is very important that the priest is mobile and can reach people and provide humanitarian or spiritual help,” he tells ACN.
For now, the priests are busy helping others, but in the future, Fr. Vitaliy adds that they, too, will need support. “Many of them have been under a lot of tension and stress the whole time and have experienced terrible things. Priests give out to people, but they also must get strength from somewhere,” he says, thoughtfully.
Meanwhile, this war zone priest remains very grateful to ACN benefactors for their generous support. “In the name of the auxiliary bishop, Josyf Milyan, and all the priests of the Archdiocese of Kyiv, I would like to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for your financial and prayerful support of our archdiocese during the war. May God reward you.”