Ukraine: Help for the formation of 16 young novices of the congregation Handmaids of the Lord and the Holy Virgin of Matará in Ivano-Frankivsk

In June this year the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church bade a sorrowful farewell to their late primate, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who died on 31 May 2017 at the age of 84. For 10 years, from 2001 to 2011, he had been the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church – which is in communion with Rome and which suffered severe persecution during Soviet times. Their sadness was shared by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) which supported the Ukrainian Catholics throughout Soviet times, when they were only able to live their faith underground. The Cardinal was a close friend of Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN and wrote to him during his time as archbishop: „Today we can openly state that right up to the end of communism ACN was the only Church organisation that helped the Ukrainian Catholics and that you remain to this day the foremost benefactor of the Ukrainian Church.“

Cardinal Husar was very close to Father Werenfried and praised the courage with which he had dared, after the Second World War, to appeal to all people – including those who were former enemies – and call them to forgiveness and reconciliation. In one of his last meetings with representatives of ACN, in May 2015, he emphasised that Father Werenfried and been „a priest whose memory must be preserved“, adding that he was „a greater figure than Adenauer and other leading figures of the post-war era“.

During this last meeting with ACN Cardinal Husar individually blessed each member of the delegation that had come to visit him. Executive President Johannes Freiherr Heereman of ACN later recalled: „It was deeply moving to receive his blessing on our departure. For every member of our delegation it was evident at the time at this was our last meeting in this world. Already marked by fragile health, the Cardinal spoke with his profound spiritual clarity, giving us wise words regarding the mission of our charity, the character of our founder and his own personal concern for the future of young people. This voice, which was listened to attentively by innumerable people in Ukraine and throughout the world, and by no means only by Catholics, will not be extinguished even by the death of the body.“

The sisters of the congregation of the Handmaids of the Lord and the Holy Virgin of Matará, who are based in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine, are particularly involved in working with those young people for whom the late Cardinal expressed such deep concern. They provide catechetical and religious instruction, organise retreat days and help young people to discern their vocation in life. They also care for orphans and for the sick and elderly, who often suffer great need in Ukraine. And in many hearts their work falls on fruitful soil, so that a number of young women now wish to join them. Whereas in the West many of the religious congregations are facing a grave lack of vocations, in Ukraine the face of the Handmaids is very much a youthful one. Currently there are 16 young women in the novitiate, preparing to one day commit themselves permanently to the service of God and their fellow men.

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