Ukraine: “The grace of the Lord is greater than the horror of war”

24 February 2024 marked the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Like the whole population, the seminarians are exhausted by this war. But uplifted by hope, they want to be a sign of God’s presence where they are.

The seminarians, scarred by the war but matured by their faith, give many testimonies. They remain at the side of so many suffering and sick people. It is estimated that today, 80% of the population is suffering from the physical or psychological consequences of this war, which has been going on since 2014.

Seminarians from left to right: Mark, Ruslan and Vitali, whose father died in the war in December 2022
Seminarians from left to right: Mark, Ruslan and Vitali, whose father died in the war in December 2022

Having been victims of the war themselves, the seminarians feel close to those who are also suffering. For example, Vitali, a 28-year-old Greek Catholic seminarian from Kyiv, lost his father on 8 December 2022. He had volunteered for the army and was 52 years old. Vitali’s light blue eyes tear up at this memory. But the young seminarian speaks of the “good fortune of being able to bury him”. Many people cannot even find the bodies of their fathers, husbands or children. Vitali also lost one of his best friends. “I try to help those who have also lost someone close to them. Doubtless I can understand them better. But my pain is still very great.” A year later, the emotional wound is far from healed. His faith helps him to find peace despite the ordeal and to support others who are suffering.

Roberto, another 23-year-old seminarian from Lviv, worked in the summer as a leader at a youth camp in eastern Ukraine. Some of the young people who were in his care have been killed. Like all Ukrainians, the war has left Roberto deeply scarred. He explains that many people come to him to ask questions because, as a seminarian, he wears his religious habit. “Many ask me: ‘How can God allow this to happen?’ It is very difficult for me to answer. But I draw my strength from Eucharistic adoration.” Roberto also explains the impact of the war on his calling. “One day, my superior asked me to look after the refugees and to talk with them. And it was when I was teaching them the catechism that I realised the meaning of my vocation. Two of them received their first communion, one went to confession for the first time in ten years, others were confirmed, and one couple got married!” Despite the suffering of the war, God continues His work.

Father Ruslan Mykhalkiv, Rector of the Roman Catholic Major Theological Seminary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Vorzel, Kyiv Oblast.
Father Ruslan Mykhalkiv, Rector of the Roman Catholic Major Theological Seminary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Vorzel, Kyiv Oblast.

The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) contributed to the establishment of all ten seminaries in Ukraine – three Roman Catholic and seven Greek Catholic– and currently supports all seminarians with scholarships. In Kyiv, Father Ruslan Mykhalkiv, rector of the Greek Catholic seminary in Vorzel, thanked ACN for its help after Russian troops occupied the seminary for a month in 2022. “The windows were broken, and everything had been wrecked. But thanks to your help, the seminary is now even more beautiful than before! Thank you so much for that!” The rector returned to Vorzel full of hope that the seminarians would be able to resume their training quickly after the occupation. Hence his desire to rebuild the seminary as quickly as possible. Now, when he sees his seminarians at work, the rector confesses: “The grace of the Lord is greater than the horror of war.”

 

By Amélie Berthelin.
Our Task Areas
Our Regional Activities
Press contact

Latest News

Local community leaders say that the attacks follow the tactics employed by armed bandits who carried out the Christmas massacres...
Six bishops from the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have written an “assessment of the pastoral...
A bishop from Equatorial Guinea reflects on the causes and consequences of migration in the African continent and asks for...