Three Oblate Fathers oversee the Catholic parish of Chernihiv in Northern Ukraine. Almost immediately after the start of the war by Russia, the city was under siege.
For a month it was cut off. Many people were killed in bomb and missile strikes, and large sections of the city were destroyed. Yet even when the priests were given the opportunity to leave, they refused to do so, feeling the need to stay with their people and not abandon them. During this time, the parish became a place of refuge for many people—not just the faithful.
As a result of the bombings, many parts of town were left without water, electricity, or gas supplies. Fortunately, the monastery was spared and still had a functioning water supply and long queues of people waiting to fill up containers soon formed. In addition, the three priests had a supply of candles which helped them get through the power outages.
Accompanying despite the bombings
Among other things, the three priests went searching for people whose relatives were worried about them, having had no contact with them. They also visited many needy people in their homes, bringing them food, water and other essentials.
The saddest part of their work involved the service to the many people who had been killed. Every day, they would travel to one of the mortuaries in town to pray for the dead who had been brought there. Since the fighting was still raging all around the cemetery, the victims had to be buried in mass graves. The bodies were gathered and taken away in coffins previously stored in the yard, and buried. However, these were marked in such a way that they could be reinterred after the war and given a proper and dignified burial.
A vehicle to pursue their work
Chernihiv was finally liberated at the end of March but there are many people there who still need help. The three priests now spend most of their time visiting the faithful, praying with them, and listening to them as they speak of the great suffering they have endured. They try to support and console them as well as provide practical material help, considering many of these people have lost their work and their possessions and are also facing rising prices.
Not surprisingly, the priests urgently need a car for their work, as they are caring not only for the faithful in the city itself but also those in the outlying towns of Slavutych and Snovsk, roughly 60 and 70 km away respectively. ACN has promised to support these Priests with the funds they need to purchase a car for their mission.