Although most of the fighting is taking place in Eastern Ukraine, Russian forces have continued to attack the west of the country. Many people, including the priests who oversee the Shrine of our Lady of Rudky, some 50 kilometres outside of Lviv, have learned what it is to lose everything because of the war.

Archive photo: The war in Ukraine has entered its seventh month.

Saved by a funeral

At 4:30 a.m. on March 22, the city of Rudky suffered a missile strike that set fire to the priests’ residence. The two-room apartment where the vicar, Fr. Andriy Pekanec, lived was on the top floor. By Divine Providence, he was out that day as he had gone to celebrate the funeral of an uncle. Had he been present, it is unlikely he would have been able to get out of the apartment in time.

In a matter of hours, the flames completely destroyed the wooden dome and all of the rooms in the residence. A very valuable nativity scene that was kept in the attic was also lost. As if the fire was not enough, the attempts to put it out flooded the first and second floors, which hosted offices, formation classrooms and the living quarters of the parish priest, Fr. Yuriy Vasylenko. The roof and the rooms were burned until only the cement was left, and with them went all the furniture and the priests’ belongings.

In March, the seminary in Vorzel was looted by Russian soldiers.

Veneration of Mary, Mother of God

Rudky became a parish in 1400, and the basilica dates back to the XVIII Century. The Latin rite church serves a congregation of around 1,000, although the shrine is visited and loved by Catholics and Greek Orthodox as well. The church has become a place where all Christians are welcomed and can be together. In 2021, the shrine celebrated the centenary of the crowning of the miraculous image that is venerated in the basilica as the Mother of God of Rudky.

Solidarity from the community and from ACN benefactors

Fortunately, the shrine’s priests were quickly taken in by the faithful. “We immediately felt great support,” Fr. Yuriy tells Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). He sees all that he went through as a testimony of the unity of his community, and a symbol of how solidarity among the faithful has grown.

Damage is estimated at around $127,500. With the help of craftsmen and parishioners, work on the renovation of the vicarage has already begun. Considering the economic difficulties caused by the war, ACN decided to join the effort and support part of the construction costs, so that the priests can move back in as quickly as possible.

Seminary of Vorzel: Russian soldiers damaged and looted the seminary last March.

“Usually, when it comes to the very costly reconstruction of church structures, we only begin when the fighting ceases,” says Regina Lynch, project director at ACN. “But in urgent cases such as this one in Ukraine, there are some projects that we can and should encourage.”

Besides this parish house, Ms. Lynch recalls that ACN has also committed to renovating the Seminary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Vorzel, damaged and pillaged by invading Russian troops at the beginning of the war, as well as funding the purchase of new liturgical objects.