ACN to fund restoration of looted seminary in Ukraine

THE VORZEL SEMINARY IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF KYIV-ZHYTOMYR, UKRAINE, WHICH WAS DAMAGED AND LOOTED DURING RUSSIAN ATTACKS will reopen in September. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has just confirmed that it will cover the costs of the reconstruction of the building and the purchase of the furniture and equipment that was stolen. This decision comes in the aftermath of a visit by ACN to the seminary and a meeting with the rector, Father Ruslan Mykhalkiv.

Vorzel is located less than 20 miles from the capital of Kviv, and, along with other nearby suburbs like Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel and Borodianka, it became a focal point in the conflict. The 25 seminarians who studied and lived in the building abandoned it Feb. 25, after learning that the Russians had taken the nearby airport and were entering Vorzel. Along with their rector, Father Mykhalkiv, and the rest of the staff, they first found refuge in a nearby village and then in another seminary in the center of the country.

The rector told ACN that, according to locals who stayed in Vorzel, the seminary was plundered and devastated. Besides the damage caused by two rockets, Russian troops looted the building in mid-March. Witnesses say the soldiers spent two nights in the building, adds Father Mykhalkiv.

The seminary was left in a deplorable state, especially its interior. “They took everything they could. Kitchen utensils, washing machines, computers, and air conditioners. The seminarians’ rooms were ransacked, and they took liturgical items, including a chalice donated by Saint John Paul II when he visited Ukraine in 2001,” and which is what Father Mykhalviv is most sorry about. Later, the local inhabitants also entered the grounds and took everything else, which the rector says is understandable, since they had nothing to eat.

Damage in the Vorzel seminary

Nonetheless, fear about the uncertain future remains, not only because of the war, but also because it is estimated that the cost of repairing the damage amounts to more than $160,000. That is why ACN decided to cover the expenses of the renovation of the seminary and to make a significant donation.

Magda Kaczmarek, head of projects in Ukraine for ACN, confirmed the news: “Since the war started, we have been giving our full support to the local Church of both rites, Latin and Greek Catholic. First with emergency support in the war zones, and for refugees in the West of the country. Thanks to our benefactors, we have been funding transport costs, vehicles, and the extraordinary activities of priests and religious in the affected territories. Furthermore, in a second phase, we have been helping the parishes and monasteries in Ukraine that opened their doors to refugees, giving them material and spiritual support. In a third phase, and within our possibilities, we want to help repair the damage.”

One of the pillars of ACN help in Ukraine for several decades has been giving aid to Ukrainian seminarians, so recovering Vorzel is a priority for the organization, said Kaczmarek.   

Work to reconnect water, electricity, and gas supplies, which were also damaged, is already underway. “We will be very grateful to ACN,” said Father Mykhalkiv, “if our seminarians manage to return in September.”

—Maria Lozano