In Ukraine, Russian bombs damage a shrine

ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE FIGHTING IS TAKING PLACE IN THE EAST OF UKRAINE, Russian forces have continued to attack the west of the country. Many people, including priests, such as those who oversee the Marian shrine of Rudky, some 30 miles outside of Lviv, have learned what it is to lose everything because of the war.

At 4h30 AM, March 22, the city of Rudky suffered a missile strike that set fire to the parish house. The two-room apartment where the vicar, Father Andriy Pekanec, lived was on the top floor. By divine providence, that day he was not in, as he had gone to celebrate the funeral of an uncle. Otherwise, he would likely not have been able to get out of the apartment in time.

In a matter of hours, the flames destroyed the wooden dome and all 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 the parish offices, the formation classrooms and the living quarters of the parish priest, Father 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.

Rudky became a parish in the year 1400, and the basilica dates to the XVIIIth century. The Latin-rite church serves some 1,000 faithful, although the shrine is visited and loved by Ukrainians Greek Catholics and 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.
Fortunately, the shrine’s priests were quickly taken in by the faithful. “We immediately felt great support,” Father 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 in Bohdanivka, a small village near Kyiv

Damage is estimated at around $87,000. 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 as quickly as possible.

“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, Regina 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.

—Maria Lozano