Ukraine Snapshots

Defender Remembered at Oblate Parish

At the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate Parish of St. Nicholas in Kyiv, a funeral Mass was held for Oleksandr Gidzil. Oleksandr died as a soldier of the Ukrainian army, defending his country against Russian aggression.

For the Missionary Oblates and the parishioners at St. Nicholas, Oleksandr was more than just a soldier. He was an active member in the life of the parish community. His father served as the chairman of the parish council.

“It is very difficult to find words of comfort at such times in our lives, but it is a time when we can be grateful and reflect on whether we are living our lives worthy of those who gave them to us,” said Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, OMI, parish priest at St. Nicholas. “We are filled with gratitude and respect for the fact that we can live, pray and love because Oleksandr and many of our other defenders offered the most precious gift of God—their lives—for us.”

Special Statue Watches Over St. Nicholas Parish

In 2022, during an audience with the Missionaries of Charity at the Vatican, Pope Francis blessed a statue of St. Michael the Archangel for the Missionary Oblate parish of St. Nicholas in Kyiv. Pope Francis prayed before the statue and blessed it before it was taken to Kyiv and installed in a place of honor at the parish church. Since the war with Russia, parishioners have found strength praying before the statue.

Oblates Assist Victims of War

Because of donations from friends around the world, the Missionary Oblates continue to provide assistance to victims of the war with Russia.

Just 30 miles south of Kyiv, the Oblate central house of the Ukrainian Delegation in Obukhiv is one main place where the homeless can turn to for help. Many people have migrated to the area to escape parts of the country where the fighting is more intense.

The local Missionary Oblate community organizes a variety of assistance programs for the homeless. In their kitchen they bake bread and make sandwiches which are then distributed to people living on the streets or at community meals at the parish. There is also a free medical clinic for people provided by the parish to the homeless.

A recent shipment of food and wheelchairs arrived in Zahutyn, Poland, from an Oblate parish in Belgium. The shipment had to travel more than 3,000 miles to get the items across the border into Ukraine.

“We have our eyes open and our hearts directed to the poorest people in our community,” said Fr. Karol Bucholc, OMI, coordinator of the Missionary Oblates’ relief efforts in Zahutyn. “We are very grateful and humbled by this generosity.” 

“The statue symbolizes self-confidence and courage because St. Michael confidently suppressed evil and courageously took up the sword, not to attack, but to defend,” said parishioner Maria Teresa. “Today, he says to us, I do not want war, but I will fight and defend what I believe in. For me, it’s like Ukrainians who don’t attack, but confidently defend their homeland.”

Saint Nicholas Church, which has been in the care of the Missionary Oblates for more than 20 years, is one of only two Roman Catholic churches built in the Ukrainian capital before 1917. In Soviet times, the church was taken away from the Catholics and turned into a concert hall. Missionary Oblates from Poland were some of the first priests allowed to enter Ukraine after the fall of communism and St. Nicholas Church became a focal point of their efforts to restore the faith in the country.