As the war in Ukraine approaches its 9th month, Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, OMI, says people are increasingly traumatized and in need of both psychological and spiritual assistance.
By Devin Watkins & Francesca Merlo
“Many people need a deeper form of help, not only psychological but also spiritual, because only God can help.”
Prof. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, OMI, offered this analysis of the burden that people carry after almost 8 months of war in Ukraine.
Speaking to Svitlana Dukhovych of Vatican News, Fr. Vyshkovskyi described the work his religious order – the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate – continues to do.
He is the parish priest of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
Serving in the midst of trauma
After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the OMI community in Kyiv wondered if they should join millions of others in fleeing Ukraine to seek refuge elsewhere.
As local superior, he urges young Oblate priests to leave, because “anything can happen”.
“But they said no, we’ll stay too,” he said in the Vatican News studio interview.
Prof. Vyshkovskyi called their decision to stay with the people they serve “very touching”, as it meant that the Oblates would stay together “as a community”.
The parish community began to hold Eucharistic adoration every day and many people showed up, even approaching the sacraments for the first time.
In order to respond to the trauma inflicted by the war, Fr. Vyshkovskyi said his community hopes to establish a counseling center in Kyiv.
Providing a Home for Refugees
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are also in various other Ukrainian cities, besides Kyiv, including Chernihiv and Tyvriv.
In some areas, Fr. Vyshkovskyi said, the ongoing war has taken everything from the people.
He added that the Oblate shrine in the city of Tyvriv in central Ukraine remains open to provide temporary homes for more than 90 refugees.
Prof. Vyshkovskyi said the Tyvriv community is also preparing aid packages for military personnel, with the parish priest personally delivering them to Ukrainian troops fighting in the east.
Papal encouragement for the Oblate mission
On October 3, Pope Francis met with delegates to the General Chapter of the OMI, an audience which was attended by Fr. Vychkovsky.
He noted that the Pope encouraged the Oblates to remain faithful to their charism of serving the poor.