Ukraine: Missionary priests hope to open healing center in Kyiv

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.

“We would like to create a healing center for children who have lost their parents, for mothers who have lost their sons in war, for women who have lost their husbands and for people who have lost everything.

Prof. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi visits the Vatican News studios

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.

“The Oblates do not leave people, but carry the burden with them.”

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.

“The pope told us to be close to the poor and to help awaken the world to the pain and suffering caused by war.”

Pr. Pavlo transports food to parishioners at the start of the war

Pr. Pavlo transports food to parishioners at the start of the war

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