Over the last 15 years, the Bishop Velychkovsky Shrine has been supporting a sister in Ukraine – Sister Julia, now known as Sister Natalia, who was working with orphans and eventually began working with girls/young women at risk. She was able to establish a home for these girls, living with them and providing support, guidance, and a loving environment. The home is called Home for Girls in honour of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky. Sister also continues to work in an orphanage in Lviv.
We have been in touch with Sister for many years and continue to do so. During this
past year, with the war in Ukraine, things changed and have become more intense. The needs have increased and are more critical. We are very grateful to those who have generously supported the orphans and the needs of the soldiers and those on the front line. Sister Natalia herself has gone to the front line several times, bringing humanitarian need.
About a month ago or so, she shared how one of the shells fell near their home where she lives in Lviv. This was a traumatic experience for them. They are all safe, and their home was not damaged.
Recently, Fr. John Sianchuk received a message/greetings from Sister, which he shares with you as a new year’s reflection and inspiration. They are words that Blessed Vasyl perhaps also embraced in his life, especially during the time of war and persecution.
Sister Natalia writes…
We are at the beginning of a new year, and we embrace and wish each other victory and to save our life and those that live close to us. We have gone through difficult months. However, we rarely
speak of how hard it is because we know it is even harder for those on the front line. We rarely cry because our loved ones are alive and our homes are intact, knowing that there are those who have
lost both homes and loved ones. It is difficult to openly smile when our souls are torn apart and to write Happy New Year when to be happy for many of us is simply to stay alive. Upon reflection, I make these recommendations for myself and for you.
Remember, there are beginnings and ends. Things begin, and things end. We are in the middle of tragedy; it seems it is going to be unending. However, things do end in one way or another, with one result or another. They will end, and there will be better times.
Do not get paralyzed but act. Do things. Make choices. Even if the choices are between two evils, two things that are not good. None of them may bring good results, but choose the one you think would be the better of the two. (This point is one of the principles that St. Alphonsus followed. St. Alphonsus was a founder of the Redemptorists, the same religious community as Blessed Vasyl.) There is no room for tears right now. There are greater tasks. To love and to be merciful to others and to look after life.
The world is unjust. It owes us nothing. We cannot ask why me, why our country? Rather, what is important is how we respond. What are we doing about it.
Human life is of the highest value. Do all to save it for yourselves and for others. Do not look for the sense of life in this or in that. The sense of life is to be alive, is to live. Do not mourn over material loss; it comes, and it goes, and we come and go. There will be a time for mourning. We are here now, living here, and we, too, will also someday fly into the hands of our loving Lord.
Live now, do not just look in the past or wait for something to come. Live right now. Be thankful for the people you have had in your life. They bring you light. Be grateful for those that you have known and those who have crossed your paths.
Do not hang on to grief. It kills us, and it destroys our heart. Talk it out and share it with someone. Live one day at a time and live it to the fullest.
Sister Natalia – January 2023
Sister’s words coming from the war-torn country of Ukraine, have a lot of wisdom. When you reflect on Blessed Vasyl’s story, you can see that he lived out these words. In times of the underground Church and persecution, even in Vorkuta, in the midst of the barracks in the far north of the Soviet Union, he did not stop. He continued his prayer life; he continued having Liturgy either in the barracks or in the mineshafts. He continued to encourage and to confess those in need.
During the time of persecution, he continued to form the Church, having Liturgies in people’s homes. Blessed Vasyl lived for the moment. He knew that he could be arrested. However, he believed that no matter when the moment came, he would be doing God’s will.
Do not hide because you are scared. Do not stop because you are filled with fear, filled with depression especially by what has happened in the past. Do not stop because you are filled with grief or pain. Keep going, act, decide and do.
As we begin this New Year, it is important to remember those that are in crisis moments. We can move along so easily in our daily life. Our problems are usually quite minacious to what those that are living in a war zone. They are living moment to moment, not knowing what will come next. Will there be another shell landing on their doorsteps?
Live in the moment and trust and do God’s will.
As Sister Natalia does, always looking to the end, that all this will pass but we will not pass.
May we be in the loving hands of our Lord in the end.