Sunday, June 12, 2022

(266) Everett King: An Air Force Gunnery Sergeant Who Served Our Country Well and Later Triumphed Over Adversity and Disability

AMDG


Everett King

Brother Knight Everett Ray King Jr, Age 68, of Gallipolis Ohio, passed away on Saturday October 16th, 2021. After graduating from Gallia Academy High School, he served 12 years in the United States Air Force, which included  combat missions as a gunnery sergeant on AC-130 20 mm cannon gunships as both tail gunner and mechanic in  the Viet Nam War.  His hard work for our country and abilities led to promotion to the rank of Master Sergeant.  As a civilian he served as an auto mechanic and started up a cleaning service.  Everett took pride in his Cherokee heritage.Gunnery Sergeant Everett King was a tail gunner on this Azreal AC-130 gunship.

Everett was preceded in death by his mother Barbara Mae King, his father Everett Ray King Sr., and his six month old daughter Tracy many years ago.  He is survived by his sons Robert King, Matthew Ryan King, and Christopher Lee King.  Lora June Terry took care of him while he endured with great courage a disability that confined him to a wheelchair.

His funeral took place at St. Louis Catholic Church in Gallipolis Ohio on Friday October 29.  His burial at the parish cemetery and a reception with lunch prepared by the Catholic Women's Club (CWC) afterwards. On line condolences and remembrances may be put on the tribute wall at www.allenfuneralhomewv.com/obituary/Everett-KingJr. 

   As Eucharistic Ministers, my wife Jaga and I bring Holy Communion to the sick and the shut-ins. After a while, we become friends and get to know them. Over time they also ministered to us.......teaching and even inspiring us.  Thus we would like to not only honor Everett King, but also share some of the things he can teach us---- especially his courage, his faith, his resignation to God's will, and trust in His kind providence.  Every life, from the rich and the famous to the common man, has a fascinating story to tell.  Brother knight Everett King is no exception.

Everett belonged to a non-denominational church, but something was missing.  He sometimes did channel surfing on his television set and stumbled upon the Catholic television channel, EWTN.  King watched it more and more……Daily Mass, Rosary, events, documentaries, news, interviews, panel discussion, etc.  He particularly liked the late Mother Angelica and her talk shows.  He was so impressed that he wanted to become Catholic.

During physical therapy sessions with Mary Ann Zerkel the conversation touched on religion.  Since he indicated an interest in the Catholic Church, she put him in touch with our pastor, Fr. Thomas Hamm, the celebrant of his funeral Mass.  Soon Everett, along with his son Robert and his caregiver Lora, entered the parish RCIA program to learn about the Catholic faith with no obligation.  It’s recommended for cradle Catholics as well since the typical person in the pew does not know his/her faith.This photo was taken on the day that Everett entered the church in 2014 with Lora Terry on the left and his son brother knight Robert King behind.  Fr. Thomas Hamm, our Council Chaplain and two of the sponsors Jaga and brother knight Paul Sebastian are also pictured.

After several months they made the final decision that changed his life and they were received into the Catholic Church with joy in 2014.  The three honored former Grand Knight Bruce Davison, my wife Jaga, and me by asking us to be their sponsors.  Thus we got to know them and their daily struggles with life……..meager income, living in a trailer subject to flooding, handicaps, etc.  After being so active for many years Everett’s health deteriorated……..problems with his heart, kidneys, white lung, diabetes, and bouts of pneumonia every year.  All of this confined him to a wheelchair, but Everett carried on with faith and courage.  Furthermore, when there was a heavy rain they had to get into their small car and go to higher ground because the creek behind their trailer could overflow and endanger them.

Everett King did not become a lukewarm Catholic, he became a super Catholic and an inspiration to us.  He drove Lora and Robert to the Sunday Vigil Mass every Saturday night until Covid hit.  He made it to Mass even though it was frequently a struggle.  Many of us often miss Sunday Mass with the lamest of excuses.  Everett used a prayer book and prayed every day, particularly the rosary, using it as a source of strength.  He prayed a lot, especially when under stress.  The simplicity of his faith was beautiful.  After Mass he would be refreshed and in a happy mood. 

As a new Catholic his faith in God really improved.  He was generous and tried to help people in any way he could…….giving advice and sharing his experiences.  He loved to joke around and enjoyed making people laugh.  King was loving and caring, scrupulously honest and very conscientious about paying his bills.  He loved the Church and considered the people of the parish as family.  They, particularly our Knights of Columbus Council helped Everett and were enriched in the process.  The Knights welcomed Everett and Robert with open arms as valued members.The 2015 Knights of Columbus induction of new members into our St. Louis Church Council 3335.  Everett King and his son Robert are on the left. Next to them are Frederick Michael Edelmann, Anthony Sola, Frank Lalli, and Tyler Reynolds.

Everett’s condition got worse with stays in the hospital, including intensive care with a ventilator to help him breathe.  He even had to be resuscitated after his heart stopped.  Through it all he kept the faith and continued on with resignation to the will of God and trust that our Lord would get him through all this and indeed He did.  Lora and Robert took care of him, sometimes heroically.  Jonathan Ogden was a big help in driving them to the hospital so many times.

Everett so much wanted to get better and return to Mass, but it was very difficult to regain his strength.  In the meantime he attended daily Mass on EWTN and Sunday Mass at St. Louis Church via Facebook.  Everett yearned for the Eucharist.  As an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, it was an awesome privilege for me to bring Christ Himself and His love to Everett in the Eucharist, i.e. Holy Communion; to pray with him; and to help him in a little way for his encounter with God in eternity.  I was supposed to minister to Everett, but Everett also ministered to me.  He knew that his time on earth was short, but he faced it with courage and faith, with patient resignation to God's will and trust in His kind providence. 

    I shared with Everett the fact that suffering can be very valuable, meaningful, and fruitful.  If accepted in faith with trust in God, suffering can be a wonderful preparation for eternity.  Taken in the right way, the inevitable crosses of life can make each one of us a saint.  Every canonized saint suffered and some even prayed to have more crosses. 

    Many times I would say, “You can reap great fruits with your prayers and by offering your crosses to the Lord as a dynamic prayer for your loved ones, for the Church, and for our Country.  God knows how much our country needs prayers.  In that way you can be most valuable.”  Indeed he was!  Everett was ready to meet his creator and is praying for us.  Thank you, Everett, for your example and for what you taught us.  Good-by until we're all together again in eternity.    

Monday, May 30, 2022

(265) Soldiers & Veterans From 40 Nations Make an Annual May Pilgrimage to Lourdes For Healing




                                                                                 
We came for physical healing, but received spiritual healing and strength for the journey ahead.....which are more important” (Charlie & Kim B.).  A family brings their wounded veteran to Lourdes for healing.

The theme of the 62nd International Military Pilgrimage (PMI) May 10-16 is Pacem Meam do Vobis (“My peace I give unto you”). The cross on this year’s logo was designed in Hungary as the symbol of the 2020 International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest. The cross was exhibited and carried in procession. It represents our Lord Jesus Christ who gives us his peace as well as the Eucharist, source of our peace and our salvation. The dove carrying the olive branch symbolizes the Holy Spirit and represents the gift of peace. Armed Forces Day was observed on May 21 and Memorial Day on May 30.

    They gave their all for our country........their limbs, their lives, their all. Many continue to give to our country through the handicaps they must endure for the rest of their lives. Some of the wounds are visible and others are not, such as the mental, emotional, and even spiritual wounds. Perhaps the most common is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD as a result of the trauma of intense bloody combat. Many a Vietnam veteran sit near the door of a restaurant in case of trouble and instinctively look for cover when a fire cracker goes off. Flashbacks are common. Their families, particularly their spouses and mothers, suffer too. Clearly, these veterans need a lot of healing. We all owe them a great debt of gratitude for our freedom.   Meet Adam and let him tell his story at https://players.brightcove.net/802593642001/y6FLiIa0f_default/index.html?videoId=6293785506001.  See other testimonies at https://www.warriorstolourdes.com/wtl/en/about/testimonials.html.

    It all shows the folly of war usually started by the aggression of one side or the other due to the quest for power and empire building....Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Putin; the list goes on. Each looked for the glory of his country and himself as well as personal power and his legacy. In other cases it is a reaction to preserve the power of the empire and crush the yearning of the people for self determination and freedom.

    Wherever there is a need, there is a knight. Every May the American Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) and the Knights of Columbus organize and finance a pilgrimage to Lourdes for active duty military and veterans in need of healing as part of the International Military Pilgrimage (PMI). There is an application process on the website and opportunities to help at www.warriorstolourdes.com.

A concelebrated Mass by many priests in the grotto at Lourdes. Notice the military band on the left. To the right of the altar and above the candles is the statue of the Immaculate Conception.

    You dear reader can even go on a virtual pilgrimage and read personal testimonies on that same website. The Military Pilgrimage consists of daily prayer, procession, Mass, and being bathed in the healing waters of Lourdes, and other retreat activities. For a brief video overview go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSjc8NqP9E0 and a previous military pilgrimage Mass go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWAr_poQlCM.

Soldiers from the Army, Navy, and Marines process/march in front of the Basilica at Lourdes.

    History. During World War II, members of the French military visited the site of St. Bernadette’s apparitions, offering prayers for peace. In December of 1944, U.S. military personnel joined British, Belgian, French, and Russian military representatives for a Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.


    After the War, French soldiers and their chaplains invited German soldiers and their chaplains to gather to pray together. The purpose of this initiative was to heal physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds and to reconcile the past between these former adversaries by recognizing their common identity as Christians in search of peace.


     The first official military pilgrimage was celebrated in 1958—13 years after World War II and one-hundred years after the 1858 apparitions. This year (May 10-16) marks the 62nd since then, drawing active-duty members and veterans from over 40 nations.


Military of 40 countries of the free world including Ukraine participated in the 62nd Annual International Military Pilgrimage (PMI). 

    The Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) was created by St. Pope John Paul II to provide the Catholic Church's full range of pastoral ministries and spiritual services to those in the United States Armed Forces. This includes more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the U.S. in 134 countries. The AMS is responsible for the spiritual well-being of more than 1.8 million Catholic men, women and children.  See milarch.org.

 

Veterans of the Knights of Columbus and the military of different countries process/march following an event in front of the Basilica at Lourdes.


   The Knights of Columbus (kofc.org), the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization, was founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest in New Haven, CT. It has more than 1.9 million members worldwide, including Canada, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, and Ukraine. The Knights donated more than $185.7 million and more than 76.7 million hours of service to charitable causes in 2018. Animated by its core principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, the Knights of Columbus has a long history of serving the military since World War I as shown in the video Armed With the Faith: the Knights of Columbus and the Military at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL5QMMx1FoU.


    In 2011, the Order established a new scholarship program to help fund the education of seminarians preparing to become Catholic chaplains in the U.S. military. In 2014, the Knights in partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation, provided funding to help complete the construction of computer-equipped custom smart homes for severely wounded heroes. The Knights have printed and distributed more than 600,000 durable Catholic prayer books titled Armed with the Faith for members of the US and Canadian armed forces. Today, the Knights of Columbus has more than 1,130 volunteers regularly serving at 130 VA medical centers.

    Our knights have served on the front lines of every war fought by the United States since the Order’s founding in 1882. Today, there are 67 active K of C military councils including West Point and eight Fourth Degree military assemblies around the world.


Appendix

APPLICATION PROCESS

Applications for the 2022 May pilgrimage are now available by clicking on the "Step 1" tab here below. Please carefully read through "Who is eligible?" to find out if you qualify.

Who Is
Eligible
Step 1
Apply
Step 2
Forms
Step 3
Endorsement
Step 4
Payment
Step 5
Confirmation

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO APPLY?

Each category of eligibility is outlined here below. Please note that while expenses are covered for selected warrior pilgrims and their designated caregivers, it is not the case for their companions, pre-9/11 veterans and non military-affiliated volunteers. Exceptions may apply.

WOUNDED, ILL OR INJURED MILITARY PERSONNEL

Includes wounded, ill or injured individuals serving on active duty, honorably discharged, separated or retired from the United States Military (priority given to post-9/11 era). This category includes individuals suffering from PTSD, Moral Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Since all pilgrims will lodge in hotels, wounded, ill or injured warriors must be able to perform all "activities of daily living" either alone or with the assistance of their designated caregiver. Applicants and their clinical providers should anticipate that professional medical or nursing services, including hospitalization, will be limited during the pilgrimage. EACH wounded, ill, or injured individual must complete and submit the full application to include the wounded, ill, or injured medical annex with physician signature.

NON-WOUNDED, NON-ILL OR NON-INJURED MILITARY PERSONNEL

Includes non-wounded, non-ill or non-injured individuals serving on active duty, honorably discharged, separated or retired from the United States Military (priority to post-9/11 era). EACH non-wounded, non-ill, or non-injured applicant must complete and submit a separate application to include the appropriate medical annex.

DESIGNATED CAREGIVER

Designated Caregivers, as defined by the VA and Military Services, include healthcare providers, spouses, adult relatives, significant others or friends who serve as a *certified designated caregiver for a wounded, ill or injured warrior. Services caregivers provide may include, but are not limited to, assistance with activities of daily living (i.e., personal hygiene, dressing, sitting, standing, feeding, bathing, etc.), ensuring the correct dose and timing of prescribed medications and/or providing supervision to ensure the safety of the warrior. A designated caregiver must be in good health, capable of sitting and/or standing in place for extended periods, capable of walking long distances (up and down stairs, hills and on uneven surfaces) and cannot have physical limitations that will prevent them from properly assisting the pilgrim. Designated caregivers should anticipate that professional medical or nursing services, including hospitalization, will be limited during the pilgrimage.

*A copy of your VA or Military Certification documentation must be included with your application.

ADULT COMPANION

Includes non-military spouses, adult relatives, significant others or friends serving as a travel and pilgrimage companion for a military pilgrim. A companion is NOT considered a designated caregiver. EACH companion must complete and submit a separate application to include the appropriate medical annex.

CHILD COMPANION

Includes child relatives under the age of 18 serving as a travel and pilgrimage companion for a military pilgrim. EACH child companion must complete or have completed and submit a separate application to include the appropriate medical annex.

VOLUNTEER

Includes any individual (including pre-9/11 era veterans) over the age of 14 who wishes to volunteer to physically support the movement and general care of warrior pilgrims as assigned by the Leadership Team for the Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage. A Volunteer must be in good health, capable of sitting and/or standing in place for extended periods, capable of walking long distances (up and down stairs, hills and on uneven surfaces) and pushing a wheelchair. Volunteers cannot have physical limitations that will prevent them from properly assisting our warrior pilgrims. EACH volunteer must complete and submit a separate application to include appropriate medical annex.

CHAPLAIN/DEACON

Includes both military (active, retired, discharged) and non-military Chaplains or Deacons who wish to attend and provide spiritual assistance for pilgrims. Non-active duty Chaplains will require a letter of good standing from their diocese or religious governing body.

Application FAQs

Monday, May 9, 2022

(264) The War Rages On in Ukraine as Refugees Keep Coming & the Knights of Columbus Keep Helping.

 AMDG

The toll 32 days after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24: 1151 UN verified civilian dead including at least 103 children. Many are uncounted for as in mass graves. There are 1824 verified injured including 133 children. Out of the population of 44 million living in an area the size of Texas, some 10,000,000 people have fled from their homes. Of this number over 5 million people have fled to their neighbors…..including Romania (555,000), Moldova (371,000 the largest per capita), Germany (369,000), Hungary (324,000), Russia (271,000 some had no choice), Slovakia (257,000), and Belarus (4,900). The United States has promised to take in 100,000. Poland alone has received 3 million refugees and more are coming. The European Union, of which they are members, is allowing refugees to live and work for three years. Most of the Ukrainian cities particularly Kyiv and Mariupol have been destroyed by indiscriminate shelling, missiles, and bombs…….targeting infrastructure, residences, even schools, hospitals, and fleeing refugees. Such targeting of civilians is considered to be a war crime. The damage to human life and property is horrendous. All of this is a humanitarian disaster. The Russian strategy is to destroy cities and bomb the people into submission, but the people have been very resilient and determined to resist the onslaught. See https://www.kofc.org/en/what-we-do/charity/ukraine.html, https://informingamerica.com/knights-of-columbus-on-site-aiding-ukrainian-war-victims/, and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8dhS0o-trLijWN1wMTHHzCXhth-_jikFm.

On the military side it is estimated that there are some 70,000 Russian wounded, 7,000 missing, and 24,000 dead with 10 generals among them……. More deaths than Americans in 20 years in Iraq & Afghanistan. Russian losses also include 1700 armored vehicles, 680 of 2840 tanks, 127 planes, 129 helicopters, 7 ships and the Moskva the flagship, 300 artillery systems, 54 air defense systems, and 100 rocket launchers. The outnumbered Ukrainian army 3 to 1 has lost at least 1500 men dead and many more wounded.

Putin and military experts expected the capital Kyiv to fall within a few days, but to their amazement the well trained Ukrainian army has outperformed the Russian army which has done poorly in regard to skill, morale, unsecured communications, command & control, tactics, logistics, etc. Many soldiers feel lied to and often Putin's advisers are reluctant to tell him how poorly his military has done. In one instance, it is reported that 60 paratroopers refused to fight.

Having been trained by the U.S. Army including Special Forces and having modern American equipment, such as the hand held anti-tank Javelin, the anti-aircraft Stinger, and drones, the Ukrainian army has been very effective against the much greater number of Russian troops, tanks, and aircraft to the amazement of military experts around the world. Were it not for Russia’s huge supply of artillery, missiles, bombs, bombs, and aircraft, the Ukrainians would probably be winning. The Russians have not been able to take and control any major city except for Mariupol in May, although about 2000 Ukrainian soldiers are still holding out in a large steel mill there despite dwindling food, water, and ammunition. Some 21,000 civilians have been killed during the siege. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhrduL7efLw.

This all shows that a motivated well trained army defending its homeland can hold its own against a foe which has many more troops, tanks, aircraft, weapons, much more ammunition and equipment. So far the Russian invasion has stalled and the war is a stalemate.

Why are we sending about $5 billion in military aid including the most modern weapons to Ukraine? Simply stated, because it is the right thing to do when a member of the family of nations is so violated by blatant unprovoked aggression to subjugate it. Some 250 years ago thirteen British colonies fought a war for independence, freedom, and self-determination. French aid was crucial to victory for the fledgling nation as was the active participation of experienced high ranking career military officers.....Marquis de Lafayette of France, Tadeusz Koszciuszko and Casimir Pulaski of Poland, Baron Von Steuben of Prussia. Now is the time to help a country --independent since 1991-- yearning to be free and independent, namely Ukraine. 

The free world has a stake in this war because a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. The world cannot tolerate blatant aggression by a larger country upon a smaller country. World peace is at stake because unhindered aggression and oppression eventually lead to bigger wars. In the future may sanctions by united peaceful nations (currently 50) be sufficient deterrents to war and atrocities due to the memory of its consequences, thus being a precedent for a world at peace. If Ukraine loses, that may embolden China to do the same with Taiwan. May all this horrendous suffering be not in vain.  The United Nations has designed impartial mechanisms for arbitration and mediation of international disputes. If only the world would have the confidence and trust to use them! The Church once served this function among Catholic countries.

Prayer has won wars. And we might mention that people are praying not only in the Ukraine, but in churches and homes all over the world…… holy hours, rosaries, and a worldwide novena plus the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary led by Pope Francis in Rome on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation. It was a really a renewal of the consecration that St. Pope John Paul II made in union with all of the bishops of the world on March 25, 1984. In 1989 the satellite countries received their freedom from Communism and in 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated, leaving only Russia as Ukraine declared its independence.

On October 23, 2016 the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, at a ceremony held at Fatima consecrated the Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. See

http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2016/11/182-poland-peru-and-ukraine-consecrate.html.  On March 17 the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Liviv welcomed the Pilgrim Virgin statue from Portugal.

        

The Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner and official representative of Pope Francis, leads an ecumenical prayer service at the Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lviv on March 10. On the left is Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and on the right is the Latin Rite Archbishop of Lviv, Mieczys┼éaw Mokrzycki. The latter two archbishops were among the very first Ukrainian knights (now 1889 knights in 42 councils). Other Ukrainian knights were also present.  In an interview Archbishop Mokrzycki said: “We encouraged our Christian people to pray and participate in the sacraments, because we know that prayer has power. We know from history that prayer has defeated evil many times and has won wars.”

At the beginning of April, the Russian Army is withdrawing from Kyiv after a six week siege under intense shelling and bombardment, reminiscent of the Middle Ages, and is now focusing on the eastern part of the country. This may be an admission that Russia has been unable to take the capital, its main objective since the invasion began on February 24. It seems that the intercession of St. Michael, the patron of Kyiv, prevailed. His large statue overlooks the large city. President Zelensky remains in power in the capital despite 12 assassination attempts. However, outside of Kyiv 900 bodies were found executed by the withdrawing troops. Russia is repositioning its troops, reorganizing, replenishing losses with fresh troops including mercenaries from Libya and Syria, and resupplying.


A closeup of the statue of St. Michael, the Patron Saint of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. It towers over Independence Square, the name which shows the national yearning of centuries for independence.


        Urging all knights worldwide to participate in the novena/and consecration initiated by Ukrainian Catholics, the Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said: “Together, we’ll ask Our Lady to intercede on behalf of those directly impacted by the conflict, to give strength to our Ukrainian and Polish Knights working so hard to deliver relief, and to help bring peace and healing to the region.”

The knights also participated in a Holy Hour in New Haven on February 26 and again on Ash Wednesday March 2. Kelly underscored the Knights’ two-part response to the humanitarian crisis — charitable support facilitated by the Ukraine Solidarity Fund and prayer. “While the benefits of our prayers may not be as tangible as dollars spent on food or medicine,” the supreme knight wrote, “we trust that their effects are even more important.

In Poland Archbishop Waclaw Depo, the state chaplain presided at a Mass organized by the Polish knights at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. He also blessed rosaries to be distributed to the refugees.

Despite being very much out-manned and outgunned, the Ukrainian Army has done very well, holding its own under heavy odds against what had been considered one of the most powerful armies in the world. Thus I cannot help but think that the avalanche of prayer is achieving results, giving confidence to the people and its soldiers that Ukraine can win. It seems that God is helping Ukraine as He helped the Jews of the Old Testament. We have the faith that Ukraine will maintain its independence, if not in the short run, certainly in the long run. Then may Ukraine clean up its corruption and become an example to the world of a well functioning democracy. May God use this debacle to set Russia on the right course. Already there are signs of an incipient religious revival in Russia. PRAYERS ARE POWERFUL! See my article on World History and the Power of the Rosary & Mary’s Intercession http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-power-of-rosary-and-marys.html.

The crisis in the Ukraine has hit home on the other side of the Atlantic. There are over one million Americans of Ukrainian descent. They have their own Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church. It has its own Archdiocese of Philadelphia. At South Gallia High School near our home there is a beautiful Ukrainian exchange student by the name of Khrysta Svystovych. In no time she became a cheer leader. She’s safe here, but is very worried about her extended family back home. She usually attends Mass at our St. Louis Church. In our own village of Rio Grande, a small college town, an electronic billboard reads “Rio supports Ukraine”.  

In addition our family has a number of relatives who live in the Ukraine on my side (we visited them in 2017). On Jaga’s side, our niece Dagmara and her husband have taken in a mother and her 15 year old son into their home. Father had to stay behind and fight. Their stay is working out well. To reach the border they had to travel in an unheated train for something like a couple of days with no lights for fear that the train would be shot at or shelled.

Charity Convoys and Solidarity Shuttles.  The Knights in cooperation with the Semper Fidelis Foundation of southeast Poland collected supplies at regional points and sent a “charity convoy” of trucks filled with essential goods to Lviv, enough to fill two warehouses for distribution In coordination with Caritas Ukraine. The need is greatest in the east which is most under attack and people are suffering with much anguish. It is especially difficult for “solidarity shuttles” to distribute urgently needed supplies when key roads are controlled by the Russians, but the Ukrainians are ingeniously finding ways. All the work that the knights are doing to help people is inspiring the citizens to continue on with a certain confidence in eventual victory.  

A refugee receives a warm drink after his journey at a kiosk in the Knights of Columbus Mercy Hut at the border town of Hrebenne.

        At Hrebenne, a Polish border town, the Polish Knights of Columbus have taken a major role under the leadership of Marcin Wojciechowski of Council 15267, working 15 hour days. When asked, why he volunteers, his answer was: “I just want to help people”. That should inspire us! Others answered that their grandparents were refugees or had to live for years under tyrannical Russian rule. They know only too well that if Ukraine loses, Poland could be next. The knights and their sons work outside and their wives and daughters work inside.

The knights have set up aid tents which they call “Mercy Huts” at both Budomierz and Hrebenne. First is the opportunity for the cold refugees to get warm and have some hot food, soup, and drink. After all, Ukraine and Poland are at about the same latitude as Canada. The exhausted refugees, many under trauma in traveling through dangerous areas, are provided a place to rest before being placed with families all over Poland. Also very helpful are prayer tents and rosaries with rosaries provided as a gift. Some have extended family all over Europe and the world. Knights and their families throughout Poland are raising funds and/or helping. They have obtained donations of clothes, toys, diapers, formula, and strollers for refugee children.

Tatiana Alexandrovna, an exhausted grandmother with her grandchildren exclaimed after crossing the border: “The first thing I want to do is to sleep with my grandchildren----not listening for every explosion. We lived in such horror; I can't tell you. I am so grateful to the people who helped us escape and to the Polish people who have received us.”

Brother knight Roman Panivnyk and his wife Olga faced a difficult choice: staying for her parents and their country or leaving for their children. “I love my country. I was asked many times why I didn't stay in the United States after working there in 2003. But it was my conscious choice to come back to my country and to contribute to its growth and development. It's heartbreaking to find ourselves leaving it. We always knew there was the possibility of war, but we wanted to stay there because it's our land, it's our home, and we didn't want to flee.”

Olga added: “Roman told me that he wanted to get us over the border and if he needed to stay, he would go back to become part of the territorial defense troops. And he would help the Knights of Columbus in the region provide humanitarian help. If he was allowed out of the country, he would go with us to support me and the kids.

I was ready for anything. If I would have to carry this cross alone with the kds, I would carry it. While we neared the border, I was praying to the Lord to allow us to cross as soon as possible because, for my kids, it was like a nightmare.......Thankfully, we finally crossed the border on Tuesday, March 1, and Roman was allowed through because of our three children. The first thing I did was call my parents, who said they were praying for us.”

The faith is something which has sustained me throughout all my life and in this particular situation, it is the cornerstone. God is with us. When we were on the road, I was praying the rosary the whole time. We were praying together with the kids in the car. What is left with us after fleeing home is our faith and love we have for each other. This is it. I believe that the Lord will sustain us; he will guide us and protect us. We will find a way to serve the Lord wherever we are and to serve the Ukrainian people wherever they are.”

 

Refugees receive clothes from a Polish knight.

Many refugees, who just came with barely the clothes on their backs, receive supplies, toiletries, nonperishable goods, etc. The Mercy Hut also serves as a field hospital, providing medical care, medicines, and IVs in the Medical Tent.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgjqlwBvypk and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qvXWDu8sck.

    You can help too. The Knights of Columbus announced Feb. 25 a commitment of $1 million for immediate distribution to support Ukrainian refugees, including Ukrainian Knights and their families impacted by the recent Russian invasion of their country. The organization has also launched the Ukraine Solidarity Fund, an international fundraising campaign that will match all funds raised up to an additional $500,000. Thus each dollar donated will be matched by another dollar. To donate, go to www.kofc.org and click on “Donate” in the upper right corner of the home page.

        Knights in Poland; Knights in Ukraine. Beautiful is how the Polish knights give food and help to their counterparts in Ukraine who carry out the distribution. Establishing the Knights of Columbus in Poland began in 2005 and marked the first major international expansion of the organization since 1905. Today there are 5,500 strong in 110 councils in 28 dioceses.

In 1988 the Order launched a Marian Prayer Program featuring icons of Our Lady of Pochayiv to commemorate the millennial anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine. At the 123rd Supreme Convention in Chicago in 2005 Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Greek Catholic Church and former resident of the United as a child, appealed for the expansion of the Knights of Columbus to Ukraine. In 2009 leaders in the US, Canada, and Poland laid the groundwork, including the formation of a team to conduct First Degree ceremonies in Ukrainian. The initiation began in 2012 with councils in Kyiv and Lviv. Soon knights were acting as honor guards In 2013 Archbishop Shevchuk celebrated a Divine Liturgy in Kyiv to bless this expansion of the KofC in Ukraine. 

 In the war with Russian speaking separatists eastern Ukraine that began in 2014 the Knights were the first to respond to the appeal of Pope Francis to provide humanitarian aid such as to widowed families and soldiers with psychological trauma. They have established summer camps for children of veterans, visited veterans hospitals, and helped orphans and children with special needs. Today there are 2000 members in 40 local councils. 

As Archbishop Mokrzycki said, “We did not become Knights to gain fame, prestige or money, but to serve through deeds of love for the good of the Church, that is, for the community of people united by one faith and one baptism”. 

Ukraine State Deputy Yuriy Maletskiy thanked his brother Knights in Poland and throughout the world for their generosity and solidarity. Our principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism are truly manifested during these hostilities. Indeed, the principle of fraternity is known in adversity as never before.” This witness of brotherhood has attracted other Catholic men even in the midst of war. 

Freedom must always be preserved and guarded often at great cost. Freedom is not free. Be ready and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. Don’t take freedom for granted; don’t abuse it. We can lose it.