Friar James Visits Lviv, Ukraine

Friar James (right) is pictured with his confrere and friend, Bishop Edward Kawa, OFM Conv., in the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Lviv’s bomb shelter.

Our Lady of the Angels Province Minister Provincial Emeritus, Friar James McCurry, OFM Conv. met with Bishop Edward Kawa, O.F.M. Conv. ~ Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Lviv while visiting with the Franciscan Friars Conventual who serve in Poland and Ukraine. Bishop Edward and the friars of the Provincial Custody of the Holy Cross in the Ukraine (a custody of the Province of St. Anthony and Bl. James of Strepar in Kraków Poland) asked Friar James to extend to our Minister Provincial, Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv., a very sincere thank you for the Province’s generosity, which was made possible through the generosity of our many donors. He also stated that the refugee situation is expected to worsen.

Below: These peace murals in Lviv were designed by Ukrainian children.  The inscription reads: “Through thorns to the stars.”

August 31, 2022: The photo below was taken in the Friary of St. Francis of Assisi in Lviv, Ukraine, after Morning Mass in our Franciscan Church. Pictured with Friar James is Friar Paweł Odój, OFM Conv. (at right), two religious sisters, and a young parishioner who is a commando in the Ukrainian Army’s elite special forces.  They asked Friar James to give him a blessing.  He also gave him a miraculous medal.  Later that day, the air raid sirens blared while Friar Stanisław Kawa, OFM Conv. and Friar James were visiting the graves of war victims in the large Lviv cemetery.  Fr. Stanisław remarked that it was an appropriate place to meet their end.  Nothing happened, however, and the all-clear signal followed an hour later.

Please continue to pray for Ukraine!

~More on our Province assistance efforts~

День незалежності України – Independence Day of Ukraine

Continue to pray for Peace in Ukraine!

Today is the Independence Day of Ukraine. This reflection was posted on Facebook by Bishop Edward Kawa, OFM. Conv., who serves as Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Lviv, and is a Franciscan Friar Conventual of the Provincial Custody of the Holy Cross, of the Polish Province of St. Anthony and Bl. James of Strepar:
“24 серпня 2022 року – 6 місяців повномасштабної війни, яку Російська Федерація розпочала проти України. Ми втрачаємо синів і дочок нашого народу, ми втрачаємо території, але Україна все ще незалежна держава! І сьогодні, як ніколи раніше, ми цінуємо і шануємо цю нашу незалежність. І ми знаємо, що кожна крапля крові і поту, кожне життя, усі наші молитви, сльози дружин і матерів, увесь той біль і страх, які супроводжують нас ось уже 6 місяців – усе не даремно. Ми сьогодні доводимо самі собі, що варті та гідні цього Божого дару, яким є незалежність і ми готові за цей дар боротися. Хтось зі зброєю у руках на передовій, хтось у руках із розарієм у храмі чи вдома, хтось за кермом вантажівок із гуманітарною допомогою, хтось в операційній, на полях і заводах, хтось на блок-постах, але усі з молитвою на вустах і у серці, благаючи Бога про захист і підтримку, бо “коли Господь та не будує дому, – дарма працюють його будівничі. Коли Господь не зберігає міста, – дарма пильнує сторож. (Пс.126,1)
З Днем Незалежності!”
English Translation:
August 24, 2022 – 6 months of full-scale war, which the Russian Federation launched against Ukraine. We are losing sons and daughters of our people, we are losing territories, but Ukraine is still an independent state! And today, more than ever before, we value and honor this independence of ours. And we know that every drop of blood and sweat, every life, all our prayers, tears of wives and mothers, all the pain and fear that have accompanied us for 6 months – everything is not in vain. Today we prove to ourselves that we are worthy and worthy of this gift of God, which is independence, and we are ready to fight for this gift. Someone with a weapon in their hands on the front line, someone with a rosary in their hands in the church or at home, someone driving trucks with humanitarian aid, someone in the operating room, in the fields and factories, someone at the checkpoints, but all with prayer on their lips and in their hearts , begging God for protection and support, because ‘when the Lord does not build the house, its builders work in vain. When the Lord does not protect the city, the watchman watches in vain.’ (Ps. 126,1) Happy Independence Day!

Read more about our province’s efforts to support the friars in Ukraine!

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

Ascension by Pavlo Syrokvasha (Bila Tserkva, kiev, Ukraine) 1996

Truth re the Russia-Ukraine War and the Greco-Catholic Church

 It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set
by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit
has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses
…to the ends of the earth (Acts 1: 7-8)


At Ascension time, our minds cannot get around; our hearts break; our eyes cannot believe what we see in Ukraine since 24 February, the “dark” almost diabolical nature of Putin’s war. As a child I remember the strength and faith of my Ukrainian neighbors, I never doubted the Ukrainians would fight for their homeland, truth, and freedom. Poverty, newfound freedom after World War II, and living Greco-Catholic faith with devotion to Mary imbued them. In time, as artisans, they built a landmark replica[1] of the wooden Churches of the Greco-Catholic Church. With the drift towards secular modernity, Sacred Heart Church is a witness of faith.

In the West to be “academic” means to use scientific, objective methods, to study complex issues by following sources. Ukrainians are a separate Rite in the Catholic Church:

  1. In 1991, independent Ukraine an “unexpected nation” was born which surprised the West. Theology programs, religious studies and Church history have found that distinguishing between Ukraine and Russia is a problem. Why?
  2. The problem in post-Vatican II inspired ecumenical dialogue is a highly romanticized view of history and theology which carries the day with Western Ecumenists. In the dialogical endeavor, Ukraine disappears. Consequences?
  3. In scholarly works on the gift of Eastern Christianity, Ukraine is almost never mentioned. The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and its influence on the Tsars and Soviet Union is the image of the “grand narrative.”
  4. The Christianization of Rus is the proper historical and theological terminology. Use Rusian,[2] Rusyan, or Kievan. A proper balance is reached by understanding the Romanov Empire (1613-1917) with its multi- ethnic and multi-religious parts.
  5. There is a Church of Moscow, the Muscovite Church, but it is erroneous to speak of the baptism of Russia. There was no “Russian Christianity” in the medieval period, in the time when the event known as “the Baptism of Rus 988” Ukraine is not part of the Church of Moscow. A superficial study of history fuels misinformation in the Western media.
  6. Worse is the role of the clergy in the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill, who function as Russian propaganda, willingly, as co-inventors of the concept of the so-called “Russian World” or “Russian Space” which they want the West to buy. They deny Ukrainian independence since 1991. They want Ukrainians under the Patriarch of Moscow.
  7. This has everything to do with the toxic “Russian World” ideology with its RACIST undertones and the claims over the neighboring nations like Ukraine and Belarus. A caveat to theologians and Church historians who have to address the aggregate of political and military constructions that only appear “benevolent.”

Eight tips for sounding the alarm:

  1. Overlooking a disciplined academic, scientific and objective study of the range of primary sources. That includes knowing the languages.
  2. Failing to step back enough for reflection on the complex issues.
  3. Lack of critical analysis of the political engagements over centuries.
  4. Being too willing to give a pass to the flawed military engagements.
  5. Insufficiency of moral engagement; to take Ukrainians for what they are.
  6. Deficiency in taking the deep view to history; weak fact checking; short cuts that rely on experts who publish in prestigious places.
  7. Failing to remember the famine, Holodomor in 1932-1933, under Stalin. Millions of Ukrainians died when food was kept from reaching them.
  8. Presupposing that the theology of the Greco-Catholic Church leaves nothing to be discovered, but only mixes Orthodox and Catholic theology.

Vatican II, Orientalium Ecclesiarum,[3] was approved on the same day as the engine driving the Council, Lumen Gentium. The Eastern Churches are held with high esteem for the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiatical traditions and their established standards of the Christian life. However, its cursoriness short changes Ukrainians their “union and difference” within the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government.

Ukraine is part of the Greco-Catholic Church. Today, the Catholic University in Lviv counters the Russian state and Russian narrative that dominates the media. Knowledge of the history and languages of the old Soviet Union means knowing many languages other than Russian. Reality has changed! There is a quagmire of colonialism. The Ukrainian war is global. To study, to teach, to reach understanding cannot be solely with a Russian lens or Russian markers as if Russia subsumed the existence of all of the old nations. Western universities need to sound the alarm, not condone, nor fail to identify the gift of difference.

The contemporary Ukrainian religious scene differs from religious life in Russia which is dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church and lacks any democratic character. The gift of the contemporary Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church and its future will be reached by studying Ukrainian Christianity on its own terms, with its democratic character.[4] To have finally arrived at the right question may not be much, but I hope it is not nothing.

Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.  


[1] Sacred Heart Church is in Johnson City, New York. I never cease to be moved by remembering history.
[2] Rusian, Rusyan, is the correct spelling. They are used interchangeably with Kievan.
[3] Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, and the Decree on the Churches of the Eastern Rite, 21 Nov. 1964.
[4] Special thanks to Rev. Dr. Yury Avvakumov, Univ. of Notre Dame theologian and historian.

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
Ascension 2022

Holy Week in Ukraine

Shared by & SGAM: “Even as the Ukraine endures the invasion by Russian forces, the faith and hope of young people in Lviv remain strong as they work with the Friars at the St. Anthony Shrine to keep Holy Week sacred and prepare an Easter Festival for the local community.”

Shamokin Taize Evening Prayer Service

Sunday, March 20, 2022: A joint Taize Evening Prayer Service was held at our Shamokin, PA pastoral ministry ~ Mother Cabrini Catholic Church. Parishioners of neighboring Transfiguration of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church joined with Mother Cabrini parishioners, visiting clergy and other guests, filling the church to capacity praying for peace in Ukraine.  Fr. Mykola Ivanov, pastor of Transfiguration Parish, delivered a moving reflection regarding his native country’s current situation.  Accompanying Fr. Mykola was his altar server, Nicholas Sandri.  Our Lady of the Angels Province friar and Pastor of Mother Cabrini Pairsh ~ Fr. Martin Kobos, OFM Conv. was presider for the Evening Prayer. Fr. Mykola and his wife still have their parents and siblings living in Ukraine.  As of date, over $150,000 has been collected throughout the local “Coal Region” as relief aid.  Fr. Mykola will be traveling to Ukraine after Easter to present these funds and aid supplies to various relief efforts and agencies.

Fundacja Brat Słońce

Since February 24, 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, the Brother Sun Foundation (Fundacja Brat Słońce), established by the Province of St. Anthony and Bl. James of Strepar in Poland (Cracow), has been raising funds for Ukraine with a drive entitled “Helping Ukraine.”

Friars of Ukraine

Friar Mykola Orach, OFM Conv. of the Custody of the Holy Cross (Ukraine) talks about the situation in Ukraine – the aid the Conventual Franciscans have been receiving and the assistance they have been giving to those knocking on the doors of their friaries.