Eastern, Roman Catholics gather together to pray for peace, remember victims of war in Ukraine

Eastern Catholic bishops from six rites joined Archbishop Rozanski for Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral Basilica

When one part of the Body of Christ suffers, all parts suffer, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski told those gathered for a Divine Liturgy for Peace on March 22 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The Divine Liturgy was offered in remembrance of the victims of the war in Ukraine, as the world marks 13 months since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

“My brothers and sisters, we can’t think that because the war is overseas, it is distant from us,” Archbishop Rozanski said in his homily. “…Our faith unites us with the people of Ukraine.”

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia was the principal celebrant of the liturgy, joined by bishops and priests representing six Eastern Catholic rites — Ukrainian, Byzantine (Ruthenian), Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean and Syro-Malabar.

Eastern Catholic bishops in the United States gather annually at St. Raymond Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. As the war in Ukraine stretches on, they saw an opportunity to bring together both Eastern and Roman Catholics to pray for peace, Archbishop Rozanski said.

“When I think of the need of Ukraine, and the need for prayer, coming together here in this cathedral seems so appropriate, because it means we are truly united as one in prayer, east and west,” he said. “And that’s the beauty of our Church — it’s universal. It unites us in prayer and unites us in faith, especially during the times that are tough and tragic.”

Archbishop Rozanski also noted the number of Ukrainian refugees who have come to St. Louis over the past year. “I think that is very important, that we keep that welcome open to those who are fleeing such an unjust and horrible war,” he said.

Archbishop Gudziak, who has continued to travel to Ukraine frequently over the past year, passed along a message of gratitude from the people of Ukraine at the end of the liturgy. “They are very aware of American solidarity, American help, the help of the Catholic Church,” he said.

Whenever there has been a Russian occupation of Ukraine, the Church there has suffered greatly, he said. For the faithful in the United States, “the most important thing is praying together,” Archbishop Gudziak said. “We ask people to pray, to be informed and to advocate, to encourage American political leaders not to wane in their support of the people of Ukraine.”

Several parishioners from St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in south St. Louis County attended the Divine Liturgy. Many of the parish’s households are fairly recent immigrants, and parish administrator Deacon Eugene Logusch said he sees new families arriving “almost weekly.”

“We have numerous parishioner families who have refugee families under their roof that they’re supporting,” he said.

Over the past year, the parish has raised funds to support both refugee relief and supplies for the Ukrainian military, including a dozen gasoline-powered generators purchased and sent to troops on the front lines.

Deacon Logusch has also seen St. Louisans come together to aid Ukrainians arriving in the area, he said. “Sometimes we’ve been almost speechless at the outpouring of support and offers of help, offers to accommodate people,” he said. “We had an avalanche of winter clothing donated, and we distributed almost all of it to families. We had a Muslim group provide 125 backpacks for kids going to school.”

Nataliya Hado and her husband, Ivan, and their four children came to St. Louis about three months ago via Poland after leaving Ukraine. Her sisters and several other relatives are still in Ukraine, she said, so it was powerful to join together with other Catholics at the Cathedral to pray for their safety and peace.

“I have seen many times, both Polish and American people join in prayer for Ukraine. It’s a great experience, because we can see that the Catholic Church is united so much. We are not divided,” she said. “…I’m here so far from my homeland, but I can still be in my Catholic Church, because it is universal.”

Hado’s family regularly attended both Roman Rite Mass and Ukrainian Rite Divine Liturgy in Lviv and were thrilled to find supportive communities in St. Louis at both St. Mary’s Assumption and Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in St. Charles, she said.

“How many liturgies we have, how many ways to worship — all people can find their special way to find God, but still within the Catholic Church,” she said. “You can be Eastern Catholic, you can be Roman Catholic, and you are still Catholic and have all the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“This liturgy tonight demonstrated to all of us that the Catholic Church is really very rich, because all the different rites make all of us richer in faith,” she said.

Miriam Ferko, a parishioner at the St. Louis Byzantine Catholic Church, attended the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral with her husband, Philip. “It was amazing to see all the bishops together,” she said. “That was a very big deal, and awe-inspiring to say the least…they talked about fellowship, and I felt that very strongly.”

Cover Photo: Mariana Hembarovska, from Ukraine and now living in St. Louis, prayed during a Divine Liturgy for peace in Ukraine on March 22 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in St. Louis. Hembarovska attends St. Mary’s Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in south St. Louis County.Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand