Diary: Return to Ukraine

March 2024

Bruce Compton, senior director of global health at CHA, is on his second trip to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. He is part of a contingent of representatives of Catholic relief groups checking on the results of their efforts. To share the experience, Compton is creating a diary with his reflections as well as photos and videos from the trip.

Thoughts from home — April 8

As I journeyed home from Ukraine through Poland, the United Kingdom, and U.S. airports, I couldn't help but notice the buzz surrounding the eclipse. This natural phenomenon seemed to metaphorically represent how our daily routines and preoccupations often overshadow the pressing issues of our world. The suffering in Ukraine, which I and the others traveling with me witnessed firsthand over the past two weeks, and in other conflict-ridden regions can easily be overshadowed by the daily hustle and bustle of our lives, sometimes blurring or, even worse, totally eclipsing our perception of the harsh realities faced by millions.

If we in Catholic health care are going to live out our vision to empower bold change to elevate human flourishing, it is crucial that we not lose sight of the people in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, Haiti and countless other places enduring immense hardships. We must remain vigilant and compassionate, extending our support and solidarity to those in need. Their struggles are ongoing, their pain is real, and their stories deserve to be heard, acknowledged, and met with an appropriate response.

On our journey of nearly 2,000 miles throughout Ukraine, it became apparent, from the reactions of those whom they have helped that Catholic Response for Ukraine and organizations like the International Catholic Migration Commission and Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach are beacons of hope, working to provide aid and relief to vulnerable communities worldwide. By supporting their efforts, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of our global brothers and sisters. I hope you will help them with your prayers and financial support.

As I settle back into my daily life, I carry with me a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to keep the plight of others at the forefront of my thoughts and actions. Let us not allow the distractions of daily life to eclipse our empathy and compassion.

Christian Kostko, a Ukrainian American who serves as a consultant for Catholic Response for Ukraine, snaps a photo during a stop at a hospital in Kyiv.



Journey winds down — April 4

Our journey of solidarity through Ukraine to witness the Catholic Church's response to the war continued as we left Uman, our overnight stop, and returned to Lviv, where our experience will soon close.

As we traveled through the countryside's winding roads, we approached a small town where traffic had stopped. We joined a line of cars that pulled to the side, and what unfolded before us was a profoundly moving scene that spoke volumes about resilience, honor and unity. Just ahead, flowers lined the road as far as the eye could see. As we waited, a truck approached with a police escort. Its presence was met with reverence and solemnity as the community members lining both sides of the road all knelt. The truck carried the casket of a soldier from the village who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

The community had come together to honor and remember him, kneeling united in their grief and gratitude for his selfless dedication and courage.

People line the side of a road as a truck carrying the casket of a fallen Ukrainian soldier passes.


As the community and fellow soldiers entered the village on foot, we continued and had a quick stopover in Ternopil. There we met with Fr. Martin Khomiv, a priest for the Greek Catholic Church in the region. Accompanied by his wife, Fr. Martin shared with us their inspiring work in providing mental health services to displaced children in and around Ternopil. The services offered by Fr. Martin and his wife address a critical need in the community, offering support and healing to children who have experienced the trauma of displacement.

After hearing that I was a beer enthusiast, Fr Martin insisted I take a quick tour of the basement of the restaurant where we met. I was shocked to see a mostly modern brewery, except the water was boiled by wood fires.

We ended the day in Lviv, where we will make a few more visits and take part in a networking call to recap our journey. I hope many of you who are reading this diary joined the call or will watch the recording.

A mostly modern brewery is tucked in the basement of a restaurant in Ternopil.


Over the past 12 days, as we traversed the diverse landscapes and experiences that Ukraine and the church's humanitarian response have to offer, a guiding force has worked tirelessly, mostly behind the scenes, ensuring that our journey has been nothing short of exceptional. That force is Christian Kostko, a Ukrainian American, who serves as a consultant for Catholic Response for Ukraine. His expertise and dedication have been instrumental in making our visit both productive and memorable. Working closely with Msgr. Robert Vitillo, he has played a pivotal role in convening the Catholic Response for Ukraine working group over the past two years, facilitating meaningful interactions with Catholic organizations from around the world, and most recently ensuring our itinerary was comprehensive and well-executed. He is the one to thank for the experiences I have been able to share with you.



Visiting hospitals — April 3
Our visits to two rural hospitals alongside Bishop Mykhailo Bubniy of the Odesa Exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church were deeply moving and multifaceted. The journey kindled a profound sense of solidarity with the resilient communities enduring the devastating effects of war.

We witnessed the dedication of chapels at each hospital that will stand as symbols of hope and unity. They were made possible through the support of the Knights of Columbus, International Catholic Migration Commission and the local church. These sacred spaces serve not only as places of worship but as sanctuaries of solace amidst the chaos and uncertainty of conflict.

In addition to the chapel dedications, we saw firsthand the tangible impact of collaborative efforts in health care. Both hospitals had benefited from the joint efforts of the same organizations that funded the chapels and Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach. They have received vital equipment, supplies from HSMO and medications from Catholic Medical Mission Board, bolstering their capacity to provide essential medical care to their communities. The administrators of both hospitals were eager to receive more. They told us that the donations they had already received have helped more than we could imagine.

The hospital staff shared heartbreaking and inspiring stories. At the first hospital, the administrator, who is also a surgeon, talked about volunteering during the early stages of the Russian occupation in 2015 and 2016. His service demonstrated a remarkable commitment to his community and country in the face of adversity.

Msgr. Robert Vitillo holds an icon he was given in appreciation of International Catholic Migration Commission support. Behind him, Bishop Mykhailo Bubniy of the Odesa Exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic accepts a handful ofshrapnel that had been removed from patients. Each of member of the visiting contingent was given a piece of shrapnel as a reminder of the ongoing war and of Ukrainian hospitals' continuing need for support.

At the second hospital, after a short concert by seminarians from the Seminaryin Ternopil, the bishop offered encouragement and led us in prayer. The emotional weight of the ongoing war was palpable. One of the employees, tears streaming down her face, implored us to pray for an end to the conflict. The sorrow and anguish were reflected in the eyes of several nurses and staff members. We later heard that the woman who spoke up had lost her son to the war.

Our visits served as a powerful reminder of the resilience and faith of the Ukrainian people. They also underscored the pain and suffering that many are hiding behind a strong veneer. The visits also highlighted the importance of prayerful solidarity, compassion and financial support in times of crisis.

As we closed our day with the bishop, chaplains and hospital administrators, we broke bread together at a local restaurant in a small Ukrainian town. At the end of the meal, the bishop asked our thoughts about the day and our trip. It was difficult to express all that I have shared here and personally felt in front of the group, but I tried. I told them how powerful our visit has been and that I would encourage the continued support of Catholic health care and others with whom I have influence.

As I close today, I pray that we make that support a reality individually and collectively. Through these collective efforts and with unwavering commitment, we can bring hope, healing and relief to those affected by the harsh realities of war.


Two Daughters of Charity are among those who provide health services at Depaul Ministries' shelter in Odesa for people experiencing homelessness.


Depaul Ministries and Stella Maris — April 2 

Visiting Depaul Ministries in Odesa, Ukraine, evoked a whirlwind of emotions. I was filled with amazement and deep respect for the incredible work they are doing to support the community.

Msgr. Robert Vitillo serves soup in a park in Odesa where Depaul sets up a daily food distribution point for people who are unhoused or displaced.



We were once again met by Fr. Vitaliy Novak, CM, who I wrote about a few days ago. His dedication and commitment to helping those in need is truly admirable and it shines through in his staff in Odesa.

However, my admiration was tinged with sadness. It was disheartening to realize that the services provided by Depaul Ministries are not only necessary due to the ongoing war but were also needed before the conflict began. The persistent struggles faced by the homeless population and the additional commitment required to assist the newly displaced added a layer of sorrow to my emotions.

Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Christian Kostko and Erica Smith arrive at the offices of Stella Maris. All are part of the contingent from Catholic relief groups visiting Ukraine.

The complexity of the situation became even more apparent when I learned about the disparities in funding. While Depaul Ministries can secure financial support for internally displaced persons, for other reasons it is much more challenging to obtain the necessary resources for those who are homeless.

Despite these mixed emotions, my visit filled me with hope. Witnessing the positive impact of Depaul's work was truly uplifting. I was especially moved by its support for those who have been in prison and in some cases unjustly accused of crimes and its day camp for internally displaced children that offers both normalcy and psychosocial support.

Our visit served as a reminder that even in the face of adversity, organizations like Depaul are making a difference and providing a beacon of hope for those in need.

In the afternoon we visited the offices of Stella Maris Ukraine, which provides support services to seafarers and their families. Our brief meeting with Friar Olegsander "Alex" Smerechynskyy gave me a glimpse into the breadth of services the Catholic Church provides.

It was evident that the war had brought significant changes to the organization's work. There was a palpable sense of sadness and concern as we discussed the impact of the invasion on the already difficult lives of seafarers and their loved ones. Many have been separated and need additional assistance.

Despite the somber atmosphere, I was also struck by the resilience and dedication of Friar Alex and the small team at Stella Maris Ukraine. Their unwavering commitment to continue serving the seafaring community amidst these challenging times was both inspiring and humbling.

Friar Alex said this is when we live and show our true vocation. The visit served as a poignant reminder of the profound impact of war on individuals and communities, as well as the crucial role that organizations like Stella Maris play in providing support and hope during these difficult times.

Overall, our day was a testament to the reach of Catholic organizations large and small in addressing the immediate needs of the communities they serve.

A horse pulls a wagon down a road in a rural part of Ukraine.



Visting Odesa — April 1

The shell of a hotel hit by Russian bombs early in the invasion of Ukraine stands at the center of the port in Odesa.

Today, we journeyed from the historic town of Kaminyets Pidilsky to the coastal city of Odesa. As we traveled across the countryside for eight hours, we were struck by its undeniable beauty, the dark fertile soil of the rolling hills of southeastern Ukraine, the budding trees and blossoming flowers, and the farmers preparing for another growing season. 

As we entered the port city of Odesa, I was dazzled by its elegant architecture and the beauty of the city center and the port on the Black Sea. However, standing in the center of the port is the shell of a hotel that was bombed during the early attacks of the Russian invasion.

As we walked through the city in the afternoon and evening, its bustling streets were filled with life. The vibrant streets were in stark contrast to the recent tragedies the city and country have faced. Just last week, Odesa was the target of bombings, a painful reminder of the dichotomy between the city's charm and the harsh reality of conflict.

Despite the challenges, the resilient people of Odesa continue to live their lives, showcasing their strength and the enduring spirit of a people who wish for peace and health.



People who came to a rural Greek Catholic church where humanitarian supplies were distributed to those displaced from their homes by the war thank Msgr. Robert Vitillo and those traveling with him.


Easter in Kaminyets Pidilsky — March 29-31 

Attending the Stations of the Cross in Ukraine on Good Friday was especially meaningful. The journey Jesus took as he was condemned and carried the cross to his crucifixion, and the encounters along the way resonated deeply with the present experience and context of Ukraine.

As we joined the parishioners in Kaminyets Pidilsky, I prayed that they saw our presence as an expression of unity and a time for us as a global Catholic community to come together to reflect and pray. As we made the journey of faith, I sought guidance, strength and comfort to identify the best ways to assist our brothers and sisters of Ukraine as they navigate uncertain and difficult circumstances brought about by an unjust war.

Attending the sunrise procession and Easter Mass in Kaminyets Pidilsky with Bishop Maksymilian Leon Dubrawski, OFM, presiding was a culturally and spiritually enriching experience. The atmosphere was filled with reverence and joy. I felt a sense of community as the families shared in this special service. Walking in the procession alongside the archbishop and Msgr. Robert Vitillo added a special significance, symbolizing unity in faith and shared devotion.

The delegation from Catholic relief groups gathers with Bishop Maksymilian Leon Dubrawski, OFM, of Kaminyets Pidilsky and members of the Knights of Columbus after the Easter Sunday Mass.

In the afternoon we were invited to join the Knights of Columbus at a rural Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish for their monthly distribution of humanitarian supplies to 250 internally displaced persons. The activities started with a prayer service and the local priest asked Msgr. Vitillo to say a few words. He spoke about the work of Catholic Response for Ukraine and how it has brought global actors together in support of the people of Ukraine. Afterward, the pastor presented him with a handmade wooden crucifix. As he thanked them, he noted that he will soon complete his work with the International Catholic Migration Commission and that this cross will take a prominent place in his office of his next assignment.

As we left the church people approached us to say thank you and I felt unworthy of their thanks, as it is they who continue to carry the burden of the cross in their daily lives away from their homes and families.

As the distributions began, we parted ways. On the ride to our lodging, I inquired about the contents of the packages. One of the Knights of Columbus said it was mostly food and items that people would need for daily life plus some Easter treats. He went on to say the early distributions came from donations from outside of Ukraine. When a local Knight noticed the food was unfamiliar, he changed the process so that now they use funding to purchase local food and supplies.

As I closed the day and reflected on my unique Easter, I felt a mix of emotions. It was heartwarming to see a community coming together to commemorate the resurrection and then go forth to support those in need. Witnessing these acts of kindness and generosity in trying conditions inspired a renewed hope and faith in humanity. On the other hand, it also highlighted the challenges faced by those who are displaced and the ongoing need for our assistance and prayerful support. Overall, it was once again a powerful reminder of the importance of compassion, community and solidarity.

A cultural center near Irpin still stands despite being damaged during the early days of the hostilities.


Returning to Irpin and Bucha — March 28

As we met Olga Shatylo for visits to Irpin and Bucha, I had a mix of emotions. Olga is an acquaintance from our trip last year.

We joined her at the bridge between Irpin and Kyiv that was destroyed by the Ukrainian military as the Russian invasion of 2022 commenced. It was a significant loss for infrastructure that restricted the movement of people, goods, and military equipment, but strategically it also slowed the Russians' advance toward Kyiv.

The reconstructed bridge is now open and the original is adjacent, an important reminder of how close the war was to Kyiv. Our host told us that people from the region are still affected by the sense of despair and danger they felt from the isolation and while evacuating on foot.

Renovations are being made to homes in Bucha that were damaged early in the Russian invasion.

Seeing houses being rebuilt, hearing of families returning to their homes and witnessing new businesses thriving brings hope and shows progress. It's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and commitment to rebuilding and moving forward despite the challenges they continue to face.

Seeing the widespread destruction of homes, infrastructure and historical sites that are still unoccupied also brought a sense of sadness. The signs of conflict are still quite evident, such as destroyed tanks and armored personnel carriers that are strewn alongside roads. Add to that, as we visited the area, the air raid sirens sounded once again. I cannot imagine the panic the alarms must evoke in those who lived through those early days of the invasion.

We closed our day by attending the Holy Thursday evening Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Cathedral in Kyiv.

After a day of emotional visits, the time in prayer and solidarity provided a welcome opportunity for reflection. It was moving to watch as the papal nuncio washed the feet of 12 laymen. It brought forth a renewed sense of connection with the people of Ukraine as we celebrated this solemnity together.

As we walked back to our vehicle in silence, I reflected on the realities that would follow the Last Supper and the human weakness that made them necessary. It provided me time to think about the peace and healing necessary in our daily lives. It felt even more important as I witnessed the realities of our brothers and sisters who yearn for peace and healing here in Ukraine, as well as Gaza, Sudan, Haiti and throughout the world.

The bridge over the Irpin River was destroyed by the Ukranians in early 2022 to stop the Russian advance on Kyiv.
The driver who was escorting the Catholic relief contingent writes a message of support to his fellow Ukrainians on a banner near the destroyed bridge over the Irpin River.
A painter transformed a section of damaged wall at the cultural center into a work of art.


Fr. Vitaliy Novak, CM, who leads the work of Depaul in Ukraine, visits the hostel for internally displaced persons in Kyiv, Ukraine. Next to him is the hostel’s staff lead, who is housed there along with her family after being forced from their home in the southern Zaporizzia region.


Meeting Fr. Vitaliy Novak — March 27 

As we pulled into the parking lot at the Depaul Ukraine administrative offices in Kyiv, a man in khaki pants and a black jacket with a patch of the Ukraine flag on the shoulder pointed to where we should park. I thought he was a security guard, but he was Fr. Vitaliy Novak, CM, a member of the Vincentian family who leads the work of Depaul in Ukraine. His role encompasses guiding the nonprofit's mission, strategy and initiatives. Still, he is a humble and dedicated man, so this morning his role included helping us park our car as we arrived. This is the introduction to his leadership style, which shines through in the dedicated work of the staff he directs.

As the day progressed, we saw that Depaul Ukraine is grounded in compassion, empathy and a commitment to social justice, which sets the tone for its approach to humanitarian aid. By addressing various aspects of human well-being — medical care, housing, mental health counseling, legal support, a prison ministry, a hostel for internally displaced persons and an evening shelter for the homeless — the organization ensures a comprehensive response to the complex needs of individuals and families affected by the conflict.

Members of the contingent from Catholic relief organizations gather with priests and sisters at the Vincentian provincial house.


The visit to Depaul Ukraine and the insights shared by Fr. Novak and the staff spotlight the organization's empowering approach to humanitarian aid. By prioritizing cash payments, legal support and housing assistance, Depaul Ukraine respects the autonomy and dignity of those it serves, enabling them to make informed decisions and rebuild their lives with agency and dignity.

We concluded our visit at the provincial house in Kyiv for a meal with several members of the Vincentian community, including priests and sisters who live and work there. The hospitality and comradery we experienced with and among the community accentuates the origin of the Depaul Ukraine staff's attitude as they express their charism dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul.

As I was finishing this brief overview and preparing for my night's rest, air raid sirens sounded throughout Kyiv. I thought of the trauma this must cause for those in the care of Depaul Ukraine, and I thought of Fr. Novak, who was headed closer toward the front, where he spends most of his time. Experiencing the air raid sirens added a profound and personal dimension to my understanding of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. It was a stark reminder of the daily realities faced by the people the organization serves. The sirens underscored the long-lasting impact of the conflict on the lives of the people of Ukraine as they endure the ravages and losses of more than two years of war.

The juxtaposition of the air raid sirens with the humanitarian work of Depaul Ukraine and others we have met or will meet on this short journey deepened my sense of solidarity and compassion toward the people of Ukraine. The sirens gave me pause; I wasn't traumatized but I briefly thought, what if the missiles land here? My momentary panic fostered a deeper understanding of Ukrainians' daily struggles, fears, hopes and aspirations. It also reinforced my belief that we have a shared responsibility to stand with them as they continue to deal with realities outside of their control.

Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, attaches a pin to his lapel that was designed and made in the United States to encourage prayers and support for Ukraine.


Visiting the archbishop — March 26
We started our day in Kyiv, Ukraine, by visiting Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine. Meeting with him alongside Msgr. Robert Vitillo, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission and the convener of a coalition of groups called Catholic Response for Ukraine, and Erica Smith, president and executive director of Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, during such a critical period in Ukraine's history was a profoundly moving experience.

Erica Smith, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas and Msgr. Robert Vitillo meet in Kyiv, Ukraine, to discuss the impacts of the Russian invasion and the Catholic response to help civilians.


As we entered the residence, the respect that Msgr. Vitillo has built in Ukraine was evident as he and Archbishop Kulbokas greeted each other. After the initial introductions, the archbishop provided us with some of his current impressions, but he quickly turned to the monsignor and Erica to ask them about their work and how it might be impactful for the people of Ukraine. He listened intently, paying attention to the details as he asked probing questions to help himself and others understand how they might be helpful in the process.

Witnessing the proactive efforts of the Catholic Church in responding to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the engagement of influential figures in understanding how best to assist is indeed heartening. This commitment underscores the universal call to solidarity, compassion, and service, particularly in times of great need.

As we prepared to depart, Erica presented the archbishop with a blue and yellow pin designed and made in Springfield, Illinois, in 2022 to encourage prayers and support for Ukraine. As he accepted it, he tapped it near his heart and exhaled. He then immediately pinned it onto his lapel.

Erica Smith of Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach hands a requested ultrasound to the deputy administrator and the director of orthopedics at an orthopedic clinic and hospital in Kyiv.



We continued our day by visiting an orthopedic clinic and hospital in Kyiv, where we met with a doctor representing the Knights of Columbus, the hospital's deputy administrator, the chief of orthopedics, and several staff members. They gathered for the donation of an ultrasound machine that had been requested from Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach.

The gift emphasizes the critical role of medical support in addressing the immediate and long-term consequences of the conflict. This donation, which was made possible by the relationships developed by ICMC and the Knights of Columbus, will support the immediate surgical needs of the hospital and strengthen its capacity to provide high-quality care in the long run.

Beyond the tangible benefits, this donation serves as a powerful symbol of solidarity and support to the people of Ukraine, the medical community, the soldiers we saw as patients, and in a sad way, those bravely defending their homeland.

The sky over Kyiv, Ukraine, is sunny and quiet on March 26. The capital city has been the scene of many missile attacks as part of Russia's attempt to seize control of the nation.


Arriving in Kyiv — March 25

Today, we journeyed from Lviv to Kyiv across a good part of Ukraine, a nation entangled in a conflict it didn't ask for. The pilgrimage challenged me, calling me to understand Ukrainians' sacrifice and service and, at the same time, our shared hope in the death and resurrection we commemorate over the next seven days.

Along the journey, we passed through a small village where Catholics paraded through the streets on their way to Mass. We saw soldiers at checkpoints and various other sites. We passed military vehicles being transported to another part of the country to defend its sovereignty. In several communities, we saw cemeteries marked with new graves of soldiers. All the while, the Catholic community worldwide prepares for the solemnities of Holy Week that commemorate Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

We closed our day by attending Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation at a Kyiv parish near our hotel. While the priest gave the homily in Ukrainian, of which I understand zero, I reflected on the journey. I was reminded of our brothers and sisters’ sacrifices here and elsewhere around the globe as they stare directly into the face of war. It made me consider the cost of peace and the conviction it takes to sustain faith and hope under these conditions.

While, in truth, today’s journey was uneventful and mostly quiet, it has left a mark that I hope I don't soon forget. It was a journey that I hope encourages me and others to a renewed commitment to peace and compassion as we live out CHA's vision to "empower bold change to elevate human flourishing."

Celebrants continue to hold Mass at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, even as the nation repels a Soviet invasion. The church dates to the early 20th century. It was closed for several decades during the Soviet era.
 A Mass marking the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated in a chapel in the basement of a parish in Kyiv, Ukraine.


Flags, flowers and photos are among the mementos left at a cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, on the 572 graves of soldiers killed fending off Russia's invasion.


The beginning — March 23-24
Entering Ukraine from Poland to witness the Catholic response to the crisis evokes a profound mix of emotions. Traveling with me is Msgr. Robert Vitillo, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission and the convener of a coalition of groups called Catholic Response for Ukraine, and Erica Smith, executive director of Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach. There's a sense of anticipation and purpose, knowing we are about to witness firsthand the impact of several Catholic organizations' efforts. At the same time, I feel a blend of hope and sadness — hope, because of the compassionate work being done and the potential for collaborations with CHA members to assist as the war continues, and sadness, because of these circumstances necessitating such efforts.

Msgr. Robert Vitillo and Erica Smith, second from right, meet with members of the mental health hub working with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Msgr. Vitillo is secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission and the convener of a coalition of groups called Catholic Response for Ukraine. Erica Smith is executive director of Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach.



Our day ends at dinner with three members of the mental health hub who are working with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The trio tells us of the trauma being experienced by the soldiers and their families, as well as the priests and seminarians. It seems no one is without some level of trauma. But these social workers and therapists are inspired by their work, and they are inspiring to us as they talk about their commitment to accompany those in need of their services and to providing their spiritual and psychosocial support for the long term.

Our first full day in Lviv commences with air raid sirens and the all-clear comes just before we attend Palm Sunday Mass at the cathedral. After Mass, we visit a new portion of the cemetery in Lviv, where 572 graves mark the tragic results of this unjust war. We then have lunch with the archbishop of Lviv and hear requests for much-needed assistance with basic medical and humanitarian support.

The remainder of the day is spent seeing daily life continue for the people of Lviv. In just 24 hours we experience the resilience of the Ukrainian people and the dedication of the clergy and others providing assistance, and we feel a tangible sense of solidarity.

The contingent waits in their vehicle at a security checkpoint in Poland to enter Ukraine.
People stroll through Market Square in Lviv, Ukraine. The western city of about 720,000 is in a region that has been the target of strategic airstrikes by Russia.
Msgr. Robert Vitillo is among the celebrants of Mass at the cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine. The cathedral was built in the 14th century.


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