Ukrainian priest in Kyiv: ‘We will not leave our people’
By Devin Watkins
“Oblates do not leave people, even until the end.”
As Russian artillery pounds Ukrainian cities in hopes of softening up resistance, Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, OMI refuses to entertain the notion of abandoning the faithful entrusted to his care.
The missionary now serves as the parish priest of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the capital, Kyiv.
Speaking to Vatican News from his parish in Kyiv, Fr. Pavlo said his community is helping people with basic necessities like food, as well as providing them spiritual comfort in the face of the horrors of war.
Life in Ukraine has obviously been turned upside down. Fr. Pavlo pointed to an awareness that “each night could be your last.”
Fr. Pavlo said he and his brother Oblates have begun broadcasting daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and the Liturgy of the Hours on Facebook for parishioners holed up in their homes around Kyiv.
“They are very grateful, because for them these are difficult times, especially those who cannot go out,” he said.
Catholic men from the parish, he added, often come briefly to Mass to receive Holy Communion, before returning to their posts “to defend our country.”
The Ukrainian-born Oblate priest said that getting food was hardest at the outbreak of the war on 24 February, but that some supplies have come through recently.
Having received some aid from abroad, Fr. Pavlo shares whatever foodstuffs are available, with some parishioners taking from their own meagre supplies to help others.
As of Tuesday, he was awaiting a shipment of potatoes and vegetables from the western city of Lviv, which would then distribute.
Serving until the end
Many people have fled Ukrainian cities, with the UN saying Tuesday that over 2 million have left the country. The Oblates have even given some parishioners car rides out of Kyiv.
But for those who remain, the missionary priests will continue their service, as they have in cities like Chernihiv, near Chernobyl, and Mariupol, which have been taken by Russian forces.
Oblates in Chernihiv are hosting around 19 people in their community house.
There are 10 Oblate communities around Ukraine with 30 missionaries total, according to Fr. Pavlo, who recently finished his term as the Superior of the Oblate Delegation in Ukraine.
Appeal for prayers for Ukraine
Fr. Pavlo concluded with a heartfelt appeal for everyone to pray for peace in Ukraine, saying that people have recounted miracles, such as bombs not exploding and people with “extraordinary power” despite not having slept for 11 days.