Ukraine: Sisters of St. Joseph turn convents into refugee centers
By Devin Watkins
Nuns from the Congregation of St. Joseph have thrown open the doors of their homes in Ukraine to people seeking shelter from Russia’s war in the country.
Huge numbers of Ukrainians have fled their homes in eastern and southern regions, as Russia concentrates its attacks on those areas.
UNHCR estimates that over 4.7 million people have fled Ukraine, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says around 7.1 million others have been forced out of their homes but moved to other parts of the country.
Convents and refugee centers
Church-run institutions have responded to this crisis in many ways, not least by offering any free space they may have available.
The Sisters of St. Joseph are one of those congregations turning their convents into refugee centers, according to the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Sister Tobiasza, a CSJ nun in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, told ACN that her convent is full of people sleeping in any free corner, whether on beds or mattresses on the floor.
Sr. Tobiasza adds that her sisters are helping refugees and locals in any way they can. Her convent in Lviv has become a transit point where people can rest and recover temporarily.
The nuns also help refugees search for places to say in the longer-term, especially in neighboring Poland. They even organize transport for families, most of whom are mothers and children.
Homes large and small
Other houses of the Congregation of St. Joseph have also become refugee centers, says Sr. Tobiasza.
A smaller convent in the city of Stryi has turned an extra room into a longer-term home for a family of two children and a grandmother.
“With the help of local and foreign benefactors they managed to buy a washing machine, a refrigerator, beds, and so on. All the basics to be able to live,” she said. “One of the boys is sick and needs special care and food.”
Prayer and aid
The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need has set up a special aid package to assist all Latin-rite Catholic congregations of women religious in the Archdiocese of Lviv.
The financial assistance will help over 140 nuns in the western Ukrainian city.
The donations will sustain their charitable and hospitable work, as their convents become homes that combine prayer with concrete assistance for Ukrainians in need.