Dear Family and Friends,
140 years ago today, Bl. Michael McGivney received the news that the Knights of Columbus were officially chartered and recognized by the Connecticut Legislature. On this Founder’s Day, it gives me great joy to share with you several videos filmed by our brother Marcin and his team with us at the Polish-Ukraine border, and around the country as we assist the war refugees.
In founding the Knights, Bl. Michael McGivney foresaw the need for men to become active in their faith, and in that commitment to a fraternal charity that evangelizes, to assist especially the widow and the orphan. In the course of my 18 days in Poland, the Knights of Columbus – through the generous assistance, financial support, and prayers of so many – are doing exactly this in Poland and Ukraine.
First, the K of C through its K of C Solidarity Fund – is able to continue to get humanitarian aid, food, medical supplies, (and even donated ambulances and fire trucks) directly to our brother Knights on the ground in Ukraine – who then distribute the aid around the country, where it is so desperately needed. (Canned food is literally saving lives now for those in the bombed-out Eastern cities of Ukraine).
Second, the K of C runs two Mercy Centers at the Polish-Ukraine border crossings. These are heated and provide warmth, a place to rest, diapers, clothing, toys, food, medicines, etc for those most vulnerable refugees – 90% women and children along with the elderly, who cannot make it further than the Polish border before stopping to rest and then go on further. Our Mercy Centers also have a small chapel as a reminder that the Lord is present accompanying those carrying their crosses (often dragging only one single bag with them), under the cross and on the cross. As you may know, all men 18-60 must stay in Ukraine to fight, and so truly once the women and children cross the border, they are de facto widows and orphans, at least for this time of separation.
The third phase of our work is the establishment and support of the K of C Mercy Centers at our Parishes to serve the longer-term needs of the refugees once they have made it to the cities and towns to which they have fled. For example, Krakow, normally a city of 800,000
residents, is teeming with refugee women and children who now account for over 20% of the population. For the most part, the war refugees are being taken in by Poles or family and friends that had already come from Ukraine. This coming weekend – on the 17th anniversary of the death of St. John Paul II, we will launch the first of our Mercy Centers in the Redemptorist Parish in Warsaw, kicking things off with a Welcome BBQ for parishioners and refugees. There are plans for a kids’ drop-in center during the day with Polish and Ukrainian classes, areas to play, etc. with a coffee house for the Moms to meet and network, while also having the chance to speak with counselors about their trauma, or work on a resume, wash clothes, etc. Please pray for its success! Plans are in the works for the future launch of other Mercy Centers where our K of C Chaplains and Pastors already are doing outstanding work in receiving and assisting war refugees throughout Poland.
On a final note, it was a tremendous privilege to participate in the Consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday – at the Budomierz border crossing! Ours was the only Mass at the border that I am aware of that day. The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy from Krakow (two of whom take turns staying at the border and serving the refugees) led the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The local Pastor celebrated the Mass and offered the Polish Consecration Prayers. Following Mass we had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Sisters led us in the Way of the Cross. Afterward, a little past 5 pm, we began a Eucharistic Procession to the border. Saints John Paul II and Faustina were present in their relics which were carried along with icons given from the local Greek Catholic Church. The Polish border guards and officials allowed us to process to the border with the Lord Jesus in the Monstrance as we prayed the Rosary. The Pastor had provided speakers and a sound system so that all around could join us in the prayers. I blessed the border carrying our Lord and we made our way to the field between the countries where we could pray longer. The Pastor had set up a second outdoor altar, as you might see at Corpus Christi. This was located at the end of the “tent city” of the humanitarian border tents. (We chose this particular border crossing because of its relatively smaller size, not wanting to take away from serving the refugees who may have been coming across at that time, but also recognizing that the Holy Father Pope Francis has asked the whole world to unite in prayer at that very moment for peace). We finished the Rosary in Polish and Ukrainian at the second altar and then our Greek Catholic seminarian Taras led us in the Moleben Prayers/Hymn to the Mother of God. Following this, I sang the English prayer of Consecration and then again gave the benediction towards Ukraine and Russia. We processed back to the Mercy Center chapel for a final benediction and prayers as the 6 pm Angelus bells could be heard from the nearby village churches. The international volunteers present (German EMS workers, French fire brigades, etc) as well as several refugees who were there at the time all stopped and respectfully watched as we went by. When it was all over, the Germans took up an impromptu collection and gave me over $60 Euro for the refugees!
So, it is amazing work that continues and will be necessary to continue to support with your financial contributions, donations, and prayers. I am back in the USA for a brief few days for some needed medical appointments, but my heart and my mind are in Poland and Ukraine.
God bless you.
Fr. Jon Kalisch, OP