As the war in Ukraine grinds on toward its 9th month, Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, OMI, says people are increasingly traumatized and in need of both psychological and spiritual assistance.
By Devin Watkins & Francesca Merlo
“Many people need a deeper form of help, not only psychological but spiritual as well, because only God can help.”
Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, OMI, offered that analysis of the burden which people bear after nearly 8 months of war in Ukraine.
Speaking to Vatican News’ Svitlana Dukhovych, Fr. Vyshkovskyi described the work which his religious order – the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate – is continuing to carry out.
He serves as the parish priest of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
Ministering amid trauma
After Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the OMI community in Kyiv wondered whether they should join millions of others and flee Ukraine to seek safety elsewhere.
As the local superior, he urged the younger Oblate priests to leave, since “anything could happen.”
“But they said no, we will also remain,” he recounted in the interview in Vatican News’ studios.
Fr. Vyshkovskyi described their decision to remain with the people they serve as “very touching”, because it meant the Oblates would stay together “as a community”.
The parish community began to hold Eucharistic Adoration each day, and many people showed up, even approaching the Sacraments for the first time.
In order to respond to the trauma inflicted by the war, Fr. Vyshkovskyi said his community hopes to set up a counseling centre in Kyiv.
Offering refugees a home
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are also in various other Ukrainian cities, besides Kyiv, including Chernihiv and Tyvriv.
In some regions, said Fr. Vyshkovskyi, the ongoing war has taken everything from people.
He added that the Oblate shrine in the central Ukrainian city of Tyvriv remains open to offer over 90 refugees a temporary home.
Fr. Vyshkovskyi said the Tyvriv community also prepares aid packages for military personnel, with the parish priest personally delivering it to Ukrainian troops fighting in the east.
Papal encouragement for Oblate mission
On 3 October, Pope Francis met with delegates at the OMI General Chapter, an audience attended by Fr. Vyshkovskyi.
He noted that the Pope encouraged the Oblates to stay true to their charism of serving the poor.