Catholic groups spearhead Ukrainian relief efforts

March 22, 2022

Two children, Ukrainian refugees, smile as they warm up inside a “Mercy hut,” provided by the Polish Knights of Columbus near the Polish-Ukrainian border. (Photo by the Knights of Columbus)

HOUSTON — Local officials with the Knights of Columbus of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said they were joining a national effort to contribute and raise funds to support the more than 10 million refugees fleeing their homes as Russia continued its invasion of Ukraine. Nearly 3.5 million have left Ukraine.

“Aside from the $1.5 million being donated to Ukraine relief efforts by [the national office], we have also been challenged ... with a dollar for dollar match for all funds we raise locally, up to $500,000,” said Knights of Columbus Diocesan Deputy John Hinojosa. “The 135 KC Councils in the Archdiocese are making individual efforts to help reach this goal.”

He encouraged others to contribute to relief aid and said: “Together we will help our brothers and sisters, Catholic and non-Catholic, with supplies, food, clothing, water and the like.”

In the days after Russia sent troops, bombs and missiles into Ukraine, the Knights of Columbus joined other Catholic relief groups in bringing relief supplies to the Polish-Ukranian border, as well into Lviv in western Ukraine.

The supplies delivered to Ukraine — including medicine, generators, sleeping bags, warm clothing and other necessities — were collected by K of C councils throughout Poland and brought to regional sites in Radom, Kraków and Tomaszów Lubelski. The items were then shipped and loaded onto an 18-wheeler — dubbed the “Solidarity Shuttle” — in Tomaszów Lubelski and departed for Lviv Feb. 28.

Local Knights in Ukraine received the delivery and coordinated with an “Anti-Crisis Committee,” established by the Archdiocese of Lviv, to distribute the much-needed supplies. Leaders of the Knights of Columbus in Ukraine, including the state deputy, state secretary and a district deputy, are currently serving on the committee.

Additionally, the Knights have set up a series of tents — or “mercy huts” — at the Poland-Ukraine border in Hrebenne, Poland, to welcome refugees escaping the conflict — thereby continuing the spirit of the Order’s “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free” campaign in Europe during World War I.

Meanwhile, members of St. John Paul II Council 15299 in Suchedniów, Poland, shipped a field kitchen and power generator to aid displaced Ukrainians.

In February, the Knights of Columbus announced that a commitment of $1 million for immediate distribution to support Ukrainian refugees, including Ukrainian Knights and their families impacted by the recent Russian invasion of their country. The organization has also launched the Ukraine Solidarity Fund, an international fundraising campaign that will match all funds raised up to an additional $500,000.

In a message to Knights around the world, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly encouraged the organization’s more than two million members to respond with continued prayers and material support.

“The situation in Ukraine is dire and worsening. The people of Ukraine and our brother Knights in that nation need our help,” the supreme knight wrote.

The relief funding will be used to provide shelter, food, medical supplies, clothing and religious goods, as well as other humanitarian needs as identified, both directly in Ukraine and through refugee sites in Poland. Poland has received an estimated two million refugees from Ukraine, according to mid-March reports. 

Bombings near Polish-Ukraine border
A Russian missile attack killed at least 35 people, striking just 15 miles from the Polish-Ukraine border near Yavoriv, the Associated Press reported March 14.

The explosions woke up residents of a nearby Polish village that sits just a mile from the border of Ukraine, with smoke and fires glowing visibly in the nighttime sky. They later went to Mass at the nearby Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to find comfort in neighbors and share what they saw.

Father Jozef Florek, Immaculate Conception’s pastor, told the AP: “If it’s bells not explosions that are waking us up, then we are safe. I am not a prophet, but we had bombs falling not far from us today that woke us up.”

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