From academic to survival: A priest with ties to UST leads humanitarian efforts in Ukraine

May 10, 2022

Father Volodymyr Malchyn, a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest and pastor of St. Anne parish in Vyshneve who is enrolled in the Master of Science in Ecclesial Administration and Management at the University of St. Thomas, evacuated his wife and young children from the suburbs of Kyiv to western Ukraine after hearing bombs in the capital. (Photo courtesy of the University of St. Thomas – Houston)

HOUSTON — When Mario Enzler, dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of St. Thomas – Houston (UST), came in contact with Father Volodymyr Malchyn in August of 2021, little did he know that in a matter of months their conversation topics would go from academics to survival. Father Malchyn, his family and parishioners live in Vyshneve, a suburb in Kyiv in war-torn Ukraine.

“We felt the war knocking at our doors in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, when we were woken up by terrible sounds of bombardments of the Ukrainian capital,” said Father Malchyn.

Father Malchyn is a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest and pastor of St. Anne parish in Vyshneve. He is also enrolled in a unique program offered to clergy by UST, the Master of Science in Ecclesial Administration and Management (MEAM). The program teaches financial skills such as crisis management, budgeting, fundraising, administrative management and strategy to enhance their leadership roles within their parishes. Additionally, Father Malchyn leads the Development and Communications office for the Archeparchy of Kyiv.

When the sound of the bombs got louder, Father Malchyn decided to evacuate his wife and young children.

“We had a backpack with documents and medicine ready, and in 10 minutes, we left our home in the suburbs of Kyiv for western Ukraine to my relatives. We left everything behind — our apartment, clothes, favorite books and toys,” he said.

Father Malchyn returned to Ukraine as required by the current martial law. There, he continues to lead the few members of his parish who remained behind. Meanwhile, he stays connected to the rest of his flock virtually.

“We stay in touch through the online celebration of the Divine Liturgy and daily Rosary prayer in the evening,” Father Malchyn said. “It’s a true moment of unity and solidarity for our dispersed community. Together, we pray for our brave soldiers and for all those who support Ukraine. We thank God with every new dawn.”

His work has been essential in supporting the Ukrainian Catholic Church. His day-to-day activities include organizing financial aid initiatives, updating communications with partners and donors, and sending email newsletters.

Father Malchyn said, “As a parish community, we organize humanitarian aid for people in need who decided to stay in our city. Recently we also helped our city administration to get substantial aid from the Church’s network of Caritas-Ukraine. There is a shortage of food and medicine because the Russian troops block and shoot at rescue corridors, not allowing humanitarian convoys to pass through.”

Enzler and his priest classmates from the MEAM program have kept in communication with him as often as the conflict allows.

“The only possible way to communicate is through WhatsApp,” Enzler said. “I try not to disturb him, so I usually send a message once a week, and sometimes he answers quickly, sometimes he responds after a few days.”

Each message comes with the same words of encouragement Enzler once received directly from none other than St. John Paul II.

“I tell Father Malchyn what St. John Paul II told me: ‘Do not be afraid because God is always one day ahead of us!’”

For now, as the world watches the advances of the Russian army and millions of faithful individuals pray for an end of hostilities, Father Malchyn applies crucial skills from the MEAM program.

“The lessons learned in the fundraising and especially in the crisis management classes at the Ecclesial Administration and Management program are of great help at this critical moment,” Father Malchyn said.

To the world, Father Malchyn has one request: Do not forget Ukraine.

“Let your Christian love and human solidarity be long-lasting and abounding, for only in this way can just and lasting peace be built,” he said.