Aid to the Church in Need benefactors contributed nearly 15 million AUD over 290 different projects all over Ukraine. A large part of this aid supports those who are dedicated to working with the most needy, thereby benefitting countless others.
When Russian troops began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, bombing major cities and attempting to capture Kyiv, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was one of the first aid organisations to provide immediate assistance to Ukrainian civilians.
Over the year, there was no let-up in those efforts; on the contrary, they multiplied and have directly helped more than 15,000 people, most of whom are dedicated to serving the most needy and desperate, including those who have lost all their possessions, or even family members, during the war.
ACN’s total aid to Ukraine in these first 12 months of war amounts to nearly 15 million AUD divided into 292 projects.
A large portion of this assistance consisted of emergency existential aid, which benefited 7,447 diocesan priests, religious sisters and brothers, and diocesan staff. These are the men and women who have remained on the ground, sometimes in the most dangerous situations, keeping the life and activities of the Church going and allowing it to continue to provide for the spiritual and material needs of the local population.
As extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures, many seminaries and other Church buildings opened their doors to families fleeing the conflict. The resulting extra burden on food and basic services was shouldered by ACN, through aid to 738 seminarians, as well as the funding of 231 kitchen upgrades and portable ovens, or other household equipment to parishes, monasteries, seminaries, and other relevant institutions that are aiding refugees.
The first weeks and months of the war saw a large wave of displaced people head for the west of Ukraine. ACN has been there for these people as well, and has provided direct support to 2,274 refugees, in the form of humanitarian aid through Church institutions.
Social and spiritual relief for young people and adults
Children and young people are always among the most affected in these times of crisis, as the war imposes radical changes to habits and interrupts school routines. During this year the local Church has paid special attention to the needs of the young people, including provision of opportunities for leisure that are essential to a healthy development. ACN contributed to this effort by funding youth pastoral activities and holiday camps in safe areas, away from combat zones, for 1,712 young people.
Religious agents and thousands of lay volunteers gave their all to help their brothers and sisters in distress, leaving them at risk of physical and spiritual exhaustion. Therefore, ACN also funded 16 projects for formation sessions and spiritual retreats for 3,280 people, the vast majority of whom – 2,640 – were lay people and families involved in Church pastoral efforts, with the remaining 640 being religious, priests or catechists.
Generating heat and hope
With the persisting energy crisis resulting from the war, the approach of winter brought with it new needs in terms of heating. ACN managed to provide 205 generators and 78 insulation or heating systems to different communities of consecrated religious, thereby allowing them to remain in their residences. To these efforts can be added 25 construction or renovation projects to improve, repair or enlarge buildings, including churches; three water or sanitation projects and three projects for the installation or replacement of windows.
Besides all these projects, the Pontifical foundation also helped with the purchase of 80 cars and vans that were donated to dioceses, parishes, seminaries and religious orders, among others, and are used to provide pastoral care and to distribute supplies.
As always, a very important part of ACN assistance came in the form of Mass stipends that help to support priests in their daily work. These Masses are celebrated for the intentions of benefactors and, of course, for an end to hostilities. At least 6,549 priests received Mass stipends, and the spiritual benefit of these is incalculable.
ACN also helped purchase 130 liturgical kits for priests to be able to celebrate Mass in different situations and settings, sometimes on the move or in conflict zones.
The international Catholic charity continues to receive messages of profound gratitude from its long-standing partners on the ground. In a Christmas message sent to ACN, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said: “Let me convey to you the best wishes and thanks from Ukraine, amidst the cold. No electricity, no heating. But with God, who is coming to be again born among us. May God’s presence be our hope, be our faith and be the source of our life in today’s circumstances of war in Ukraine!”
The Greek Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, and his auxiliary bishop Volodymyr Hrutsa also expressed their “sincere thanks to all ACN benefactors” and asked that they “continue to provide aid to Ukraine, especially in the winter season”.
During an online conference on 8 February 2023, Mons. Visvaldas Kulbokas, Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, told ACN that: “We feel your presence. We feel your prayers and every day we are witnessing small miracles – your prayers are very important in staying strong and we are grateful”.
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With thanks to Aid to the Church in Need Australia.