Here is the CONU 2022 Newsletter. Please see the featured stories about our new Executive Director, Father Tom Jamka, and the trip to Ukraine by our Vice President, Ken Rackers.
Below are photos from Father Stanislav Tanatarov in Mirgorod, Ukraine. The name of the new church, funded by an anonymous donor to CONU, is Church of Jesus of Divine Mercy. Father Stan says the church is the most beautiful building in the city. It’s in a prominent location on the main highway through Mirgorod. The church also continues to serve the war victims and refugees. One day this fall, over 400 war victims refugees received aid. When Ken Rackers, CONU’s board VP, visited in October 2022, Father Stan introduced him to about 120 refugees attending mass and receiving aid. Ken spoke 2-3 minutes in Russian during mass. After mass, 4 or 5 older ladies (babushkas, grandmothers) came up and kissed him on cheeks, hugged him with tears in their eyes, thanking CONU and Americans. Three dedushkas (grandfathers) also thanked him and shook his hand. Father Stan later took him to a refugee center (very dilapidated housing likely frigid in winter). Later he took him to lunch at the apartment of a refugee couple. They put on a typical generous feast. They also showed pictures of the apartment building they left behind in the war area of Donbas. It had been shelled by artillery the morning they fled. It was later completely and horribly ransacked by Russian soldiers.
The basement chapel of the Mirgorod church was filled with food and supply donations stacked taller than Ken, some from CONU, likely the rest is from Poland and international donors including the USA. Ken asked Father Stan where it all came from. He coyly responded from CONU, only CONU. He responded it was like that “fishes and loaves” from Jesus in the Bible. While CONU is not a big or rich organization, it contributes to the welfare of 1000s in cities and regions across Ukraine. Father Stan is a great leader of his parish and flock, and a honest and impeccable steward of CONU’s contributions… as are all the other with whom we work in projects across Ukraine. This is the second church Father Stan built with support from CONU. The other is in the city of Konotop.
… let me express to you the words of our sincere and deep gratitude for your kind and open heart and support for the needy people in Ukraine… Every day we live under the terrifying sounds of sirens, see deadly rockets fly by and hear the sounds of explosions. However, amidst this gloom of darkness, we also see and feel the strong and strong support we receive from sincere people with big hearts! Your personal support and the support of your entire organization CONU is an invaluable help in our daily lives, because it is because of you that people are able to get the help they need… we live in conditions without electricity, water and heating. This difficult and harsh Ukrainian winter has become a new test that we have to pass. However thanks to your help, needy people who find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances feel that they are not alone with their problems. … thanks to the kindness of your hearts, we are able to implement the campaign “Kitchen for the poor and needy” and warm needy people with hot lunches. … May God’s grace and mercy always be in your homes and hearts. We pray that the Lord will bless you with His blessings and express our sincere gratitude for the fact that he has rewarded you with kind hearts! We would like to wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas. So that the light and joy of the Lord’s birth always accompany you, and the Christmas star indicates only the right path of life’s path!
Gratitude Letter from Lutsk and Fr. Chomiak
In October 2022, our VP, Ken Rackers, visited many CONU contacts in Ukraine. Here’s the beginning of the article, there’s also a link below for the whole article.
Why Visit during a War?
Any news snippet from Ukraine would keep most travelers far from eastern Europe, but not Ken Rackers! His drive is motivated by his designation as an honorary Ukrainian “Cossack” which was bestowed by Ukrainian Orthodox Bishop Mefodi of Sumi on a previous trip. The timing of this trip was to align with the anniversary of the National and Orthodox “National Day of the Defenders,” October 12, 2020’. When asked why travel during a tumultuous time during a war, Ken replied: “It’s been a great honor to be designated a Ukrainian Cossack, along with 20 members of the Ukrainian military. I feel the honor and duty to help the people of Ukraine in the defense of their nation and struggle to maintain independence.” Furthermore, Ken reaffirmed “It is my duty and honor as a Ukrainian Cossack, and a former U.S. Army Soviet/Russian/East European Foreign Area Officer.”” It is easy to see how proud of his special designation as Ukrainian Cossack and this creates a special connection with the Ukrainian people. It’s also easy to see how loved he is by all those he connects with in Ukraine.
As vice president of the Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine (CONU, see sidebar), Ken has been instrumental and devoutly engaged in all the missions of CONU. His inspiration started with a talk from Father Paul Wicker, a founder of CONU, about his mission in February 2018 at Our Lady of the Pines. Between trips, Ken regularly corresponds with all his Ukrainian contacts to ensure their safety and see how best to provide for their needs.
On a Mission!
Ken landed in Krakov Poland on October 2 and crossed into Ukraine on October 3 to visit many people and places where CONU is refocusing its support to our brethren in need. His stops included Yaslovets, Kamenetz-Podilskii, Sharavetchka, Kyiv, Lubny, Sumi, and Lutsk. He returned to Krakov on October 11. Plans to visit Kharkiv were were interrupted by ongoing missile strikes.
To enjoy the rest of the article, please click here…
Article on Ukraine Visit
Here are some pictures capturing some of the most recent progress. Some beautiful work being performed!
CONU is proud to support the single mother’s home. Please watch the video below and see the happiness brought to these beautiful, healthy children by these wonderful Sisters (Sisters Renata, Kamila and Lidia)