LINK WITH THE ANNUNCIATION PARISH, SUMY, UKRAINE
In early 1997, the St. Francis Parish Advisory Council (PAC) was discussing what our parish should do to mark the Millennium. Amongst various suggestions, one was to form a link with a parish in the Former Soviet Union.
As one of our parishioners (John Fernee) had previously worked in USSR, and had contacts with the parish in Sumy, in northern Ukraine, it was unanimously agreed to proceed by inviting a group from Sumy to visit us. Fr. Adrian sent an invitation to them, and we told them that our objectives were to:
By the end of 2008, six Llay & Rossett parish groups have visited Sumy, and seven groups from Sumy have visited our parish. Close links and friendships have developed between our parishes and between particular parishioners.
We have fundraised and donated many thousands of pounds to help the Sumy parish and their local orphanages and Special School. In that time, Ukraine has emerged from the shadow of Communism, and the situation in Sumy parish has dramatically improved also. Their church is beautiful, with wonderful acoustics which do justice to their singing.
An article written by Rita Sergienko, to explain the origins and working of
the Sumy Soup-
The Providence of God in Action
At first there was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. What she, that small woman, does for love of Christ was a revelation to me. She gave up everything for the sake of a life of poverty and service to the poor.
Next there was a whole year of prayers and reading everything which I could find about Mother Teresa.
For a whole year nothing happened.
Then, at the beginning of August 2002 I prepared food: soup, gruel, bread and tea, and went where the homeless usually gather. I fed three people. They did not even thank me. I went several times more with pans of food, but no-
Our parish priest Fr. Stanislav thought about this undertaking sympathetically and suggested something along the lines of a distribution point, and blessed our work. We distributed announcements about the opening of a soup-
But my heart kept silent. I could not and did not know, what and where to buy, where to take the basic equipment for the soup kitchen. I very much fretted and worried. And my heart kept silent.
By the time there were two permanent volunteers and things were well in hand, I understood that Merciful God was doing everything for me. I was only a witness of Merciful God in action.
Our volunteers are Nina Chernyavskaya and Katya Kovrizhenko. We have worked without a break from 12 August 2002. (Note: Both Nina and Katya have visited our parish)
The first lunch cost 6 grivnia and 40 kopeks. Now we spend 60-
I could say a lot about Nina Chernyavskaya and Katya Kovrizhenko, about how the Merciful God called them, and how He supports and strengthens them. Nina Chernyavskaya herself is a small and valiant woman, without a husband, she copes with 19 children. She is the mother of a foster home. All her children are active parishioners. They are altar servers, they clean the church, and work in our soup-
Katya, a delicate woman, brings up a daughter alone, is without work. She is outwardly restrained, but always tries to thrust a bigger piece of bread, and give from herself gruel or soup to our homeless.
Our priest Fr. Stanislav gives us a lot of help. Through his care, repairs were done and a heating system installed in the (church) basement where our soup-
We pray with the homeless before lunch, teach them to read the Our Father, Hail Mary, we teach them to pray for others, to love people. Indeed they are all God's children and God loves them all.
Through love, kindness and a calm attitude we get through to the hard hearts of the people living day by day, even hour by hour, we give them clothing, we dress their wounds, save them from lice, give them vitamins and simple medicines. It is easy to love people living far away. But it is not always easy to love those living around us. There are hundreds dying from hunger, and hundreds dying from loneliness and lack of love.
Our work calls upon us to see the suffering Jesus in each person who is in need, hungry, ill and naked. We are doing God's work. He provides us with the means. If He does not give us the means, it signifies that He does not want us to work. In which case, why worry?
We had a surprise when, last spring several people came to us after lunch and thanked us for giving them support in the winter.
Our 'nurslings' are growing, and we are growing in spirit, learning to live in joy and truth and active effective love.
Mother Teresa asked people, to let everyone who comes to you, leave you better and happier.
At the end of our work, after tidying up the kitchen, we pray the chaplet to Merciful God, thanking God for His love. We ask the Holy Spirit to give us strength and health to serve the poor, and revive in them the dignity of God's children. We pray for our priest, because much depends on priests. Also we pray for our friends and benefactors, that the Lord would not close their hands (Ps.145).
Our dream is, sometime in the future, with God's help, to create a shelter for the homeless where they could spend the night, wash themselves, change their clothes, and receive medical help.
We request prayers for this intention. But we know very well that everything necessary starts from ourselves with God's help.
“I Valentina Velikanova, want to express to you my personal gratitude for the priceless financial and prayer help which you have shown to me for many years. Many thanks to all, and to everyone separately. I thank God that he heard my prayers and cared for me in this way, in the most difficult time for me, when I remained completely alone, without health, absolutely physically helpless and without the means to live. If he had not touched your hearts, then in my country I would have died long ago……I pray for you, dear people, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. May God bless and keep you all, for caring for me for so many years. I ask for your charity and help, do not abandon me.”
My husband Yaroslav and I were baptised in 1991 in the Catholic church (we were 29 and 27 respectively). There were about 8-
For example, we didn't speak English well, but were able to understand Masses, because the structure of it was the same as in Ukraine and the entire world. It was so interesting to communicate with traditional Catholics, most of whom attended Church from their childhood, celebrated Christmas and Easter, led a normal religious life, as it would be in our country if it were not the communist regime which had deprived us of all this.
In Wales we got to know about the role of parishioners in the life of community, how they took part in it, what were relationships between parishioners and priest and many other things.
It was very important for us as for new members of Church and inspired us a lot.
It was also a very important experience for us to visit your country, because we were separated from another world for such a long time, in a country which tried to educate an animosity against the West. During our visit we discovered another world, and the people of this world. We got to know what it is the English (or Welsh) hospitality and were deeply touched with the care and attention which were devoted to us. That was one of the most nice and precious impressions in our life.
I think it is very important for us to continue the link with our parishes. It's always the possibility to learn something new from each other, to get a new experience and maybe to change something in our life. This link is alive because now we have friends in Wales and we think of each other and pray for them, and I am sure the time we spend together is full of blessings and good fruits.
Love and prayers, Oksana
Message from Lisa Berestovska – “What the Sumy/Wales link means to me…”
Friendship, especially international one, is a precious gift of God but it’s up to people to cherish it. Personally I feel very privileged to be part of it, to exchange vision of life, to share testimonials, to help whenever I can, finally to draw my parents closer to church and know that there is always someone in Wales keeping you and your family in their prayers every day. Our parishes are unique in a way for having established such a tremendous accomplishment as annual visits of parishioners. Sometimes one might get an impression a visit to Sumy has nothing more to offer than a mere reaffirmation of the friendship tie-
I feel very blessed with the visitors from Wales and am amazed to see how Lord has organized all this. I know a lot of people feel this way and would be devastated if this link suddenly got cut. I would like to thank you all for being there for me and my family and sharing your life with us. God bless you!