Cardinal O'Malley, Ukrainian Catholic leader to host prayer service for Ukraine

JAMAICA PLAIN -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S., Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of Philadelphia, will preside at a Lenten prayer service of hope and solidarity for the people of Ukraine on March 25.

The two prelates will gather at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain for the "Lenten Service for Ukraine: Praying for Peace" on the feast of the Annunciation at 1 p.m. Joining them will be the two local Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox pastors: Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Parish, and Father Roman Tarnavsky of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Boston.

The service will be open to the public, giving all Ukrainians and their friends an opportunity to show solidarity with the besieged country after over a year of open invasion.

Cardinal O'Malley said this prayer service will "give us an opportunity to pray together as a Christian family."

"In the Mystical Body of Christ, when one member of the body is wounded the whole body suffers. This gathering is a chance to support each other and to deepen understanding about the current suffering of Ukrainians -- children and refugees in particular -- and the future rehabilitation of all affected by the devastation of the war in Ukraine," he said.

Archbishop Gudziak recently returned from his sixth trip to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion by Russia began in February 2022. He brought back "expressions of profound gratitude to the people of America and the faithful and leadership of the Boston Archdiocese for your steadfast prayer and most generous humanitarian support of the suffering in Ukraine."

"Prayer moves mountains and deflects bullets. Many miracles are in the making. David is standing up against Goliath. Ukrainians are giving their lives to protect the innocent. They ask us to keep praying, advocating, and helping. We can do no less. Let us come together to pray and offer comfort and consolation to those in need," Archbishop Gudziak said.

Vito Nicastro, associate director of the archdiocese's Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the idea for the prayer service came out of recent conversations between Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Gudziak after similar events were held in New York.

"What's happening in Ukraine encompasses almost every field of human existence: the physical, psychological, and of course the spiritual. There is difficulty, damage, deprivation; and in all of that, incredible nobility and resilience and strength. And we want to support that for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters," Nicastro said.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world. It began when St. Volodymyr the Great led his people to the Dnieper River to be baptized in 988 A.D.

Rather than taking a collection during the service, there will be baskets to place donations for rebuilding churches in Ukraine. According to the World Council of Churches, nearly 500 churches have been destroyed or damaged in Ukraine.

Nicastro said the prayer service will be "an incredible opportunity to gather together and to be inspired by the witness of our brothers and sisters."

"Despite being subjected to a barrage of every kind of atrocity that brings forth the worst ... in human beings, they continue to bring forth the best because they insist on maintaining their faithfulness to the Gospel," Nicastro said.

He also spoke about the significance of holding this event during Lent, a time of solidarity with the suffering, leading up to Easter. He said that solidarity based on the Gospel "has a hope that comes from the Resurrection."

"I think our Lenten solidarity is a special kind of hope-bringing, and what's more needed in Ukraine than hope?" Nicastro said.

He said that the prayer service would be a good way to support the suffering, for those looking for opportunities to do so during Lent.

"Every one of us reads or hears some news every day that probably makes us wish we could do something in that horrible invasion. And this is something we can actually do," he said.