Our visit to the provincial house in Lviv was a wonderful surprise! Accustomed as we were of hearing and seeing an aging Europe (where many of our confreres, after many years dedicated to the mission, are already tired and sometimes are facing illnesses), getting to Lviv has offered us the opportunity to be in touch with the energy and spontaneity of younger confreres. We didn’t stay long, but it was enough to share meals full of good mood and joy. Father Taras, who was in Lviv on vacation, updated the news from across the Atlantic, father Andriy, the provincial of Lviv (Ukraine), who welcomed us so well, was always ready to have a good laugh and father Michael told jokes while trying to practice his English.

Michael is one of our confreres who has been on a mission until recently as chaplain in the armed conflict zone between Ukraine and Russia. His primary goal has been to make himself available to listen and to comfort so many soldiers who have suffered the trauma of war and are trying to make sense of it. Only those who experience war will know what it means. This is why our confreres were prepared to be side by side, to live the days, fears and concerns of so many young soldiers. They pray together for peace, trying to keep a glimmer of hope alive.

Speaking of hope, Anna-Maria, who welcomed us with a friendly smile that immediately made us feel at home, is a Missionary Sister of the Most Holy Redeemer, and she is always beaming with hope. We met her at the Greek-Catholic University of Lviv where she lives and works. Strolling through the common areas of the University, Anna-Maria told us about the mission of the sisters in this specific context. The sisters know the students and the students know them. Sometimes they even sit next to each other in the same class. They set themselves the task to be available anytime. To talk, to listen, to pray. And they are sought after.

They live on the first floor of the university residence. The chapel of the house is on the second floor. Its doors are always open and whoever gets out of the elevator on the second floor can’t miss it – it will be right in front of him. It is the center of the house. There they organize prayer meetings at special times and during the evenings of the week they coordinate groups of sharing, formation and spirituality with the students. But the great mission of our sisters is to be there. To make themselves present and to be available. And students thank them and make the best of their presence. We have seen how they show Anna-Maria their affection and familiarity when they bump into her in the university corridors. A joyful and fruitful missionary presence.

On the second day we had lunch together with Anna-Maria at the Karmel Café. This space was created by some men and women religious both from the Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic rites. Father Roman (a Redemptorist missionary and one of those responsible for the project) told us that the main objective is to create a common project between the different rites in order to promote communion and solidarity among them. In the past, their relationship was marked by some discord and disagreement, but presently they are taking steps in building a brotherhood of people that, if nothing else, belong to the same Church.

Some of the products used here are made or grown by different religious congregations, such is the case of pasta, tea or mushrooms. This is also a way to help support some communities financially. This café-restaurant which is open to the city has been in operation for about a year and it is only the first stage of a larger project that is gradually being built. The next steps are to offer a psychotherapy support office and to offer formation to religious, while keeping the doors open to the city. For the time being, in the same building as the Karmel, a priest is at the service to listen or celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, every day.

The basis is communion and solidarity within the same Universal Church that we form. And that is what we saw in Lviv. Openness to the Spirit comes from a careful reading of the signs of the times. And this we also saw in Lviv. A living community, ready for communion, with eyes set in the future.

We’ll see you around,

Zé ku Teresa


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