On May 26, 2018 Sister Ann Laszok and Sister Joann Sosler of the Jesus, Lover of Humanity Province in Fox Chase Manor, Pennsylvania, USA and nine volunteers left for a Mission Trip to Ukraine. The group planned to conduct English camps in Drohobych, Ivano-Frankivsk and Mukachevo and visit numerous orphanages and institutes.
The Mission Group worked with the Basilian Sisters and with priests in the various parishes and areas in Ukraine. Many special opportunities presented themselves during their time in Ukraine. The very first day a small parish celebrating their Patronal Feast on the day of The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) invited everyone to join them for the joyful event. Afterwards, the group went to a Psychiatric Institute for Children, where they brought the resident children a treat of bananas and joined them in musical and dancing entertainment. The next day the group attended the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Eparchy of Drohobych, which opened with a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk and concelebrated by many other hierarches and clergy at the Cathedral. Following a commemorative dinner, the Mission Group had an opportunity to meet with His Beatitude, who took a picture with them and gave them a blessing for their mission.
Despite the very warm or hot weather in Drohobych, the students participated in Divine Liturgy, attended three or four classes, and then had a variety of activities, which continued until late at night. The talented volunteer teachers also taught a variety of crafts, such as making candles. It was inspiring to hear the students sing the newly learned English responses at the daily Divine Liturgy. During breaks from the camp, the volunteers and Sisters were able to visit orphanages, a homeless center, halfway house and other places where they were able to minister to the people. The days passed quickly.
The Mission Trip moved to Ivano-Frankivsk for the second week. The volunteers and Sisters provided classes and enhanced the English skills of the participating children by providing games, dances, relays and other activities. Many of the students knew the Sisters and some volunteers since they had attended the English language camps in previous years. A marked improvement was noticeable in the language skills of some of those students. Volunteers had an opportunity to visit the Village of St. Nicholas, an orphanage of 40 children run by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. Since the building is undergoing renovation, some of the older children were away, but seven toddlers delighted the visitors. One of the volunteers of the Mission Trip Michael Haritan, a photographer, had an opportunity to travel to Kyiv, where he interviewed wounded soldiers, and then proceeded to Chernobyl to speak with the survivors of the Chernobyl tragedy. One of our Sisters in Ukraine assisted Michael in this rare opportunity made possible through the help of a local priest due to the humanitarian nature of the Ukraine Mission Trips.
The day before leaving Ivano-Frankivsk, the volunteers took a day to relax and restore themselves by going into the Carpathian Mountains, There they had an opportunity to pray at the St. Elias Church run by the Studite Monks and then drove to Yeremche and Bukovel to enjoy the waterfall and relaxing scenes of nature.
On the following day, the Ukraine Mission Trip group were taken to Mukachevo, where they were welcomed with traditional bread and honey. The children had prepared English signs greeting the group. Many of the children had improved their English skills from the previous year. Former students who exceeded the age range for camp were saddened that they could not attend this year, but were glad to see the familiar faces of the volunteers. Divine Liturgy, classes and activities kept everyone busy throughout the week. One couple from the volunteers celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary with a Divine Liturgy and a enthusiastic “Mnohaya Lita” (“Many happy years”) sung by everyone present.
Time went by quickly and soon it was time for tearful good-byes and heartfelt hugs.
As the Ukraine Mission Trip group returned to the United States of America, they took with them many memories of the experiences with the children, Sisters, priests, and friends from the English camps, their visits to the different orphanages, institutes, homeless shelters, their remembrances of celebrations at many churches and parishes, and impressions of Ukraine. They witnessed those living in extreme poverty, those needing physical, mental and emotional assistance, those who are lonely and poor longing for the care and touch of other human beings. At the same time, the volunteers encountered countless caring people, who extended warm hospitality – cooked or baked delicious homemade food, provided transportation, shared their traditions and freely shared what they had with the guests. The volunteers were touched by all their experiences, leaving an indelible mark upon their giving, loving hearts. Thus, those who went to minister and help others, were blessed and rewarded by God for reaching out in ministry and help to those in need.
Based on letters and notes sent by Sister Ann and Sister Joann during their Mission Trip to Ukraine
More information: Sisters of the Order of St Basil the Great Jenkintown PA