Ukrainian, Byzantine, Roman Catholics in Palatine pray, walk for peace in Ukraine

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Catholics in Palatine pray, walk for peace in Ukraine

St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church and Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church joined together for a Pilgrimage for Peace in Ukraine on March 3, 2022 to pray for an end to the war. The pilgrimage began inside St. Theresa Church where Father Timothy Fairman, pastor, lead guests in a prayer service. From there, parishioners departed St. Theresa Church and carried a 19th century icon of the Blessed Mother and Child from Russia during the over two-mile walk to Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Church where Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk led the closing prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants gather at St. Therese for an opening prayer service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
An icon of Jesus and Mary is on display during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants make their way from St. Therese. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A person prays along with their rosary during the walk. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

More than 800 people gathered the afternoon of March 3 at St. Theresa Church in Palatine to pray for peace in Ukraine before walking as pilgrims more than two miles to Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church for another prayer service asking for peace.

The group included many retirees, but also families with schoolchildren who walked and babies in strollers and baby carriers.

The group followed a 19th century icon of the Blessed Mother and Child. The procession was also accompanied by a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

“Our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering all over the world, many in places that have been suffering for years, some of whom are suffering persecutions under the radar of news outlet,” said Father Tim Fairman, pastor of St. Theresa. “Today the Latin church is looking to the east, toward the children of Ukraine, and so is the world. Catholics and Orthodox Christians, together with those who follow Christ in goodwill, are suffering in a unified way, and we choose not to turn a blind eye to them. Certainly, this isn’t limited only to our Christian family but to the suffering at large. We are all under the fold of God’s paternal gaze.”

The church, he said, is one, and when one part suffers, all parts suffer with it.

“Today’s pilgrimage for peace is only two miles,” he said. “Two miles of the burden of those facing longer walks, seeking refuge in other countries or shelters. If we offer these steps together, they multiply.”

After the procession, Fairman said he was gratified by the large turnout, especially since the pilgrimage was planned in less than a week.

“We want the world to know,” said Kalyna Wasiunec, who walked with her husband, Myron Wasiunec, with Ukrainian flags draped over their shoulders. “The only thing that will save us is God.”

Parishioners at Immaculate Conception, the Wasiunecs have relatives living in the area of Lviv in western Ukraine. Those relatives have told the Wasiunecs about hearing the sirens and going to their designated bomb shelters, and some of them have joined teams that go out to wash paint markings off buildings that they believe designates them as targets for Russian bombing.

Jaroslaw and Irene Magera, also parishioners at Immaculate Conception, agreed on the need for divine intervention.

“The only thing this evil will be defeated by is God,” said Irene Magera.

Both of their parents emigrated from Ukraine in the 1950s, after the devastation of World War II and experiencing Soviet repression, she said.

“It makes you wonder what the Ukrainians did to deserve this,” Jaroslaw Magera said.

They appreciate the prayers, they said, but also want the world to see what is happening and put pressure on Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion and attacks on Ukraine.

Sue Geegan, director of human concerns at Holy Family Parish in Inverness, joined the procession with another Holy Family parishioner.

“You just feel helpless” in the face of the news reports coming from Ukraine,” she said. “This is something we can do to show solidarity.”

In the moleben service – a Byzantine-rite prayer service to ask for God’s help – at the end of the procession at Immaculate Conception, Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk of the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy acknowledged the sense of helplessness.

“This is a very difficult time for our country. We feel alone,” Kuzma said in a packed sanctuary, with more people watching on a screen in the lower level. “But you came now. … We wonder what we can do, how we can support, and we don’t see this answer, we don’t know what we should do. But what is impossible for us is possible for God.”

Immaculate Conception’s pastor, Archpriest Mykhailo Kuzma, also urged all members of the congregation to turn to God.

“Ukraine is going through its way of the cross right now,” he said. “There’s no question about it. And the world is watching and praying and fasting.”

Kuzma asked that those in attendance pray every day for Ukraine and “fast as much as you can.”

“This is first and foremost a spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil,” he said.

Kuzma said the war in Ukraine could spread further, but that the people of Ukraine will keep fighting to defend their country.

“The people of Ukraine are very dedicated people,” he said. “They’ve been here before, but they never, never give up.”

Jerry and Karen Sara, parishioners at St. Theresa, said they have no connection to Ukraine, although Jerry Sara is of Polish heritage and the couple visited Poland a couple of years ago. They canceled a trip to Moscow they had planned for this summer. Everyone, they said, should stand with Ukraine.

“The question isn’t why you would walk,” said Jerry Sara, St. Theresa’s finance council chairman. “The question is why wouldn’t you?”

Elizabeth Vogt walked with her 8-year-old twin sons, Timothy and Nathan, second graders at St. Theresa School who were carrying their school backpacks.

“We talked about what we would take if we had to leave our home suddenly,” Vogt said, adding that the boys’ first response was that they would bring their Pokemon cards. For her children, she said, that might be a good idea, if only to lend them a bit of normalcy.

“We talked about how we want to pray for the people in Ukraine,” she said. “This is a Lenten sacrifice that we can make for them.”


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