With the attack continuing in their native land, and many worried about friends and relatives now under siege in Ukraine, parishioners of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manhattan’s East Village joined their prayers with those of their bishop and Cardinal Dolan at a Divine Liturgy Feb. 27.
The cardinal, speaking to the congregation in the nearly filled church on East Seventh Street, said that through their history, “the people of Ukraine have been through the crucifixion and are going through it again.”
Calling Ukrainians “people of faith,” Cardinal Dolan said, “You always inspire us because you believe in the power of the resurrection.”
The cardinal told those gathered with him that “your family and friends suffer, and you suffer with them.”
The cardinal went on to say that worldly leaders may let their people down, but the Lord never does. At the Divine Liturgy, he was joined by his priest secretary, Father Stephen Ries, and Father Sean Connolly, administrator of Most Holy Redeemer-Nativity parish in lower Manhattan.
“When you and I don’t know where to go or what to do, we pray,” the cardinal said. “To pray with you and for you in solidarity with our cherished Ukraine is an honor for me this morning.”
As they prayed, Russia continued the attack against Ukraine that it began three days before. St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church is part of the Eparchy of Stamford, Conn., led by Bishop Paul Chomnycky, who offered the beautifully sung Divine Liturgy.
The bishop thanked Cardinal Dolan and called him “a good, good friend” who was among the first to phone and say he wanted “to come here to be with us” when the news broke about the invasion of Ukraine.
It was the second time the cardinal visited St. George under similar circumstances, the first being in 2014 when Russia invaded and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Many St. George parishioners lit candles and offered silent prayers near the front of the church. A special collection for Ukraine was taken up at the liturgy.
That weekend, support for Ukraine ringed the globe. Protests in solidarity sprung up in New York City and throughout the metropolitan area. A musical tribute led by the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York opened “Saturday Night Live.” The choir sang “Prayer for Ukraine.”
Parishioners at St. George, even those struggling to communicate in English, told CNY they were grateful for the supportive efforts.
Parishioner Iryna Sydir said she found the message preached at the Divine Liturgy “helps us to be strong.”
She said she now carries a small Ukrainian flag on the subway and at work and said people go out of their way to express their support for her homeland. She said she has also been getting many phone calls and messages, including some from people with whom she has not recently been in contact. “They all want to know how we can help.”
As a Catholic, she said she comes to St. George in good times as well as when there is conflict. “This is the home of my Father,” she said.
Speaking of her family, she said her mother, Yevheniya Sydir, also attended the liturgy. Iryna teared up as she expressed concern for her brother and cousins who remain in the Ukraine.
“Thank God for the internet,” she said. “We have the chance to know they are OK.”