The war in Ukraine, which started a week before Lent began, is very much on everybody’s minds, whether you live in New York, Poland or Argentina. In our interconnected world, it becomes increasingly hard to turn away. Not when missiles are exploding on CNN, or stories about casualties and displacement are spread across the pages of The New York Times. The top of the fold across Page 1 Monday featured this headline: Russia Bombards Strategic Port From Land, Air and Sea. Just below were three equally chilling subheads: War Threatens to Cause a Global Food Crisis; For Putin, ‘Truth’ Is Just Another Front Line; and Art School (in Lviv) Is Hit as Hundreds Try to Flee.
The stories go into horrific details that boggle the mind, circling back to the central theme of this conflict, man’s inhumanity to man, as the people of Ukraine fight with heroic resolve in the face of a military onslaught whose scale and brutality seem more out of the Middle Ages than 22 years into the 21st century. As the nations of the world line up to support Ukraine, their pleas for a cease-fire and safety corridors fall on the deaf ears of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is propped up by a staggering campaign of misinformation and disinformation that blinds much of the Russian populace.
Into this marred canvas, where an independent nation struggles mightily for its sovereignty against a ruthless despot, we do our best to help the Ukrainian people and nation, especially in this penitential season when Catholics are urged to pray, fast and give alms. Elsewhere in this issue, you will find opportunities to support Ukraine financially. Here, I want to show how a Catholic high school in the archdiocese has taken up the cause and also highlight a Day of Prayer for Peace in Ukraine in the archdiocesan schools Monday, March 28.
At Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, they raised the Ukrainian flag March 16 next to the Stars and Stripes and the Vatican flag, and it will remain on the school’s front lawn “indefinitely,” said principal Paul Carty. The New York state flag was lowered for the time being to make room.
The same morning the student body assembled outside for a prayer service led by Carty, who gave welcoming remarks. Deacon Dan Moliterno, the school chaplain, proclaimed a Gospel reading. Senior John Prince led a prayer. The seniors led the singing of “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”
Carty, in an interview this week, said the students prayed that “the Ukrainian people would be able to experience freedom again.” The students also collected $2,100, which will be donated to the U.N. Refugee Crisis Program.
The war in Ukraine is a fertile topic of discussion and prayer in history and religion classes at Stepinac, and the students are closely following developments there. “There is a sense of anger about what’s happening to the people of Ukraine and a real sense of concern and a desire to see what more we can do,” said Carty, who teaches a senior religion class.
Carty said he planned the prayer service with Father Thomas Collins, Stepinac’s president.
The principal said that Stepinac planned to participate in the archdiocesan schools’ systemwide Day of Prayer for Peace in Ukraine next Monday.
The idea for the prayer day is student-driven. It began with the suggestion of eighth-grade student Kevin Curraj of St. Brendan’s School in the Bronx and was supported by the principal there, Michele Pasquale.
Kevin wanted schools to pray for Ukraine and for students to be allowed to wear outfits featuring the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag.
The Superintendent of Schools office, led by superintendent Michael Deegan, is behind the initiative. Linda Dougherty, the associate superintendent for Catholic identity, has developed a lesson plan including prayers and suggested songs, incorporating the blue and yellow colors and welcoming fundraising. Resources and strategies for teachers about how to talk to their students about war are included.
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