At a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral prayed in solidarity with persecuted Christians throughout the world, Cardinal Dolan offered a special welcome to representatives of two organizations, the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need, which work diligently and effectively to ease such suffering.
“It’s especially fitting that we unite with these fellow believers as Holy Week nears,” said the cardinal in his homily at the morning liturgy April 3. “They are right now struggling with Jesus to carry His cross and theirs up the hill of Calvary.”
The cardinal said the numbers facing persecution for their Christian faith are growing, citing “dramatic hatred and vitriol” in countries such as China, India, Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Ukraine and parts of Africa.
He praised both the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need for the advocacy and relief they provide for the suffering in nations around the globe. “Thank you both and may God grant you perseverance,” the cardinal said.
The Knights of Columbus had many representatives attending the Mass, including some from their Supreme Council in New Haven, Conn. A contingent of fourth-degree Knights ringed the front of the nave during the opening procession.
Among the prelates and priests joining the cardinal at the altar were Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who is supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, and Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Images of Blessed Michael McGivney, the priest who founded the Knights of Columbus, and Our Lady of Refuge were positioned in the sanctuary during the Mass.
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly spoke with CNY after Mass about the Knights’ efforts to aid the people of Ukraine as they struggle with Russia’s unprovoked attacks in the war decimating their homeland and dispersing millions of Ukrainians to other lands as refugees.
“The Knights have stepped up and we’ve raised over $8 million in our Ukraine Solidarity Fund, precisely to help Ukrainian refugees,” Kelly said, “People feel helpless, and this is a concrete way they can help refugees. There’s a tremendous need because there are millions of refugees leaving Ukraine. It’s something the Knights of Columbus can do.”
Kelly explained that the Knights of Columbus, an international fraternal organization of Catholic men, have “people on the ground,” both in Ukraine and neighboring Poland.
“We are delivering aid right where it needs to go, primarily in Poland,” at two shelters on the border called Mercy Centers, which are serving as “way stations” for refugees crossing over from Ukraine. “We’re providing material aid—food, water and clothing,” he said.
Kelly said the Knights also have convoys of trucks going into Ukraine each day with supplies to deliver to those in need.
The money raised is being received in mostly small donations from over 30,000 people, both Knights and others. “It’s because people trust the Knights to get the aid where it needs to go. It’s been an enormously encouraging response to the situation,” Kelly said.
Since the war’s outbreak Feb. 24, Aid to the Church in Need has sent $2.5 million in assistance to both Latin-rite and Ukrainian Greek Catholic dioceses in Ukraine who are directly assisting the people there, said a spokesperson for the organization.
Sarkis Boghjalian, the executive director of Aid to the Church in Need in the United States, and Ed Clancy, the organization’s director of outreach, were both present at the Mass, and board chairman George Marlin delivered one of the readings.
“The Ukrainian crisis brings to the fore the suffering of Christians everywhere,” said Joop Koopman, director of communications for Aid to the Church in Need.
Also at the Mass were the Rodomon family of Yavorif, Ukraine, including mom Katarina and her two small children, who arrived in the United States three weeks ago. They have been receiving assistance from the parish of St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor, Queens, and are now staying temporarily in an apartment of parishioners Patrick and Monica Keane.
“It feels really good to be able to help them out,” said Keane in a phone interview with CNY.
The children, Eugene, 6, and Elizabeth, 3, are now attending the parish school, where sixth-grader Olivia Keane is helping them to get acclimated. Their father remains in Ukraine. Their grandmother, who is a resident of Queens, is also living with the family.