“The church building is in ruins, but the Church is alive”
After the liberation of the Mykolaiv district in Ukraine from the Russian army last week, residents began to return to their homes with the hope of saving at least some of their possessions. The local clergy have also returned, among them a Benedictine nun who was shocked to see the state of the local church buildings. However, she believes „the Church, meaning people, remained alive”.
Together with the parish priest, Society of Christ Father Oleksandr Repin, and other nuns, Benedictine Sister Faustina Kovalska went to the site of the church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kyselivka, Ukraine, where they had ministered before the war.
“We, too, like the people of the village of Kyselivka, could not sit idly,” Kovalska, who is from Ukraine, told CNA.
On reaching the site, however, the Benedictine nun could not believe what she saw.
“When we arrived at the site, we saw a heap of rubble,” she said. “We had hoped that something may have been left there and that we would find some objects and take them away.”
“Tears trickled down my cheeks,” she admitted. “It was hard to imagine that not so long ago, this had been a church where people had gathered every Sunday to pray for so many years.”
“There are rockets stuck in the ground around the church, lots of cluster shell remnants,” Kovalska continued.
“You immediately realize that evil does not love what is sacred. You become even more convinced that this evil gets stuck into our soil and destroys everything, especially what is sacred.”
Despite the loss, Kovalska was reminded of what the Church really stands for.
“I started to pray the Lord’s Prayer and there was peace in my heart. The house of God, the holy place chosen to glorify God within, had survived. There was no hatred, no anger, only some grief and a consoling thought that the Church, meaning people, remained alive,” Kovalska said.
The nun pointed out that most parishioners now pray at the church in Mykolaiv, about 34 miles from Kyselivka.
She expressed the hope that the church would be rebuilt if people returned to the severely destroyed village.
“This sight, which is very tragic, nevertheless brings hope of resurrection,” she concluded.
The small stone church in Kyselivka, located nine miles northwest of Kherson, was built in the second half of the 19th century. It survived two world wars and the communist regime.
The Soviet authorities turned the church into a warehouse and later into a tractor repair site.
In 1990, the church was returned to the congregation and placed in the care of the Society of Christ. In 2013, the church was blessed by the then-bishop of the Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol, Bronisław Bernacki.
As of March, Kyselivka was under continuous shelling by the Russian army. The church was on the front line and was destroyed on May 2. On Nov. 10, the village was recaptured from Russian hands as part of the Ukrainian offensive in the Kherson region.
Source: Catholic News Agency
In the photo, the nun and the priest visit the destroyed church in Kyselivka, Ukraine. Benedictine Missionary Sisters. Source: Catholic News Agency