Archbishop William Lori meets with Church leaders and assists relief efforts during visit to Poland and Ukraine
By Christopher Gunty 10/10/2022
Editor’s Note: The following article was abridged and adapted from the Catholic Review, the official news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore joined local leaders of the Knights of Columbus in Poland and Ukraine Oct. 1-4 to help distribute aid from the Order to service centers assisting refugees from the war in Ukraine.
During the visit, Knights brought care packages for internally displaced persons and also provided monetary support for humanitarian work of the Ukrainian Greek- and Latin-rite Churches in Ukraine and for the orphanage run by the Archdiocese of Częstochowa, Poland — efforts aided by the Knights’ Ukraine Solidarity Fund, which was established last February.
In an Oct. 2 video interview from Lviv, Ukraine, following a day of gatherings with Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, the city’s Latin-rite bishop and president of the country’s Latin-rite bishops’ conference, among others, Archbishop Lori said he sees a lot of resilience in the Ukrainian people.
“The Ukrainians are a very sturdy people, a courageous people. What I’m seeing is beautiful hope,” he said.
As an illustration, Archbishop Lori noted the choir at Sunday Mass at St. John Paul II Parish in Lviv was made up of children who are refugees.
“They sang like angels,” he said. “These are all children whose homes, as far as I know, are gone. But they were there, and they were joyful. They were singing.”
The supreme chaplain said he also saw resilience in the workers taking care of the displaced persons.
“You see it (resilience) in the people, in the general populace. … And there are people — war or no war — they’re out there, their families are out there, lots of young people are out there and they are doing their very best to carry on as if there is no war.”
On Oct. 1, the first full day of the trip, the group visited an orphanage near Częstochowa, Poland. Housing more than 100 Ukrainian children from families displaced by war, the former retreat center is run by Caritas Częstochowa and supported by the Knights of Columbus.
Archbishop Lori visited with the children and helped distribute warm coats as part of the Knights’ Coats for Kids program.
“A lot of these children were from families that already were in difficult situations,” Archbishop Lori explained. “Some of them were families that were broken up, some of them did not have any kind of stability before the war. But once the war broke out, their situation just got worse. Many of them have no one in the world to look after them.”
The first Knights of Columbus councils in Poland were established in 2006, and the Order welcomed the first Knights in Ukraine in 2012. There are now more than 7,000 Knights in 164 councils in Poland, and nearly 2,000 Knights in 44 councils in Ukraine.
Archbishop Lori said the spirit of generosity is the same in both places. “In fact, there’s a remarkable bond of cooperation between the Knights in Poland and the Knights in Ukraine,” he said, noting that it is good to see the close communication and working together, as they respond to needs and help each other grow in their respective countries.
The Ukraine Solidarity Fund and the efforts in Poland and Ukraine to assist those affected by the war represent “an unbroken chain of charity,” the supreme chaplain said.
Knights in the United States and Canada have led fundraising efforts, and those in Poland and Ukraine have helped facilitate the distribution of aid. To date, the Ukraine Solidarity Fund had raised more than $19 million from more than 56,000 donors, including the initial $1.5 million pledge from the Supreme Council. One hundred percent of donations are used to assist those directly affected by the war.
According to Szymon Czyszek, director of International Growth in Europe for the Knights of Columbus, more than 40,000 care packages and more than 1.2 million pounds of supplies including food, medicine and clothing have been distributed so far as a result of the Ukraine Solidarity Fund.
After meeting with various Church leaders and Knights in Ukraine, Archbishop Lori said that he was particularly moved to see the cooperation among different rites in the Church and the Knights of Columbus.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Archbishop Lori said, “to see the Latin rite and the and the Greek Catholic rite Knights working together as one, united in charity and in service.”
This cooperation won’t end anytime soon, he added, noting that Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly has pledged that the Knights will continue to assist Ukraine for as long as it takes.
— Christopher Gunty is associate publisher and editor of the Catholic Review.