Franciscans in the Ukraine
In September of 2022, Friar Artur Spodar enrolled in a training course to learn how to provide professional assistance to war victims and veterans. He writes about the military chaplaincy program in the Ukraine and his experiences while serving in this ministry.
I was born in Lithuania, spent my childhood in Russia and my youth in Ukraine. I grew up in a military family. My parents worked professionally in the military. Most of my acquaintances served, or are serving, in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, I have stayed in contact with them, and they often came to see me at the friary after they completed a tour of military service, to talk, to go to confession and to participate in the liturgy. Because of these encounters, the desire arose in me to become more involved in army ministry. Therefore, in September of 2022, after receiving permission from my religious superior, I enrolled in a training course to minister as a chaplain in the army…
The military chaplaincy can be divided into three parts. The first part is assisting soldiers during military service and frontline military operations. The second part is caring for wounded soldiers in hospitals and hospices, and the third part is assisting the families of soldiers and civilians affected by the war.
Thanks to the support of volunteers, people of good will, and our friars around the world, we have been able to provide aid to those who are fighting and those who are suffering from the war. It has mainly been food aid. We also provide sleeping bags, sleeping mats, clothing, and even medical supplies to soldiers.
At the friary, children paint pictures and make camouflage nets, while their parents make energy bar snacks and produce candles for heating. These are small things, but to the soldiers they are precious gifts, because they let them know that someone remembers them, that someone supports and prays for them.
For me, the most important things in ministry are prayer, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Mass. It is hard to explain, but the defenders of the country need our prayers and respond to them like no one else. Therefore, at our Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, we offer Mass and recite the Rosary for our soldiers fighting in the east, for the volunteers, for the civilian workers and for all those who protect our country and keep it functioning.
There are now many chaplains working in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but more than one hundred volunteers are still needed. The sick and wounded in hospitals throughout the country are also waiting for chaplains.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who are praying for peace in Ukraine, to all those helping in various ways, to all of the friars and to people of good will.
Our friary has been sending humanitarian aid to the eastern territories and hospitals. So far, we have distributed nine tons of foodstuffs; two and a half tons of medical supplies; four tons of chemicals; one and a half tons of technical equipment; three tons of mattresses, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, and bedding; and seven tons of clothing and footwear.