From coast to coast, US bishops join in the consecration of Russia and Ukraine

Jonah McKeownJoe Bukuras   By Jonah McKeownJoe Bukuras for CNA

 

The interior of Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Philadelphia during a March 25, 2022 Mass following the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the immaculate heart of Mary. / Archdiocese of Philadelphia/Screenshot

Denver Newsroom, Mar 25, 2022 / 16:06 pm (CNA).

Preaching the homily at a Mass in Philadelphia on Friday, the voice of the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the United States shook with emotion.

“Ukraine has united the world,” Archbishop Borys Gudziak said. “Never, in the history of humanity, have people of good will around the globe been so united,” asserted the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

“The frailty of our human nature is starkly before our eyes, and yet there are so many graces that God is giving,” he said, preaching that even in the face of evil, he sees God’s grace at work as the whole world comes together in prayer for Ukraine.

The Mass in Philadelphia was one of dozens that took place that day across the United States, as bishops answered the pope’s call to pray the consecration prayer together.

From the tip of Florida to southern California, from Seattle to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, every U.S. diocese participated in one form or another. The Bishop of Fairbanks prayed the consecration on the shores of the Bering Sea, facing Russia, their neighbor just a few hundred miles to the west.

Many bishops shared photos of packed churches.

In Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley prayed the consecration immediately following the noon Mass, at around 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. Among the priests concelebrating was ​​Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk, pastor of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston.

Father Nalysnyk made remarks after the Mass, before the consecration took place, and told the congregation of about 150 people that, like Christ, Ukraine is “bleeding” and “going through her own passion.” But Ukraine will rise again, he said, with the love of the resurrected Christ as its model.

Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk, pastor of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston, approaches the ambo during a March 25, 2022 Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk, pastor of Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Boston, approaches the ambo during a March 25, 2022 Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston. Joe Bukuras/CNA

Nalysnyk, who said that he was secretly ordained a priest in the underground Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Soviet Union, called it “a great honor to be a part of this solemn consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Nalysnyk also said: “This liturgy is going to send a message of hope, a message of peace, a message of healing, and a message of solidarity against evil, war, and destruction.”

Following the Mass in Boston, CNA spoke to Taras Leschishin, cantor at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The grandson of Ukrainians, Leschishin was raised Ukrainian Orthodox and now practices Catholicism.

“I think [the Pope’s decision to consecrate and today’s ceremony] was amazing and wonderful. I can’t help but get weepy. Any mention of it and I get broken down,” Leschishin  told CNA.

“But this is very hopeful. I know people are saying, what can we do? And I think prayer is the first answer.”

Taras Leschishin, cantor at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The grandson of Ukrainians, Leschishin was raised Ukrainian Orthodox and now practices Roman Catholicism. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Taras Leschishin, cantor at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The grandson of Ukrainians, Leschishin was raised Ukrainian Orthodox and now practices Roman Catholicism. Joe Bukuras/CNA

The worldwide consecration took place on the feast of the Annunciation.

Archbishop Nelson Perez presided over the March 25 Mass, joined by Gudziak, at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The two archbishops prayed a prayer of consecration at the beginning of the Mass, shortly before Pope Francis performed the same consecration in Rome, entrusting the whole world — particularly the warring Russia and Ukraine — to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Gudziak, in Philadelphia, noted that in the Byzantine tradition, the Annunciation is described in a hymn as “the beginning of our salvation,” because it is the moment when the Son of God became incarnate.

“Today is the beginning of salvation — let us say with Mary, may Your will, may Your word be done. And let us not doubt that God is with the world, with the suffering, and that His truth will prevail. He will give peace, and He will give life,” Gudziak said.

“We trust, O Mother of God, that through your heart, peace will dawn once more.”

There are likely nearly 4 million Ukrainian refugees, 80-90% of whom are women and children, and several million internally displaced people in Ukraine. Gudziak said the phone in his chancery has been ringing off the hook with offers from people wanting to offer solidarity, prayers, and help. But there remain millions of separated families who will need help for a long time to come, he noted.

Gudziak previously had warned of the likelihood of persecution of his Church in Ukraine.

“[O]ur Church realizes that a Russian occupation will, without a doubt, bring persecution to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. It will probably call for martyrdom,” he told CNA in a Feb. 25 interview.

“The Church has said that bishops and priests are going to try to stay in place and be in complete solidarity with the people…It responds through prayer, through invoking God’s grace, through the sacraments, through healing for presence, healing listening, and moral support for people who are being denigrated and violated.”

Archbishop Borys Gudziak preaches the homily during a March 25, 2022 Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Philadelphia, following the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Archdiocese of Philadelphia/Screenshot
Archbishop Borys Gudziak preaches the homily during a March 25, 2022 Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Philadelphia, following the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Archdiocese of Philadelphia/Screenshot

The devil is at work, and yet the Annunciation reminds us of God’s grace, Gudziak said. Many people are “living this Lent like never before,” he said in his homily.

“We’re reconsidering what is important, we’re adjusting our priorities,” he said.

“This feast, and this dedication, speaks to you and me. Receive — like Mary — Jesus in your heart.”

“Glory to Jesus Christ. Glory forever,” he concluded.

At the end of Mass, Gudziak added that while he considers the consecration of Russia and Ukraine “a turning point in history,” he does not expect it to be the end of the hardship. “True resurrection” requires the cleansing power of the cross, he said.


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