Healing Body and Soul. Knights of Columbus help open hospital chapels in southern Ukraine

April 19, 2024, 14:55 42

A new chapel recently opened in a hospital in Liubashivka, a rural town in southern Ukraine — the first of four such medical chapels co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the International Catholic Migration Commission.

Healing Body and Soul. Knights of Columbus help open hospital chapels in southern Ukraine

ICMC Secretary General Msgr. Robert Vitillo; Ukrainian Knights, including State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy; and medical staff were present as Bishop MykhayloBubniy consecrated the small room in the Multidisciplinary Intensive Care Hospital on April 3.

“For the church of Christ, a hospital has always been a place where not only the body but also the soul is helped and treated,” Bishop Bubniy, the exarch of Odesa and state chaplain for Ukrainian Greek Catholic Knights, said during the ceremony. “For us, as a church, it has always been a priority to be in a hospital, to be near the poor, the hurt, the wounded, the weak and the sick.”

Bishop Bubniy has long wanted to establish chapels and chaplains in medical facilities to serve the sick. Hospital chapels are not as common in southern Ukraine as they are in western areas of the country, and Catholic patients, visitors and staff are often left without any place to pray, confess or find comfort.

The Odesa Exarchate approached the Knights of Columbus in fall 2023 with Bishop Bubniy’s idea, and Knights worked with the ICMC to make it a reality.

ICMC is an international organization established by the Vatican after World War II to support and coordinate Catholic efforts to serve migrants and refugees. The Commission donated funds to renovate the rooms that would be transformed into chapels, while the Knights purchased furnishings and the liturgical items necessary to perform the sacraments.

Father Oleksandr Bilskyi, head of the Commission on Pastoral Care and Health of the Odesa Exarchate, found 10 priests willing to serve as medical chaplains in the hospitals, several of them Knights. They serve those in need in the four regions of the exarchate, primarily in the newly consecrated chapels.

The first three chapels — located in Liubashivka, Vradiyivka and Yuzhnoukrainsk — are complete and have been consecrated by Bishop Bubniy. The fourth chapel, which is still under renovation, will be consecrated at the end of April in the hospital of Velyka Oleksandrivka.

The hospital chaplains jointly decided to dedicate all the chapels to St. Panteleimon, the martyr and healer, who is venerated in the Eastern Rite Church as a patron of doctors and an intercessor for the sick.

In addition to being a place for private prayer, the chapels are a space for chaplains to provide direction and counseling to patients, making the hospitals places of spiritual and mental, as well as physical, healing. Patients began receiving the sacrament of reconciliation as soon as the chapels opened.

“When the body and soul work harmoniously, then a person can truly do great things,” Bishop Bubniy said in Vradiyivka. “Let this chapel serve that purpose. Let it become a second wing that helps a wounded bird to fly.”

To learn more about our work in Ukraine and to support those efforts, visit kofc.org/ukraine.

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