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Praying, Healing, Life Giving Presence
 

Basilian Volunteer Program: Ukrainian Orphan Ministry

Staff along with Sr. Bernarda Arkatyn, OSBM and Sr. Ann Laszok, OSBM at Zlucha Psychiatric  Institution 

Bishop Peter Kryk, Apostolic Exarch of Germany and Scandinavia, with Sr. Ann Laszok, OSBM, Christine Patoray, Larissa Spak and  Eryna Honchar who hosted their overnight layover in Munich, Germany

Participating in the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, Jesus, Lover of Humanity Basilian Volunteer Program, Christine Patoray from Youngstown, Ohio and Larissa Spak and Eryna Honchar from Carnegie, Pennsylvania, traveled to Ukraine with Sister Ann Laszok, OSBM. The small group, joined by Oksana Leseiko and Sister Bernarda Arkatin, OSBM, visited the orphanages, foster homes, halfway houses, and psychiatric institutions for children and adults that Sister visits every summer. Children and adults at each of these institutions were given toys, candy, bananas, clothes, balloons and various other material goods. Some institutions also received financial support. The biggest gift that the young people brought was their caring presence.

Larissa Spak with a child at the Sambir Psychiatric Institution

Sr. Bernarda Arkatyn, OSBM being hugged by a child in Sambir Psychiatric Institution

During their two week mission, Sister Ann drove Christine, Larissa, and Eryna to “Emmaus Oselia," a homeless shelter that has a community of about 30 people. Residents of the shelter learn life skills like upholstering furniture, managing a thrift store, and living as a family. The group also visited the Village of Zalochin where Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate have a foster home for 9 children. The next stop was a home run by Brother Ivan, a Belgian Charity Brother, for mentally challenged persons. Under Brother Ivan's patient guidance, residents learn to sew and make "gerdans." The group met with the six children living at a foster home in Sambir, which is run by the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate. They also visited Sambir's psychiatric institute for children, which currently ministers to 76 children.

The next stop was Cunovudnomu, where the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great operate a foster home. Here Sister Bernarda played the piano and taught the children to sing some new songs. From Cunovudnomu the group drove to Ivano-Frankivsk to visit a government run infant orphanage. Run by a local doctor, the orphanage is currently home to 30 infants but has a capacity for housing 90. At St. Nicholas Village of Mercy, a model orphanage run by the Incarnate Word Sisters, they visited with children like Yurij, who needs a new heart valve and is awaiting help from the United States

Sr. Bernarda Arkatyn, OSBM, Sr. Ann Laszok, OSBM, and Oksana Lesieko at the SSMI foster home in Sambir

Sr. Ann Laszok, OSBM  with Lesia and Oksana who draws with a pencil in her mouth because she was born without arms and legs - a lifelong resident of  Zlucha Psychiatric Institution

 

From there the group went to Zalucha Children's Institute, a psychiatric institution for children, which has improved a hundredfold in recent years and houses about 70 children that range from totally disabled to mildly afflicted with Downs syndrome. They also visited Pohon, a psychiatric institute for adults near the Basilian Fathers church, which houses about 70 people. Then it was on to Yaremche, a town in the Carpathian mountains, which boasts two summer camps founded by Fr. Swischuk from Chicago. Here, the Sisters and their young companions took some time to visit Yaremche's bazaar and marvel at the area's beautiful waterfalls. The final destination was a school in Ivano-Frankivsk that is run by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great.

The journey to Ukraine was emotional—a blend of sadness and inspiration elicited by the sight of the physically or mentally challenged children and adults and of the dedicated individuals who care for them and work with them. Each day, at the Basilian monastery and at Metropolitan Sheptytsky's crypt, the group prayed for all the Basilian benefactors. On the way back home, during a forced layover in Munich, Germany, the Sisters were hosted by His Grace, Bishop Peter Kruk, and by Fr. Ivan Machuzhak, Chancellor of Pokrova and St Andrew in Munich.

Basilian Church in Pohon, Ukraine Sr Bernarda Arkatyn, OSBM views the reliquary with Father Atanasius and the Christine Patoray, Larissa Spak and Eryna Honchar.

Sr. Ann Laszok and Oksana Lesieko with children at Zlucha Psychiatric Institution

Eryna Honchar with a child at the  Sambir Psychiatric Institution

Reflections by Larissa Spak

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