Basilian Volunteer Report for 2017
During this 2017 Year of Diakonia (Service), nine volunteers joined Sr. Joann Sosler and Sr. Ann Laszok on their annual mission trip to Ukraine: Fr. James Karepin, OP (Paris, France), Dr. Robert Marko (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Daria and John Catrombon (Hillsborough, N.J.), Sarah Krivonik (Latrobe, Pa.) , Kristian McAloon (Hillsborough, N.J.), Alex Lishchak (Youngstown, Ohio), Evan Hancher (Dublin, Calif.) and Anya Spotts (Frackville, Pa.). The nine Basilian volunteers were given an orientation by Sr. Ann & Sr. Joann, which was followed by a blessing by Fr. Jim on the evening before their first English camp in Mukachevo.
Three English camps, each lasting five full days, took place in three regions of Ukraine: Mukachevo, Rudno (Lviv), and Zhytomyr. The evening before camp began, a Proficiency Test was administered to the children to determine how to divide them into somewhat homogeneous English proficiency groups. The teachers taught four classes each day, focusing on grammar, phonics, reading, and conversation. At the daily English-language liturgy, the children and staff remembered the donors who financially sup[ported this mission trip.
Concurrently with the second week of English camp in Rudno, three young volunteers accompanied Sr. Ann in visiting various orphanages, halfway houses and psychiatric institutions. Two of these volunteers were adoptees from Ukraine themselves and were excited about visiting the orphanage they had come from. During the three weeks they were in Ukraine, the group taught more than 150 children and visited more than 200 additional children and adults. Another blessing experienced was the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of two “second-time” volunteers, Daria and John Cantrombon, who chose to donate their time and money to the children of Ukraine and celebrate their anniversary with their new friends in Ukraine.
Because the camps ran back to back, there wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but because the group of volunteers was so close to Kyiv, a decision was made to visit the Maidan (Independence Square) where the Heavenly Hundred had been murdered and also visit the crypt of the Resurrection Church where His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar was buried.
Several of those participating in the 3-week mission to Ukraine reflected on the experience. Fr. Jim Karepin wrote: “I was privileged to participate in the English Language Camps sponsored by the Sisters of St. Basil the Great in Mukachevo and Rudno, Ukraine. I say privileged because of the grace shared in this experience. You see, the children there had smart phones but little else. The greatest lack is love. Physicists say that nature abhors a vacuum. Lack of love in their lives was, in effect, a vacuum that needed to be filled. The presence of the children called forth, from the depths of each of the volunteers, a storehouse of nurturing love that sat waiting for an invitation. As I tried to improve their pronunciation by teaching them songs, they called forth that love, offering their love in response—a love springing forth from their own broken lives. It was thus not just a learning experience for all of us, but also a healing of wounds—past, present, and hopefully future . . .
Sister Ann noted: “We were blessed in many ways during our time in Ukraine but especially with such wonderful volunteers and with all our benefactors who prayed for our safe and successful mission trip and generously contributed to it.”
Sr. Joann commented: “Having taught in Rudno last year, I was able to notice the increased maturity of those who had participated in the 2016 camp. They also were able to prepare in advance a list of English grammar topics they had hoped would be covered. The children participated whole-heartedly in every aspect of the camp throughout the week. It appeared that they were honored to participate in the Liturgy recitation, singing and reading of the Epistle with the seminarians and Sisters. I pray that they found it beneficial. Father Jim’s sermons caught and held the attention of the students as they learned how to apply the daily lesson to life. I’m very grateful for the self-giving volunteers and the community they formed in each location. Many blessings were received and lives changed. I refer in particular to the 8 orphans who attended the camp at Rudno. A change was evident in their behavior and interaction by the end of the week for they experienced a lot of personal love.I, too, had been changed and have been touched by love.”
Alex Lischchak made a video of our mission trip to Mukachevo and wrote: “3 weeks. 3 beautiful weeks. This is not just a recap of my time spent in my birth country, Ukraine, it’s a story of one young man discovering what it truly means to live. I went on a mission trip with a few other eclectic volunteers, and as we traveled the rugged western landscape, I realized how alive I was, and how the people around me could have such in impact that would make waves for the rest of my life.
There were three destinations that would be our focus of the trip, with Lviv harkened as our base between each one. And for 3 weeks, we experienced so much life that I couldn’t help but capture the amazement that I constantly felt within me. So this is it. This is where our story begins. One young man awaiting a colorful explosion of joy and life; and it all starts with one small town in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine: Mukachevo.”
We encourage readers to see Alex’s first week video: