More than twenty years ago, Sister Mary Bernarda Arkatin, OSBM, a member of the Order of the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great, Jesus Lover of Humanity Province, initiated summer journeys of goodwill to the needy, orphaned and handicapped of Ukraine. Bearing gifts and treats as well as compassion and love, Sister became a frequent and welcomed visitor as she traveled from site to site, from institution to hospital, to orphanages and to campsites.
Carrying on the tradition established by Sister Bernarda to collaborate with the Basilian Sisters in Ukraine and to help the needs, Sister Ann Laszok, OSBM, and Sister Joann Sosler, OSBM, left Saturday, May 27, 2016, on what has now become the Basilian Volunteer Program to carry on the humanitarian mission. Accompanying Sisters Ann and Joann this summer were 15 volunteers from three different Eparchies and 5 different States. Of the 15 Americans 7 were from St. Josaphat Eparchy; 7 from the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, and 1 person from the St. Nicholas Eparchy of Chicago. There were seven individuals who stayed for an extra week to accompany Sister Ann to orphanages, halfway houses and psychiatric institutions. Many added to the success of the mission - drivers who transported the group, those who coordinated and organized the on-site councilors, the Sisters of Holy Trinity Province who provided the room and board, etc.
The program began with Orientation on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Father Karepin, former Chaplain in Fox Chase and now from Paris, France, was present and blessed each volunteer.
The Sisters of St. Basil held four English Catechetical camps. In the Lviv area - Sr. Lucia Murashko from Ukraine and Sr. Joann from the USA coordinated - overnight camp. In Mukachevo (near Uzhhorod) - Father Kopyn from Ukraine and Sr. Ann from the USA coordinated this overnight camp in the village with 38 children and four councilors. Sr. Anastasia and Sr. Ann had a camp in Ivan Frankivs’k for children in grades 3-6. In Zhytomyr, Sr. Margareta and Sr. Joann conducted a camp.
Each day the Divine Liturgy was celebrated with the children responding in English. The intention at each Liturgy was for all who supported this endeavor. A special feature this year was the participation of six orphans from Eastern Ukraine who traveled to the Rudno camp with their councilor. Another surprise was the visit of the local TV news station that came to do a feature on the Mukachevo camp. The last week was spent visiting seven different orphanages and psychiatric institutions.
On the morning of their departure from Ukraine, Sister Ann and several volunteers visited Saint George Cathedral in Lviv and prayed at the tombs of Metropolitan Sheptytsky and Metropolitan Lubachivsky for all benefactors, partners in prayer and everyone who had helped make their goodwill trip possible and who offered prayers for the team’s fruitful mission and safe return.
The Sisters and volunteers were ever mindful of Pope Francis’ exhortation calling to mind the works of charity of Saint Basil the Great and his sister, Saint Macrina, and heeding the exhortations of Pope Francis to reach out to the poor and marginalized. The Sisters of Saint Basil urge the Faithful to consider taking part in the Basilian Volunteer Mission to Ukraine next year, 2017.
If interested in serving with or supporting the mission, please contact: