Ukraine: Difficult living conditions as the Church continues to grow
By Eva-Maria Kolmann
“The people bear witness to their faith quite openly.” With these words, Sister Margret Obereder, Provincial Mother Superior of the Redemptoristine Order in the Ukraine, describes the religious revival in that East European country. The religious sister, who comes from Upper Austria, went to the Ukraine in 2001 to look after a group of young Greek-Catholic women who wished to join a religious order. This developed into the Order of Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as Redemptoristine Nuns. “Alongside the Redemptorist spirituality, the newly-founded community is rooted in the Ukrainian, Greek-Catholic tradition,” said Sister Obereder during a visit to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The religious renewal that has been observed in the Ukraine since the collapse of Communist rule continues to grow according to Sister Obereder. After the Second World War and the Communist takeover, the Greek-Catholic Church was forced underground. Church property was confiscated. Believers, sisters, priests and bishops were persecuted. It was only after the political opening of 1989 that the Greek-Catholic Church was again recognised. “After years of oppression, the people are glad to be able to live their faith openly,” says the Redemptoristine Mother Superior.
(Missionary sisters of the Holy Redeemer (Redemptorist) in Ukraine.
Sister Margret Obereder, MSsR is the person on the right in the last row)
Participation in the life of the Greek-Catholic Church is phenomenal and the number of priestly and order vocations remains high, she says. For example, the Conference of Mothers Superior of Orders of the Greek-Catholic Church in the Ukraine, which is headed by Sister Obereder, now has a membership of 19 religious order communities with 850 sisters. In the last few years, 24 young women have joined the Order of Redemptoristines. They are active in five parishes in Lviv, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ternopil and Chernihiv – especially in pastoral work among young people.
The young women are well received by the population they minister to and are regularly supported via essential supplies such as food, for example. Nevertheless, living conditions are not easy for the religious sisters. Together with many Ukrainians, they suffer from the difficult economic and political situation. Financial resources are always in short supply. In the words of the Mother Superior, many communities face a fight for survival, especially in the winter months. They lack the money to pay for their heating costs. Sister Obereder says: “Thank goodness, our houses are small and the people bring us food time and again.”
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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