It’s May again!
Sister Catherine tells us about her mission in Kyiv.
It’s May again! Since our arrival in Kyiv the month of May has included a celebration to mark the end of the academic year in ‘Dim Ditey’ (‘the children’s house’ in Ukrainian). For the last four years, it’s also been the month when the final preparations for the First Communions and Confirmations in the English-Speaking Community take place. Both our collaboration in the house of the Dominican sisters and my role as coordinator of the catechesis form part of our service to the church here in Kyiv. This year however new opportunities have emerged to offer our mission and spirituality to adults and students in these two fields, which I ‘d like to tell you about.
The Dominican sisters asked us to lead a prayer and discussion group for parents on a Saturday morning while their children are in lessons. It is an ecumenical group which includes Greek and Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. It’s an opportunity to share faith, to pray, to ask questions and to enrich each other. It is a unique, open environment where each person tries to stop in the middle of their hectic lives to spend time with God, apply their faith to their daily situations and to learn from other people’s experience and suggestions. Throughout the year, the group has grown closer to God and to each other, understanding better how He acts in and through their lives.
At the end of each session the parents wrote down their petitions and laid them at the foot of the altar so that the sisters could pray for them during the following week. On the last Saturday of the year, all the petitions were placed in a small clay pot and burnt, a symbol of our prayers offered up to God and recognition of the fact that He hears us and receives both our lives and all that we carry in our hearts.
Two years ago, I was asked to be the spiritual director of the International student branch of the Legion of Mary in Kyiv. It’s a group which I had heard of previously but knew virtually nothing about. The president gave me the handbook and I read it from cover to cover. I was struck by its commitment and its missionary spirit as well as its love of Our Lady. I felt like my involvement could be a mutual enrichment though it wasn’t easy to know exactly what my role should be. The Legion has its own structure which isn’t the same as ours and it has been a challenge to balance spirit and structure. How far should I get involved? How far should I direct and how far should I respect what is already in place? But in prayer and in dialogue things have become clearer.
Last September I suggested a new gathering to complement the weekly meetings. Evangelisation is at the heart of the Legion so we began a monthly missionary formation in our house where the students could receive a talk, pray and discuss their experiences. Our spirit and our charism have much to contribute to the students and can help them to personalise and strengthen their motivation for the mission which forms part of their weekly obligations. In a city as large as Kyiv, it’s not always easy to travel for a meeting when its already dark and it’s also easy to feel alone in one ‘s faith, but for those who overcame these difficulties and got together it was well worth it and they came out the stronger for it. The group has grown and their commitment and spirit of service have been beneficial to the parish community. It has been an immense joy for us as well to bring out all the chairs that we have, extend the table and fill our living room with lively, enthusiastic young students.
The academic year is ending on a high note as plans are underway to inaugurate a branch of the International Movement of Catholic Students in Kyiv, to strengthen their identity and sense of belonging both in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine. The Holy Spirit continues to inspire and guide the Church both on a universal and local level and it is a sign of God’s mercy and trust that he invites us to collaborate with him and play our part, by offering what He has given to us.