By Fr. Louis Studer, OMI with Mike Viola
About 20 years ago, I visited our Oblate ministries in Ukraine. While there I discovered the most tenacious person I have ever met, and I can’t stop thinking about this amazing woman while watching the war taking place there.
Paulina Leontiva was born in Ukraine in 1918. When the Communist Revolution took place, all churches in Ukraine were shut down, including St. Nicholas Church in Paulina’s neighborhood in Kyiv. For decades, Paulina would pray secretively in a hidden chapel.
Paulina got fed up with praying in secret, so she began praying every day outside the former abandoned church. She would pray in the sun, rain and snow. The KGB police would escort her away, but she would return the next day.
“I made a promise to God that I would pray in front of that church every day until the government gave it back the Church,” Paulina told me. “I would die before I stopped praying.”
Eventually Paulina’s prayers were answered when Communism fell, and the Oblates were able to restore St. Nicholas to a place of worship. Today St. Nicholas is still a house of worship, and in recent months it has also served as a bomb shelter and food distribution center. The Oblates remain at St. Nicholas and at more than a dozen ministries in Ukraine. Just like Paulina, they are tenacious too. “In such difficult moments of life, the support for us is the Word of God and prayer,” said Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyi, O.M.I. the current Pastor at St. Nicholas through a Facebook post. “Prayer can save Ukraine!”
Today I ask that you remember the Oblates in Ukraine and the people they serve in your prayers. Know that they are praying for you. Through their example, and the example of Paulina, may we be tenacious in our efforts to bring healing and hope to our brothers and sisters most in need.
In Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate,