The Discalced Carmelite friars and nuns are not immune to the current crisis in Ukraine. Father Józef Kucharczyk, O.C.D., a native of Poland, is responsible for the outreach of the friars from Krakow to their Ukrainian brothers and sisters, as well as to the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Ukraine. Stationed in Kyiv, he coordinates the activities of all the Discalced Carmelites in Ukraine amid this crisis. On 28 February 2022, the Discalced Carmelite Superior General, Father Miguel Márquez Calle, interviewed Father Kucharczyk. We are grateful to the Discalced Carmelite General Curia for their permission to translate and publish this interview, which originally appeared in Spanish on the Order’s Facebook page.
Father Miguel Márquez Calle, OCD: Hello, dear Józef. As you know, we are all with you in such an intense way—we’re so close, so much in communion with you. We’ve begun to pass on some news and the little videos that you send: people are so sensitive, they’re so attentive; we all want to know something. We all want to have some news to be sure that you’re well given the horror of the situation; and, if there are people who aren’t doing well, then none of us are doing well at all.
I wanted to ask you first to describe to me what is the presence of our Discalced Carmelite friars and nuns in Ukraine, what convents we have, and what presence we have had until now.
Father Józef Kucharczyk, OCD: The Discalced Carmel has been present on Ukrainian soil since the 17th century—with a break during the Communist era—and we returned in 1991. We have 18 Sisters in two houses, Kharkiv and Kyiv, which are the two largest cities in Ukraine. Currently, there are 13 friars, with two friars in formation. The friars have three houses: in Kyiv, Berdychiv, and Hvizdava.
“A young girl called me pleading: ‘Father, at three o’clock, we are all joining in prayer to ask for mercy for Ukraine’.” Fr. Józef Kucharczyk, O.C.D. in Kyiv #PrayForUkraineTweet
MMC: What is the current situation concerning our presence today? I think the Kharkiv Carmelite nuns have left and have already managed to cross the Ukrainian border into Slovakia intending to reach Poland. Some of the Sisters from Kyiv have stayed there. Tell us about the situation now: is our Carmelite friar still in the friars’ convent in Kyiv? Have the Berdychiv friars accepted the request of the mayor to stay and help so that our house might become a bunker for those who might be refugees?
JK: At this moment, Monday, 28 February, only the 4 Sisters from Kyiv have remained in Ukraine. The Kharkiv community has left during this difficult time. They are already safely in Slovakia in one of our monasteries. I am with the Carmelite nuns in Kyiv. We are well; we are praying. We live in a part of the city where we can feel the shelling from far away. Every day, every night we hear the shelling, but from a distance.
Father Marco is in our community and parish in Kyiv, about fifteen minutes drive from us. He is also doing well. He is alone now because people cannot participate in the Eucharist. He is doing a lot of online activities, like the rosary, nocturnal adoration, or the Eucharist. Many people from his parish are taking advantage of this time of prayer with him.
There are also two monasteries further away, almost two hours drive from Kyiv. In Berdychiv, there is a monastery and national shrine: there, the Fathers have another situation and they are preparing a bunker in the church for the people. Already they are hearing the sirens and at every alert, people come to our monastery to hide from the shelling. Every time there are 150-200 people who come to take shelter.
Our third little house is located near a forest in Hvizdava. The fathers have a small parish of 150 people who are also praying and waiting there.
Our presence here in Ukraine is important so that the people can feel this kind of security—spiritual security—because we priests and sisters are with them here. Today, for example, a young girl called me pleading: “Father, at three o’clock, we are all joining in prayer to ask for mercy for Ukraine.” Every day and every night, we have these initiatives either from the people or from the friars and sisters to unite in prayer. This is very important for the people as well as for us. But also practical, concrete help is important. Here, the Church does a lot of things—not only praying but also working. For example, now with the help of the friars and sisters from all over the world, with the money we receive from people all over the world, in Poland we’re preparing to buy medicine for the hospital in Kyiv (which is very close to our monastery) and for the hospital in Berdychiv (which is also close to our monastery). Medicine is what is most needed now in Ukraine.
For priests, another possibility to help Ukraine now is to connect Ukrainians with those who want to help from all over the world. We, priests, connect with many people: in Ukraine, we know members of the government, medical personnel, people who are very poor and very rich, people with different talents, people who have cars and can get to the border. In the world and Europe, we also know people who want to help. Therefore, we can connect those who are in need with those who want to help. For example, today Father Maximilian said that a Polish friend has the opportunity to send 3 fire trucks with everything they need for their work, and he asks us “where do you need, how can we send them?” We must connect the firemen here in Berdychiv and Kyiv with the people we know to tell them: “we have 3 trucks for you. Do you want them? How can we send this gift to you?”… So, in many ways, we can help Ukraine, especially with medicine.
[Nota Bene: As of 8 March 2022, the last four nuns in Kyiv had departed for Poland, and Father Józef said in a video that the friars in Kyiv, prompted by the Lord through the intercession of St. Joseph, were discerning their next steps.]
“We the Carmelite friars and sisters, the priests and the Christian faithful, we’re on the front line.” Fr. Józef Kucharczyk, O.C.D. in Kyiv #PrayForUkraineTweet
MMC: What is your feeling at this moment, what are you feeling from the perspective of prayer, of faith, of what you’re experiencing right now? What do you perceive in the sisters, what attitude, what sense of trust or fear?
JK: I feel that I’m participating in two wars: the first is the physical, military war, with bombing, fear, suffering, death; the other war, which is also real, is the spiritual war. Here, in this second war, … the war of prayer, the war of the rosary … we the Carmelite friars and sisters, the priests and the Christian faithful, we’re on the front line. We are fighting against the devil, we’re fighting in the name of the Lord, fighting once again on Golgotha, fighting and waiting for the peace of the Risen Lord. This is what I feel: spiritual warfare! I don’t feel like a hero. The Carmelite sisters don’t feel like heroines. The priests and the faithful don’t feel like heroes, but we are really fighting with the devil! This is everyone’s feeling.
“We expect your participation in spiritual warfare.” Fr. Józef Kucharczyk, O.C.D. in Kyiv #Ukraine #PrayForUkraineTweet
MMC: What do you ask of us and what do the sisters ask of us? What do you all expect from us and the whole world? What does Ukraine expect from us? And you can comment in the way and manner you want.
JK: Above all, we expect your participation in spiritual warfare. In military warfare, we cannot all participate, but we can participate in spiritual warfare. The faithful believers participate with the rosary in their hand, with Holy Communion during the Eucharist. This is great support for us and we feel it. I received this morning by text message the testimony of a soldier who said that sometimes we don’t know in what way or who helps us to avoid death. The fight in Berdychiv and Kyiv is very difficult sometimes, but they feel that a hand (we know whose hand it is…), that this hand helps them to survive. Our prayer is very, very important!
Material support is also very important for us. This support is for the people who are most in need at the moment. The Church, all the bishops, all the Orders, we Carmelites, too, are organizing support for people in need. For example, now all our monasteries in Poland are collecting medicine for people and the two hospitals in Berdychiv and Kyiv. If you want to help, any material help that is possible is welcome.
MMC: I send you my warmest regards as a brother and as a father, but also admiring, welcoming, and thanking you for your dedication. We are all on standby, and as I said in the message I sent to the Order, we are all Ukraine: it’s not a poem or a nice thought, because this situation that has been created is a real drama and absolutely revolutionizes our world.
I send you a great big hug dear Józef.
Father Miguel Márquez adds:
My dear brothers and sisters,
We are all united with Ukraine and with our brothers and sisters there. We forward to you this urgent request for help for the needs of the people of Ukraine. At this moment I ask you for generosity in prayer and also for the contribution you can make. Thank you very much.
God bless you.
Click on this link if you would like to contribute to the Discalced Carmelites in Ukraine
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.