When Yuriy Maletskiy became grand knight of one of the first two Knights of Columbus councils in Ukraine, he never imagined that, nearly a decade later, he would be leading a jurisdiction of more than 1,900 members during a time of great suffering.
One of several local Knights of Columbus leaders appointed to the Archdiocese of Lviv’s “Anti-Crisis Committee,” State Deputy Maletskiy has been working tirelessly, in collaboration with Knights in Ukraine and Poland, to find shelter for displaced families and distribute much-needed aid throughout his war-torn country.
“Today, more than ever, the activities of the Knights of Columbus are needed here in Ukraine,” State Deputy Maletskiy said. “The call is ‘In service to one, in service to all.’ This is more relevant than ever in Ukraine. Indeed, Father McGivney’s vision was prophetic.”
This is not the first time the Order has met urgent humanitarian needs resulting from unprovoked Russian aggression in Ukraine. Just months after the first Ukrainian councils were established in September 2013, Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, beginning an era of violence displacing hundreds of thousands of people and claiming thousands of lives. Local Knights responded with immediate material and spiritual aid, and the Supreme Council provided substantial assistance through both the Ukrainian Greek and Latin-rite Catholic communities in Ukraine.
The leaders of both churches, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halyc and Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, were among the very first members of the Order in Ukraine, joining together in a degree ceremony in Lviv in May 2012.
“The Knights of Columbus came into Ukraine at the right time and in the right place,” said Major Archbishop Shevchuk in an August 2018 interview, following the designation of Ukraine as a state council. “We started with the first councils in Lviv and in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, right before the Revolution of Dignity started, right before the war knocked on our door. I think because of that very vibrant presence of the Knights of Columbus in our country, we were prepared by divine providence.”
Now, with Russia’s full-scale invasion, Knights are being called to respond even more generously, Archbishop Mokrzycki said.
“The Knights of Columbus is God’s work,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki. “Jesus himself wants to use us today for the benefit of those who have lost their loved ones and their home, who are forced to travel into the unknown, who are frightened and lonely. We should be the ones to extend a helping hand to them.”
ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM
The seeds of the Order’s expansion to Ukraine were sown in 2005 by Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, then the foremost leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Husar, who fled the Soviet invasion of Ukraine with his family in 1944, emigrated to the United States as a teenager and became aware of the Order’s work as a priest.
“I have become very interested in transplanting the Order of Knights of Columbus to Ukraine,” the cardinal said in a homily at the 123rd Supreme Convention in Chicago. “Ukraine has gone through a period of at least 70 years in which a communist regime has tried to create a new human being … to take away from the hearts of men their faith in God.”
Already, the Order was preparing its first international expansion in nearly a century — with the first council in Poland being established in January 2006. With assistance from Knights in Poland, Canada and the United States, the Supreme Council then laid the groundwork for the first Ukrainian-language exemplifications in 2012 and 2013, and the first Ukrainian councils: Greek-rite St. Volodymyr Council 15800 in Kyiv and the Latin-rite John Paul II Council 15801 in Lviv.
“I find that it was truly providential that the first council was established in Ukraine’s capital city — Kyiv, five years ago, just before the beginning of the Maidan, or ‘Revolution of Dignity’ as we call it in Ukraine,” Archbishop Shevchuk said during his States Dinner keynote address in 2018.
The Revolution of Dignity began Nov. 21, 2013, when tens of thousands of people gathered in Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) to protest government corruption and Russian influence; confrontations with police resulted in more than 100 dead and many more wounded.
Bogdan Kovaliv, charter grand knight of Council 15800 in Kyiv and later the jurisdiction’s first state deputy, helped lead K of C relief efforts to aid the wounded, provide food and warm clothing, and assist families of those who died.
Knights also set up a prayer tent at Maidan to offer spiritual support.
“Solidarity and support for those in need demonstrate the Knights of Columbus principles for action,” Kovaliv said in 2015. “These initiatives also helped the active development of the Order.”
The Order’s principle of unity has also been a galvanizing force among Knights in Ukraine.
“Collaboration between representatives of the two rites within a large organization like the Knights of Columbus is a wonderful example of creating unity through diversity,” said Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy of Odessa. “They are an example of how men take responsibility for their Church at the local level.”
Since the jurisdiction surpassed 1,000 members and was designated a state council in 2018, Ukraine’s membership has nearly doubled, with Knights in more than 40 local councils.
“The Knights of Columbus has grown from a small seed into a large community,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki. “We did not become Knights to gain fame, prestige or money, but to serve through deeds of love for the good of the Church, that is, for the community of people united by one faith and one baptism. This conviction should serve us as a goal, especially here in war-stricken Ukraine.”
The Order launches a Marian Prayer Program featuring pilgrim icons of Our Lady of Pochayiv to commemorate the millennial anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine.
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, appeals for a “transplanting” of the Knights of Columbus to Ukraine during the 123rd Supreme Convention in Chicago.
Knights of Columbus leaders in the United States, Canada and Poland begin to lay groundwork for the Order’s expansion into Ukraine, including preparing a team to conduct degree ceremonies in the Ukrainian language.
K of C representatives travel to Lviv, initiating Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv‐Halyc and Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, among others.
Between May and August, approximately 100 men join the Order in a series of exemplifications in Lviv and Kyiv.
The first councils in Ukraine are established: St. Volodymyr Council 15800 in Kyiv and John Paul II Council 15801 in Lviv.
Ukrainian Knights provide an honor guard for the consecration of the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv.
Archbishop Mokrzycki delivers remarks at the conclusion of the Supreme Convention Memorial Mass and blesses attendees with a relic of then-Blessed John Paul II.
| November 2013
Major Archbishop Shevchuk celebrates a Divine Liturgy in Kyiv to bless the expansion of the Order to Ukraine. “We rejoice that knighthood is taking root in the life of our Church,” he said.
| Winter 2013-2014
During the Maidan revolution, or Revolution of Dignity, Knights and K of C chaplains in Kyiv tend to the wounded, provide food and clothing, and set up makeshift chapels to provide spiritual guidance. In solidarity with Pope Francis and with the Catholic bishops and Church in Ukraine , Knights everywhere are asked to pray that there may be renewed dialogue and respect, and a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The Supreme Council disburses $400,000 for charitable relief efforts in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Greek- and Latin-rite Catholic communities each receive $200,000 to feed and aid those displaced by violence, including orphans and children separated from their families. A second gift of the same amount would follow in November.
Knights organize pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zarvanytsia, which is followed by a prayer program featuring Our Lady’s image.
Knights cooperate with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to provide spiritual assistance to soldiers who have returned from the battlefield and experienced psychological trauma.
In a letter to the Supreme Convention, Major Archbishop Shevchuk notes, “I must acknowledge that the Knights of Columbus was the first to respond officially to the appeal of the Holy Father for humanitarian relief in Ukraine. We are immensely grateful for this brotherly support.”
| May 2016
The Supreme Council sponsors 20 pilgrims from Ukraine to attend the 58th International Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes, France.
The Knights of Columbus Board of Directors designates Ukraine the Order’s newest territory, with nearly 600 members in 13 councils.
In the days following the death of Cardinal Husar May 31, Knights of Columbus participate in a massive procession honoring the cardinal in Lviv and later serve as an honor guard at his funeral Mass in Kyiv.
Numbering more than 1,000 Knights in 25 councils, Ukraine is designated a state council by the board of directors. Bogdan Kovaliv serves as the jurisdiction’s first state deputy.
Major Archbishop Shevchuk delivers the States Dinner keynote address at the Supreme Convention pleading for the international community to help Ukrainian citizens in a “silent and forgotten war.”
Major Archbishop Shevchuk visits the Knights of Columbus headquarters In New Haven, Conn., and celebrates a Divine Liturgy in the headquarters’ Holy Family Chapel.
he Knights’ continued efforts to help those who suffer from the ongoing war include summer camps for children of veterans, visiting hospitals where the wounded are being treated and repairing the home of a family who lost their sons in battle.
Blessed Mykola Charnetsky Council 16848 in Zolochiv, Ukraine, receives the international program award in the Life category for the council’s activities assisting children with special needs.
|Nov. 1, 2020
Archbishop Mokrzycki concelebrates a Mass of Thanksgiving for the beatification of Blessed Michael McGivney at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven. A week later, he is joined by Bishop Vitaliy Krivitskiy and Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy in celebrating a thanksgiving Mass with Ukrainian Knights at the Co-Cathedral of St. Alexander in Kyiv.
| August 2021
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church bestows on Past Supreme Knight Carl Anderson its highest honor, inducting him into the Order of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky.
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