The Knights of Columbus partnered with the U.S.-based Goya Foods Thursday, March 17, at the Order’s newly expanded Mercy Center in Hrebenne, Poland, to distribute rosaries and food to Ukrainian refugees. The Knights of Columbus Mercy Center, located at the Poland-Ukraine border, is a place where those escaping the conflict in Ukraine can find temporary shelter, food and a place to rest and pray.
“We loaded up our suitcases, and with the team we came here with the 15,000 rosaries, but without, really, a plan,” explained Robert Unanue, CEO of Goya Foods. “If it weren’t for the Knights of Columbus, we would’ve been here kind of lost. But we were lost, and they found us.”
The rosaries were donated by people from all over the United States. Teaming up with the Knights of Columbus, the company distributed the rosaries to those seeking refuge in Poland with the help of the Global Empowerment Mission and Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
The following day, representatives from Goya joined members of the Knights of Columbus at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Wacław Depo of Częstochowa at the Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa. Archbishop Depo, who serves as the K of C state chaplain for Poland, blessed rosaries to be distributed to refugees.
The Mass coincided with the second day of a worldwide novena for the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Thousands of the rosaries were delivered to Lviv, Ukraine, where the gift was providential. Dominican friars in Lviv had just sent a message to friars working with the Knights in Krakow, Poland, requesting their brothers bring rosaries: “Buy as many as you can afford and carry.”
Dominican Father Jonathan Kalisch, director of chaplains and spiritual development for the Knights of Columbus, has seen firsthand the material and spiritual needs of refugees.
“We often see those who are elderly coming across, women or mothers with young children, and those who can simply go no further than step across the border and need to take a break,” said Father Kalisch. “It’s very rare to actually see a family coming across intact.”
He added, “It’s a real environment of solidarity, of mercy, and I think everyone is humbled to be accompanying the refugees and to see in them our Lord Jesus, especially in his suffering.”
The original K of C site in Hrebenne, with heated tents for refugees, was built within days of the invasion by members of St. Wojciech Patron of Poland Council 15267 in Tomaszów Lubelski, who served hot meals and provided a place of rest for refugees.
Since then, the Knights of Columbus has constructed a new center equipped with a medical tent, a play space for children, and a small chapel with an icon of the Holy Family.
“The work that we’re doing here at the border crossing is exactly what the Knights of Columbus were founded for — Blessed Michael McGivney founded the Knights to serve the widow and the orphan,” Father Kalisch said.
In addition to the expansion in Hrebenne, the Knights also recently established a second Knights of Columbus Mercy Center further south, at the border crossing in Budomierz. Bishop Marian Rojek of Zamość-Lubaczów celebrated Mass there with Knights on March 18, and Knights planned to expand the site March 23.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, the Knights of Columbus has provided humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced people, collecting supplies at K of C sites throughout Poland that are then delivered to and distributed by Knights in Ukraine. The Order established the Ukraine Solidarity Fund to provide direct assistance, with an immediate $1 million commitment and $500,000 of matched funds from the Knights of Columbus United in Charity Fund. As of March 22, $5.8 million has been raised, bringing the total amount of aid to more than $7 million.
Supporting the Ukraine Solidarity Fund will provide temporary shelter, food, medical supplies, clothing, communications and religious supplies for those in need. These items will all be immediately distributed, and 100% of your gift will go directly to these displaced people. Donate here.
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