After two years of war which has displaced 14 million Ukrainians, Catholic Extension Society recognized the ministry of the Ukrainian Catholic Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great with its highest honor, the Lumen Christi Award, during a ceremony at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania on February 22, 2024. One of the honorees is Sister Lukia Murashko, a graduate of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Nuns and priest posing together

Source: Catholic Extension

During these devastating and painful years, these heroic sisters have been a light of hope for Ukrainian soldiers and villagers on the frontline as well as refugees across Ukraine and the United States.

Since 1978, Catholic Extension Society’s Lumen Christi Award honors people who radiate and reveal the light of Christ present in the communities where they serve.

The award ceremony included sisters who flew in from Ukraine and have personally witnessed the atrocities of war. They joined the Basilian sisters who have been based in the United States for more than 100 years. Since the outbreak of the war, the Ukrainian Catholic community in Philadelphia and nearby Jenkintown have jumped into action to serve incoming refugees and to send support to Ukraine.

As he bestowed the award to the international delegation of Basilian sisters, Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension Society, said,

“Today I feel a special pride to be with the Sisters of St. Basil. You are powerfully expressing the mystery of what God is up to in the world in such a beautiful and simple way. And the God who especially calls us to go to the cross and to go to where people are suffering. You are doing it so beautifully in your ministry. Catholic Extension’s whole purpose is to try to be with you and be with women like you and men like you and people that are working very, very hard to make sure that God’s presence is among the poor.”

Two nuns and a priest smiling

Source: Catholic Extension

He added: “The Ukrainian Catholic Church’s witness of solidarity with their suffering people is an inspiration to all of us. May we continue to match their perseverance with our prayer and generous support.”

Sister Lucia Murashko has remained at one of the sisters’ monasteries in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, located less than 40 miles from the frontlines of the war. She can hear the air raid sirens and missiles that fly and crash nearby.

She lamented with tears that she can often smell corpses as she walks past buildings that have been felled by Russian artillery when she visits surrounding neighborhoods and villages under attack.

Although she had the opportunity to leave, she and a group of sisters decided to stay.

“We stayed because we saw the need of our presence. We could not do much, but our presence was a sign of hope for other people, for our neighbors, for soldiers.”

They feed and clothe the elderly and sick who cannot leave. They shelter and provide essential supplies to women and children whose husbands and fathers are defending their country, or who have been killed in action.

She has seen firsthand the horrific atrocities her people have endured. She listens to their stories and prays with them in the shelter of the monastery and as she goes out to serve the resilient families who continue to live among the rubble of homes, businesses and schools.

Sister Lucia Murashko sitting on a bench in church

Sister Lucia Murashko

The toll of two years of war on the Ukrainian soldiers — most of whom led normal lives before the war—is devastating. “They are tired. They are very tired,” she said. “You cannot imagine the condition of life they have.”

Every Sunday, she goes to the wounded soldiers to offer whatever comfort she can. One soldier told Sister Lucia that no matter what, he believes he will come home in pieces — mentally broken and, likely, physically as well. She knows of one man who had to hide under the dead bodies of Russian soldiers for 10 days in foxhole, just to survive.

“People believe that only God can stop the war,” she said. She places her trust in God to get through every uncertain day. “The only protection that you have is Him. The merciful Lord,” she said. “We’re ready to respond to His call.”

A nun with a mom and her 3 children

In the past two years, eight million people have left Ukraine, which is the biggest refugee population that moved so quickly since World War II. Three hundred thousand Ukrainian refugees have come to the U.S. in the past two years.

Since the war started, the Basilian sisters have served approximately 800 families through the Good Samaritan Food Pantry in Philadelphia and hundreds more through the St. Basil Support Ministry at their U.S. motherhouse in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia where many of the displaced Ukrainians now live.

Sister Teodora Kopyn came from Ukraine to serve the poor. As refugees began to flood in, she and a team of volunteers who have been inspired by her example have organized regular food and clothing distributions.

“I am so grateful that because of kind people like you, we have been able to help so many Ukrainian refugees who come to us every week for help,” she said.

Sister Joann Sosler, provincial superior of the Basilian sisters in Jenkintown, said, “This tremendous gift recognizes our sisters’ ministry to Ukrainian war victims who have been displaced in both Europe and the United States. It is a sign from God that our work is important and must continue.”

“I am proud to be a sister of St. Basil,” she said.

“They sisters are showing the face of Jesus,” said Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

The archbishop added that “the greatest sin is war,” and Russian advancement is not just a threat to Ukraine, but to the world.

“The most important thing that is happening through Ukrainian resilience is that tyranny, autocracy, and the crushing of people’s freedoms — freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of journalism, freedom of the press — all of that will spread in the world if Ukraine falls.”

As part of the Lumen Christi Award, the Basilian sisters were awarded $25,000 to support their ministry among the poor and suffering in Ukraine. In the U.S., the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia was also awarded $25,000, which the Archbishop said would be used to support families are escaping from this brutal war by coming to the U.S.

Sister Lucia is filled with gratitude for people who are supporting them and keeping Ukraine in their hearts. “We are your hands,” she said. “We are just hands to spread all this goodness.”

“It’s not easy, but you are with us. Thank you very much for being close, for supporting us. With you we can continue our mission.”

Source: Catholic Extension