This Giving Tuesday, UCU is highlighting their Emmaus Center, a place where people with developmental disabilities and their families receive spiritual support and share their lives with students.
The Emmaus Center is Truly Unique
Through The Emmaus Center, UCU is addressing the circumstances of the disabled after years of Soviet dehumanization. Disabled persons are welcomed with dignity and as an integral part of the UCU campus. “They live in the dormitories, they help in the cafeteria. They helped in my office when I was a rector and president of the university,” said Archbishop Borys Gudziak. “They are part of our community and I think it’s the first university in history that has placed the mentally handicapped at the heart of the identity of the university. Not as a social project, but at the heart of the identity.”
The Emmaus Center In Wartime
The violence of the war presented special challenges to disabled persons, and The Emmaus Center, with its experienced staff and network of support, was perfectly positioned to help.
The residence, Emmaus House, was able to accept displaced families of persons with disabilities from Kyiv and the eastern cities of Ukraine. If those families evacuated, the center helped them to find suitable centers abroad and established contacts with local volunteers. The center was able to access vehicles specially equipped with seats for people in wheelchairs or those who could not be in a sitting position.
The center did not just settle refugees – they organized meals for them, arranged any specialized medical care, and provided basic necessities including hygiene products and clothing.
Since the beginning of the war, 525 refugees received humanitarian aid and/or were evacuated abroad or to a safer place in Ukraine. The center is truly a blessing for those that might otherwise have been forgotten.
The Emmaus Center Nurtures the Spirit
The war has created special psychological challenges for the families of the disabled. The center facilitates support groups, private consultations and online meetings to fully meet the needs of parents coping with these unique circumstances. For those who remained in Lviv, the center has continued their outreach with seminars, youth club, and creative healing activities.
In peace or during war, the Emmaus Center recognizes the value that every human life offers.
“UCU inspires the world with stories of the martyrs of the faith, encourages people to listen to persons with disabilities, and helps heal society in a country that has experienced dehumanization and reprisals that are especially true of the Church,” says Rev. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, an UCU University partner. “This university has become a symbol of hope.”
By continuing to focus on the dignity of disabled persons through the desperate time of war, the Emmaus center has let the light of God shine even into the darkest corners. Becoming a part of this moving work will let your Giving Tuesday dollars have a lasting impact.