Tireless Philadelphia sisters make remarkable impact in Ukraine

3 mins read
Sister Lucia Murashko, OSBM, and the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great bring assistance to the military in the city of Zaporizhzhia and other frontline villages. Courtesy photos

Last year, the Sisters of St. Basil the Great, Jesus Lover of Humanity Province, in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, shipped a cargo container to sisters in Ukraine after the Russian invasion. It was filled with medical supplies, toiletries and clothes donated by churches, community groups, businesses and individuals.

Now they’re collecting money for the Sisters of St. Basil the Great in Ukraine to be used for whatever the people need. According to John Kurey, development director and provincial adviser, the donations have already surpassed $250,000.

“Financial donations are more effective now than material goods,” he said. “They know better what they need, and the banking system in Ukraine is fully functional except in parts of the country taken by the Russians. And sending money is very easy. The sisters can have it the next day in their bank account, so they can buy what they need. That also supports the local economy.”

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The money is being used for medical supplies, food and to assist the displaced, and in one town it helped to purchase an ambulance.

Sisters take care of displaced persons who live in the Sisters’ monastery in Verkhne Sinyvidne.

“They’ll be needing money when they begin to restore what was damaged,” said Sister Dorothy Ann Busowski, house coordinator for the convent in Pennsylvania. “Our provincial, Sister Joann Sosler, is going to Romania for a meeting of all our major superiors, and she’ll be able to hand the money directly to the sisters in Ukraine. They can take the money right back with them.”

At the monastery in Zaporizhzhia, the sisters have assisted the military, the local maternity hospital and poor single people in the city and other frontline villages.

Sisters from the monastery in Zhytomyr help refugees from Bakhmut, people in Zhytomyr whose houses were damaged by shelling, and the poor who have many needs. The sisters help about 60 people every month. In another part of Ukraine, sisters take care of displaced persons who live in their monastery in Verkhne Sinyvidne.

Settling in America

The mission of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great worldwide is to engage in service that glorifies God while serving God’s people. Living the charism of their founder, St. Basil the Great, they are called to express God’s eternal love through deeds focused on making the world a better place.

That’s what led Mother Helena Langevych and a group of sisters to sail to America in 1911 to administer to Ukrainian Catholics in the Philadelphia area where many were poor, illiterate or orphaned. The sisters’ responses included opening an academy, a boarding school and, much later, Manor College in Jenkintown. In recent years, they established the Basilian Spirituality Center for retreats and other programs.

The sisters have been involved in education from the beginning of their presence in the United States.

“They played one of the most important roles in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America,” Kurey said. “They educated so many children in schools throughout the country. They taught the children the Faith and gave them the building blocks for life full of faith and in believing and practicing. Many of those children have gone on to become priests and bishops.”

Supporting community abroad

Decades ago, many sisters in the province were born in Ukraine. Now most of the 30 members have Ukrainian heritage and some have families there. With such close ties, they were quickly called to action to help when Ukraine was invaded. The community was generous in donating goods and now with providing monetary support.

Sisters in Zhytomyr help refugees from Bakhmut, people in Zhytomyr whose houses were damaged by shelling, and poor people who need help.

“We get phone calls every day from people asking if we are accepting money,” Sister Dorothy Ann said. “I was at a meeting and someone gave me a check for $30,000.”

Help is also being extended to Ukrainians who seek refuge in the United States. The Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia has a food pantry in their Good Samaritan Ministry.

At the province, Sister Dorothy Ann noted, “Sister Teodora Kopyn is doing humanitarian work here, giving out food and clothing to the ones who are coming to this area. She is working with the Basilian Support Ministry in collaboration with the Archeparchy of Philadelphia.”

The response to help the suffering people in Ukraine, she added, is unbelievable. “It’s brought the whole world together,” she said. “People realize what’s important, and we are grateful, very grateful.”

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.