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Reconnecting with Basilian Sisters in Ukraine

During the summer of 1997, Sister Karen Marie Franks, a San Rafael Dominican Sister, and I were part of the effort to assist women religious in the Eastern European countries which had regained independence from the Soviet Union, including Ukraine. Both Sister Karen Marie and I were on the faculty of Mercy High School in San Francisco.

Sister Maureen Abbott (right) with Sister Karen Marie Franks, a San Rafael Dominican Sister.

We were invited to teach English to the newer members of the Basilian monastery in Lviv and spent the month of July with them. Their monastery had recently been returned to them after having been confiscated during the Soviet era. A good number of young women had applied for entrance, with the monastery serving as a formation house. Our brief course would be a means of widening their horizons.

Bearing Witness

Of course, the recent outbreak of war in Ukraine revived my interest and sparked my concern for their well-being in the midst of the scenes witnessed on television. I reach out to the Basilian Province here in the United States to let them know of our arranging for special prayers. Margaret Kapusnak, OSBM, replied: “How lovely of you to remember our Sisters in Ukraine and we are so blessed that your community prays for the people of Ukraine before the Blessed Sacrament. They will appreciate knowing this. Through our Generalate, we receive news of them daily. So far, thanks to God, they are well. They stay to bear witness to their people and to help them in whatever way they can by providing shelter, clothing, food, medicine, and, of course, spiritual and emotional support. Our Basilian communities, especially in Romania, Poland and Slovakia, have offered hospitality to them in addition to the above ways of supporting and encouraging them. We hold them and all those suffering in our hearts and in our prayers.”

Sister Maureen Abbott with her class.

A True Gift

That brief time with the wonderful young sisters was indeed a gift. We were able to attend daily Mass, sung beautifully in the Eastern Rite Liturgy. Karen and I taught two different sections, but planned together and often mixed groups in fun ways.

We discovered that the monastery was located in the beautiful Old City section of Lviv. At that time, it was being renovated to highlight the many classical architectural buildings in the area, set off by the newly cobblestoned streets. In our free time, we were able to explore the neighborhood, sometimes accompanied by our young sister-students as a way to practice their English.

Our hosts generously arranged several tours, including an overnight train trip to Kiev. Ironically, one of the monuments we saw there was a statue celebrating the centuries-old fraternal relationship of “Father Russia and Mother Ukraine.”

Reviving these memories of the beautiful people in a country rooted in a strong Christian heritage makes my heart weep as we pray for a resolution that will spare further damage and restore hope.

Lviv main plaza facing the Mayor’s House.

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Sister Maureen Abbott

Sister Maureen has been a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since 1956. She has served as a teacher at junior high and high school levels. She also ministered as a principal at three different Catholic schools. Sister Maureen has also ministered in diocesan administration positions and was the author of the Sisters of Providence fourth volume community history book. Currently, she ministers in the Archives Department as a community historian.

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5 Comments

  1. Editha Ben on March 22, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Maureen, thanks for reaching out to the Sisters of the Basilian Province. We continue to pray with them and all the Ukrainians they serve.

  2. Jeanne Hagelskamp, SP on March 22, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you, Maureen, for your care for the people of Ukraine, a quarter of a century ago. May they know of our care and constant prayer for them now as they suffer the devastation of war.

  3. Susan Paweski, SP on March 24, 2022 at 10:32 am

    Maureen, this was so heartening to read. We are all praying that this horror of war ceases. Prayers for the sisters and all the people of Ukraine and Russia.

  4. Kathleen Desautels, SP on March 31, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Maureen, this memory piece is such a heart bending read. Thanks for sharing it. Let us continue to pray.

  5. Jane Fischer, PA on April 7, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    Sister Maureen, thank you for telling us this story. Knowing this Providence connection makes my prayers for Ukraine more personal.

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