Interfaith I: Prayers for Ukraine
Held on Monday, March 21, 2022
The following article was submitted to and published in the May 2022 edition of The Eastern Catholic Life newspaper, a publication of the Byzantine Ruthenian Eparchy of Passaic.
Community Support and Interfaith Prayers Unite What is Good
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should, I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” The words of the 27th Psalm chosen and recited by Pastor Adam McGahee of Moving Rivers Ministries of Wilkes-Barre were among the inspired prayers offered for the people of Ukraine at an Interfaith Prayer Service at St. Michael the Archangel Byzantine Catholic Church, Pittston.
The service held on Monday, March 21 at 5 pm was organized by the Wyoming Valley Interfaith Council in coordination with Fr. Andrii Dumnych, pastor of St. Michael Church, Pittston and St. Nicholas Church, Swoyersville. Trusting wholeheartedly in the efficacy of community prayer, the faith leaders of the Council prayed, chanted and sang, and presented personal reflections, each in the expressions of their faith traditions. The church was filled with people sharing the common resolve to affect change through prayer; most notably to transform hardened hearts and desensitized souls. The unified support was proof that the choice to do good is indeed the will of God as opposed to those who choose to do evil.
On cue, the bells of the church rang loud and strong at the start of the service as a call to prayer with an introduction by Fr. Andrii.
Among the first of eleven to present was Rabbi Larry G. Kaplan of Temple Israel, Wilkes-Barre. He chanted the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my Shepherd”) in Hebrew, followed in English by Rev. Dr. Bob Zanicky, First Presbyterian Church, Wilkes-Barre. Marianne Sailus, Chaplain at the VA Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre softly chanted the Beatitudes from the New Testament (Matthew 5: 3-12). Dr. Ibrahim Almeky, Imam for the Islamic Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and a local physician, prayed in Arabic for an end to oppression of all faiths and for support and protection of the people of Ukraine.
Rabbi Eric Mollo, of B’nai B’rith, Kingston, memorialized his Ukrainian Jewish ancestry and delivered a most eloquent prayer. He followed with a stirring liturgical Hebrew song while playing guitar. The song was “Oseh Shalom”, from the Jewish prayer book: “May the One who makes peace on earth, grant peace to Israel and all the inhabitants of the world, Amen.”
Inspiring prayers and readings continued as offered by Rev. Joseph Elston, St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Pittston; Deacon Sergei Kapral, Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Wilkes-Barre; and Rev. Russ McDougall, C.S.C, King’s College, Wilkes-Barre.
Fr. Andrii led a Moleben in traditional chant with the cantors serving his two parishes. It was an honor to also have as a guest presenter, Rev. Eduard Shestak of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, Old Forge. Like many of the immigrant priests in our Eparchy of Passaic, Fr. Eduard is in communication with family and friends in Ukraine, getting first-hand accounts of the crisis. Fr. Shestak illustrated the magnitude of stress and loss of normalcy in Ukraine in this way: “It is the 26th day in Ukraine. There is no February, there is no March, no Monday, no Tuesday, no Sunday. They count days only from February 24. Time has stopped. Time has ended. Everything changed in life and starts from zero.”
In closing the service, Fr. Andrii reminded all that triumph is what we strive for, not only in this life but for eternity. It is prayer that unites us in hope. He emphasized that our prayers hold up the people of Ukraine, giving them the ability to persevere. “Prayer is working even though we don’t see prayer. We see the consequences of our prayers. And prayer gives strength.”
In addition to the Interfaith Service, Fr. Andrii served as guest preacher on Tuesday, March 15 at a “Holy Hour for Peace in Ukraine”. It was held at St. John the Evangelist Church in Pittston where Rev. Joseph P. Elston is pastor. Holy hours were held simultaneously that same day at 5:00 p.m. in all Roman Catholic Churches in the diocese of Scranton at the request of Bishop Joseph Bambera. Many of Fr. Andrii’s parishioners attended.
As suggested by Bishop Kurt, monetary donations and supplies for refugee relief were collected at St. Michael and St. Nicholas churches for humanitarian relief. But these efforts are ongoing and have expanded beyond the parish level. In working with community leaders, Fr. Andrii has taken the needs of refugees and Ukraine to others through outreach programs; radio and speaking events at schools and colleges. And the response has been inspiring.
A second Interfaith meeting about Ukraine was held on May 9 at St. Michael’s Church as a thank you to everyone for their generosity.
We can see that people of all faiths and backgrounds are more than willing to assist others in need, those who are suffering. Likewise, when we trust in God and move beyond our comfort zone, we can do amazing things. And as Christians, we bring the message of Christ to others through our actions, and what they see in our lives. This is a calling for each of us. In small ways or big. As we continue both our prayers and our works of charity, we look forward to different circumstances. We pray for Ukraine and its people; for a time when peace and freedom reign equally for all.
Scenes from Interfaith I are seen below
(Click on any photo to begin Slide View – allow time for photos to upload, please)