Benedictine Nun From Ukraine: The Church Building Is in Ruins, but the Church Is Alive

‘You immediately realize that evil does not love what is sacred,’ said Ukrainian Sister Faustina Kovalska.

Father Oleksandr Repin stands among the church ruins.
Father Oleksandr Repin stands among the church ruins. (photo: Benedictine Missionary Sisters)

After the liberation of the Mykolaiv district in Ukraine from the Russian army last week, residents began to return to their homes with the hope of saving at least some of their possessions.

Together with the parish priest, Society of Christ Father Oleksandr Repin, and other nuns, Benedictine Sister Faustina Kovalska went to the site of the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kyselivka, Ukraine, where they had ministered before the war.

“We, too, like the people of the village of Kyselivka, could not sit idly,” Sister Faustina, who is from Ukraine, told CNA.

On reaching the site, however, the Benedictine nun could not believe what she saw.

The nun and the priest visiting the destroyed church in Kyselivka, Ukraine. Benedictine Missionary Sisters

The nun and the priest visit the destroyed church in Kyselivka, Ukraine. | Benedictine Missionary Sisters

“When we arrived at the site, we saw a heap of rubble,” she said. “We had hoped that something may have been left there and that we would find some objects and take them away.”

“Tears trickled down my cheeks,” she admitted. “It was hard to imagine that, not so long ago, this had been a church where people had gathered every Sunday to pray for so many years.”

“There are rockets stuck in the ground around the church, lots of cluster shell remnants,” she continued. “You immediately realize that evil does not love what is sacred. You become even more convinced that this evil gets stuck into our soil and destroys everything, especially what is sacred.”

Despite the loss, the Benedictine was reminded of what the Church really stands for.

“I started to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and there was peace in my heart. The house of God, the holy place chosen to glorify God within, had survived. There was no hatred, no anger, only some grief and a consoling thought that the Church, meaning people, remained alive,” Sister Faustina said.

The nuns visiting the church ruins in Kyselivka, Ukraine. Benedictine Missionary Sisters

Nuns visit the church ruins in Kyselivka, Ukraine. | Benedictine Missionary Sisters

The nun pointed out that most parishioners now pray at the church in Nikolayev, about 34 miles from Kyselivka.

She expressed the hope that the church would be rebuilt if people returned to the severely destroyed village.

“This sight, which is very tragic, nevertheless brings hope of resurrection,” she concluded.

The small stone church in Kyselivka, located 9 miles northwest of Kherson, was built in the second half of the 19th century. It survived two world wars and the communist regime.

The Soviet authorities turned the church into a warehouse and later into a tractor repair site.

In 1990, the church was returned to the congregation and placed in the care of the Society of Christ. In 2013, the church was blessed by Bishop Bronisław Bernacki, then of the Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol.

As of March, Kyselivka was under continuous shelling by the Russian army. The church was on the front line and was destroyed on May 2. On Nov. 10, the village was recaptured from Russian hands as part of the Ukrainian offensive in the Kherson region.

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)