House of Hope provides safe haven for single moms in Ukraine
By Jim Dalrymple
COLORADO SPRINGS. The House of Hope Single Mothers’ Home has provided love and support for pregnant and unwed mothers in Ukraine for decades, but now more than ever it fills a critical need.
The home originally resided in the Diocese of Kharkiv and was started by nuns from Poland, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Orionists. Sister Renata started building a home in Korotych in 1996. She was joined by Sisters Kamila, who has served for 10 years in Ukraine; Lydia, who has served for five years; and Sabina, who has been there for 12 years. They form a dynamic team and typically house around 20 single mothers and 30-40 children.
Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine (CONU), which was founded by Father Paul Wicker in the Diocese of Colorado Springs nearly 30 years ago, is proudly a major and steadfast contributor to their operating costs. It’s sad to say, but many of the children would likely have been aborted or abandoned were it not for this place of refuge. Most mothers were formerly homeless, many from orphanages themselves.
The home provides a safe and healthy environment for the mothers to learn life skills for potential employment as well as how to care for their children. Education is also provided to the children. The inspirational sisters instill faith in God and help build a relationship with God based on unconditional love.
The sisters, sometimes referred to as soldiers of God, also share their endless love with all residents. It can especially be seen in the children. Visitors are amazed at how happy the children are. The sisters provide videos (see the CONU Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CONU.org/, and website, https://www.conuhome.org/, pages) that show children smiling from ear to ear. When Ken Rackers, CONU’s vice president, visited Ukraine in October 2022, he remarked he has never seen children happier anywhere, and he said that he was constantly showered with affection.
The sisters are resilient and tireless in all their efforts. With the outbreak of war and the intense fighting and bombing near their facilities in Korotych (on the western side of Kharkiv), they prayed for a new beginning at a location out of harm’s way. The prayers were answered by sisters from another order at an old monastery in Yazlovets, southeast of Lviv in western Ukraine. The relocation required 600 miles of travel, but they are now well-reestablished.
Meanwhile, the houses in Korotych now shelter four refugee families from areas of active warfare, along with five single mothers with children The total is 28 people including 14 children. The sisters also support them.
Although the number of sisters is few, their impact is far reaching. The activities provided extend well beyond recreation. Education is paramount. There is a kindergarten teacher who provides formal education to the very young. Older children can receive online education or attend a school. Although the name of the home is the House of Hope, it could be easily be named the Home of the Joyful!
The sisters not only work and operate the House of Hope but also devote their time, energy, and fruits of their labors to the community struggling to cope with the effects of the war. They have been assisting their diocesan Caritas agency in distributing humanitarian aid to about 4,500 people a week, roughly 10 percent of whom are children.
Sister Kamila desribed the situation this way: “A whole lot of damage. A lot of people were killed. Thanks to the gifts (received) from our friends, we were able to distribute humanitarian aid to the residents. (We see) sad, tired faces, dead eyes . . . people out of work . . . . We just talk to people. They tell us about the bombings, the deaths of a family of five, the destruction of a school.”
“For me, this is a difficult but profound experience of intertwining suffering, evil, destruction and death with heroism, beauty, goodness and the Lord God’s great presence. God, give peace to Ukraine . . . . God, give peace to Ukraine.”
For more information or to donate, visit www.conuhome.org.
(Jim Dalrymple is a member of the board of CONU.)