COLORADO SPRINGS. In 1994, after the Soviet Union broke up, a Ukrainian priest came to Holy Apostles Parish with no contacts and not knowing any English. He entered the sanctuary to pray and met Father Paul Wicker, former pastor of Holy Apostles. With the help of a Polish parishioner who translated, he was able to request assistance from the United States.
That request led to the founding of Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine (CONU), and the priest who made a desperate plea for help in 1994 is now Bishop Vitaly! He will return to Colorado Springs in October to participate in the celebration of CONU’s 25th anniversary, which will take place on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at Holy Apostles. The event will be a music-filled evening celebrating the work of CONU and other Colorado Springs “Good Samaritans.” The theme is “Who Is My Neighbor?” For more information visit: http://www.conuhome.org/home/who-is-my-neighbor-evening/ .
The ultimate goal of CONU is to help Ukrainians rebuild and recover from decades of Soviet oppression and help them to regain their dignity. The group builds and supports clinics for the poor as well as raising money for soup kitchens, disabled children, seminaries, outreach programs for families and churches in northern Ukraine.
CONU is an all-volunteer organization that delivers more than 97 percent of the contributions received directly in aid to the Ukrainian people.
In March 2019, for example, CONU purchased $26,000 worth of special therapy equipment for the St. Louis & Zelie Martin Care Clinic in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. According to a volunteer at the clinic, Oksana, several patients have already benefited from this new equipment:
• Darya, 26 years old, who was in a deadly car accident but survived. “She is in her third month of intensive care; two small children are waiting for her,” Oksana said.
• Nazar, two years old. “Nazar, when he came with his mother, couldn’t speak, stand, or sit at all. Doctors said his chances of development were poor. After two months of everyday sessions he speaks about 30 words and can crawl. This is a joy for us!” Oksana said.
• Ostap, five months old, was born prematurely with cerebral palsy. “His appetite has improved and he began to sleep better. Finally he can hold his back straight. The family is happy and grateful for the center,” Oksana said.
Father Wicker, along with two bishops and a priest from Ukraine, will also give a retreat at Our Lady of the Pines Parish on Oct. 12 from 8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. The event begins with a continental breakfast and ends with Mass. Lunch is also provided. Cost is $10 per person.
(Greg Sullivan is administrative assistant to Father Paul Wicker for Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine.)