COLORADO SPRINGS. At the request of Bishop James Golka, parishes around the Diocese of Colorado Springs have been taking second collections to benefit humanitarian relief for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
“The Diocese of Tarnow has mandated that every parish turn their parish halls and facilities into temporary/long term shelters,” wrote Bishop Golka in a March 4 letter to pastors. “The diocese, along with the local government, is providing clothing, medical care, teachers for children, toys, food and other necessary items, and we can be part of this ministry from 5,500 miles away. There are 13 priests from the Diocese of Tarnow who stayed behind in Ukraine; they are there taking care of people and coordinating efforts for those who are transitioning to Poland.”
Father Gregory Golyzniak, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Monument, is working directly with Caritas Poland to ensure that all donations go directly to refugee relief, Bishop Golka wrote. Once all the parishes have taken their second collections, the diocese will send the funds via wire transfer to Poland, he said.
“Caritas Poland in the Diocese of Tarnow is waving their 3% operational fee, so 100% of the money collected will go to those most in need who are being helped directly by the diocese and Catholic churches in Poland. Father Gregory is familiar with the people who run this office, this gives us the ability to have direct contact with them.”
Father Golyzniak said that the chaotic situation along the Poland/Ukraine border is a breeding ground for crime and corruption, so it is important that donations be made only to reputable agencies.
“That’s why we do not allow any private person to ask for money or other support,” Father Gregory said. “It needs to be done by these two entities — the government and the church. Everything is transparent, everything is controlled.”
Most of the roughly one million refugees walked to Poland with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and women and children are being targeted by human traffickers who promise to transport them in exchange for large sums of money, he said.
The Polish government is allowing refugees to remain in the country for 18 months, so relief efforts will need to continue into the summer and beyond, Father Golyzniak said. With no end to the war in sight, the number of refugees in Poland could reach as high as five million, he said.
Another local organization closely monitoring the situation is Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine (CONU), which was founded by Father Paul Wicker, the late pastor of Holy Apostles Parish.
CONU (www.conuhome.org) is also collecting funds to aid refugees in Ukraine who have fled from other parts of the country, said Greg Sullivan, executive director.
“We’re seeing the effects of communism resurrecting itself through the attacks on Ukraine,” Sullivan said. “(The Ukrainian people) have developed a great deal of courage because their families are right there and they feel that they have to protect their homeland.”