Rosary Warriors

Posted on October 05, 2023 in: General News

Rosary Warriors

Knights in Ukraine offer spiritual support to refugees as they pray to Our Lady for peace

By Peter Gedicks



Several Knights wearing white and yellow baldrics stood before a group of people outside the Cathedral of the Resurrection Christ in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, on July 6. Presently they would start handing out packages of food and supplies — but first, they handed out small plastic rosaries to anyone who needed one. Together, the crowd of about 100 then prayed the rosary, invoking Mary’s intercession for the country, its soldiers and the speedy return of millions of Ukrainians to their homes.

Andrey Sheptytsky Council 15804 in Ivano-Frankivsk began organizing a regular community rosary in September 2022 in response to a clear need: Refugees were coming to the city in western Ukraine from areas of combat, and food and shelter were not the only things they lacked.

“A significant number of internally displaced persons from the east and south of our country lost their faith in God as a result of the prolonged domination of pro-Russian forces there,” said District Deputy Myroslav Mazur, a member of Council 15804. “In addition to the material support provided by the Knights of Columbus, they need spiritual support.”

The Knights in Council 15804 are far from alone in offering refugees both kinds of support. Twelve K of C Mercy Centers have been set up in Ukraine, where anyone in need can obtain food and other essentials. And numerous councils — including St. Michael the Archangel Council 17453 in Kalush and St. Josaphat Kuntsevych Council 17905 in Kolomiya — invite refugees to join their rosary devotions, sometimes attracting more than 200 participants.

In Ivano-Frankivsk, the community rosary is held weekly and attracts Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and even nonbelievers. When Council 15804 began incorporating prayer into their aid distributions, Mazur said, “many people cried and thanked us for our support. Most of them did not even know the Our Father and the Hail Mary, let alone what a rosary is and what it is for. Now, we hope that at least some of them have begun to practice daily prayers.”

Now, as October — the month of the rosary — begins, Knights in Ukraine are concentrating their prayerful efforts. Christian Kostko, a member of John Paul II Council 15801 in Lviv, recruited 25 new parish councils to pray the rosary for peace. The majority of these councils belong to the Byzantine Catholic tradition, in which the rosary is not as common as it is among Roman Catholics. However, during a meeting with members of the Synod of the Hierarchy of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Bishops on Sept. 6, Pope Francis expressed his desire that this October the rosary would be dedicated to peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.

For Kostko, the Knights’ rosary campaign is a part of a larger historical movement. “This war is relevant to the message at Fatima,” he said, noting that Our Lady called for the conversion of Russia when she appeared in Portugal in 1917. He also cited the Battle of Lepanto on Oct. 7, 1571, when Christian forces defeated the Ottoman Empire at sea. Before the battle, Pope Pius V had called for the rosary to be prayed for victory over the Turks; today, the date is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Spiritual nourishment and community are more important than ever, emphasized Ukraine State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy: “War brings pain and despair, not only to those who experience it firsthand but to all of us,” he said. “Only common prayer can provide relief in these difficult times because [people] no longer feel alone and abandoned. The rosary prayed by the Knights of Columbus in our churches in communion with other faithful allows us to demonstrate that nothing can break us if faith is present in our hearts.”


PETER GEDICKS writes from Kraków, Poland.