General News

Praying for the Living and the Dead

Posted on April 04, 2024 in: General News

Praying for the Living and the Dead

Knights fund Mass stipends to benefit both Ukrainian priests and the faithful they serve

By Karolina Świder and Solomiia Karpiv



In Odesa, Ukraine, two years after the start of the war, one still cannot escape the constant shelling and the fear it generates — one can only get used to its regular rhythm and deafening noise.

No wonder, then, that the population of the southern port city fluctuates constantly. Waves of refugees leaving Odesa to find a safer place are replaced by waves of refugees coming from occupied territories in search of temporary shelter.

Yet some people remain. Father Konrad Szymański is one of them. The young Polish priest, ordained for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Odesa-Simferopol in May 2023, faithfully serves his parishioners at the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Nowadays people need not only material help, but also spiritual support and attention, someone who will spend time with them, be present,” explained Father Szymański, who has lived in Ukraine for seven years. “We try to assist them by providing humanitarian aid and through priestly ministry such as Masses, confession and spiritual guidance.”

Supporting priests in their ministry is a priority for Ukrainian Knights, who launched a program in 2020 to give Mass stipends — small donations for celebrating Mass for specific intentions — to priests in need. The program has become all the more important since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With many Ukrainian parishes depleted of residents, priests can face great financial difficulties in addition to their other challenges. Some depend on Mass stipends to purchase necessities like food.

“We felt a strong need to support our priests. We all know that they live mainly thanks to Mass intentions,” said Ukraine State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy. “Before the war, Knights collected funds and, through the Ukraine State Council, gave Mass stipends to military chaplains, Knights of Columbus chaplains and priests in difficult situations. Due to the war, our resources were depleted, and we received support from the Supreme Council. ”

Since 2020, almost $100,000 has been given in Mass stipends, resulting in more than 10,000 Masses celebrated for the living and the dead. Priests typically receive stipends for 10 Masses or, if they are willing, for Gregorian Masses (30 Masses offered on 30 consecutive days for the same deceased person).

Priests in need of help can apply for the program through local K of C councils or through their state chaplain: Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv or Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archiepiscopal Exarch of Odesa.

Archbishop Mokrzycki praised the program for its demonstration of “mutual solidarity” between priests and Knights around the world.

“Many people in other countries request the celebration of the Mass, and their priests cannot fulfill it because they have many other duties,” he said. At the same time, he added, “This is a great help for our priests and K of C chaplains.”

Most of the funds allocated by the Supreme Council in 2023 were donated to newly ordained priests such as Father Szymański in the first week after their ordination, accompanied by a congratulatory letter from the Order, asking them to “celebrate [10] Holy Liturgies for the souls of those killed in the war in Ukraine” within a month.

Now priority will be given to Knights of Columbus chaplains in eastern territories, where parishioners are few and priests struggle to make ends meet. Father Maksym Krolevskiy is chaplain of Ivan Mazepa Council 16649 in in Poltava, around 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Russian border, where he serves Holy Trinity Parish.

“Intentions are always needed because they are a source of income for the priest himself. We have no other salary, no pension,” he explained. “It is a means for us to more effectively carry out our pastoral activities.”

In addition to the much-needed financial help of the Mass stipends, Father Krolevskiy draws spiritual strength from the Knights of his council. “My council is like a backbone for me as a chaplain. I feel protected by my Knights. We rejoice together or, if there is any crisis, we all gather together to help one another,” he said.

While the stipends benefit the priests, they are also a gift for the people being prayed for, living or dead.

“The intentions I received from the Knights of Columbus for the souls of the deceased are an important intention,” Father Szymański said. “Many people passed away without knowing God or receiving the sacraments and reconciliation with God, so it’s very important to pray for them.”

“I sincerely thank you for the intentions I received,” he added. “I promise to pray for the intentions of the Knights, for the intentions of the donors and for the Order to grow even more and to acquire even more members.”

To learn more about our work in Ukraine and to support those efforts, visit kofc.org/ukraine.


KAROLINA ŚWIDER writes from Krakow, Poland. SOLOMIIA KARPIV writes from Lviv, Ukraine.