FALL RIVER – This year’s Ash Wednesday fell in early March less than a week after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and as the harrowing plight of the Ukrainian people became evident.
In order for Catholics in the region to respond, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, SDV, authorized the Ash Wednesday collection to be designated “to aid the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.” To date, this collection has raised a total of $256,021 from parishes in the Diocese of Fall River and additional returns are still being received.
“Once again, the faithful women and men of the Diocese of Fall River have shown their characteristic generosity in responding to the suffering of others,” Bishop da Cunha said.
“I think we were all moved with both prayer and a desire to do something after learning and seeing through the news the total destruction in Ukraine, the indiscriminate loss of life, the separation and displacement of families, and unimaginable suffering”.
The Diocese of Fall River forwards the proceeds of the collection to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, which, through its longstanding relationship with the bishops of Europe Central and Eastern, is able to help the Church in this region in its response and outreach to those affected and displaced by the violence.
Officials with the Diocese of Fall River’s finance office said many parishes reported continuing to receive contributions to the collection for Ukraine well after Ash Wednesday through the rest of March and into April. In fact, some parishes were still handing in Ukrainian collection returns last week.
Father Jeffrey Cabral, who is a pastor at Santo Christo Parish in Fall River, said he accepted donations in the weeks after Ash Wednesday.
“Through Facebook posts, parish announcements, homilies and intentions during Mass, and of course the TV news, parishioners have become profoundly more aware of the desperate need of Ukrainian refugees, just like the Holy Family who had to flee in Egypt”. he said.
Sharing that the response to the Santo Christo Ukrainian collection has far exceeded that of other special collections, Fr. Cabral said he was “truly humbled by the great generosity of his parishioners.”
In Falmouth, St. Joseph Parish, Guardian of the Holy Family, has decided to augment the Ash Wednesday collection with proceeds from a take-out chowder lunch and a special Maundy Thursday collection, both specifically for Knights of Columbus relief efforts in Poland and Ukraine.
St. Joseph’s pastor, Bishop Stephen J. Avila, explained, “Seeing families displaced, living in fear, losing homes and family members has touched many of our hearts and souls.
Most dioceses in the United States hold the annual National Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe to help support the overall rebuilding of the Church in that region since the collapse of communism. In the Diocese of Fall River, this collection is historically resumed on Good Friday. This year, however, in response to the emergency in Ukraine and the focus of the collection on assistance there, Bishop da Cunha moved it to Ash Wednesday.
The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) explains that the collection is an opportunity for Catholics in the United States to show their solidarity with their sisters and brothers in Ukraine.
In a Feb. 28 letter to his fellow bishops, the USCCB chair of the Subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe wrote that fundraising contributions “will continue to provide emergency funds that are already helping the victims of this war with food and water”. , hygiene supplies, support and other necessary humanitarian services.