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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Observer

Crowd gathers for prayer service in solidarity with Ukraine

Braving flurries and freezing temperatures, more than 100 students gathered at the Grotto Thursday night for a prayer service hosted by the Ukrainian Society of Notre Dame.

Draped in a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, a student kneels to pray at the Grotto.
Draped in a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, a student kneels to pray at the Grotto.

Students filed in from the north and south ends of campus just before 11 p.m. to pray the Rosary and show their support for the nation of Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia a day prior.

Junior Maryna Chuma, a member of the Ukrainian Society, said she was pleasantly surprised by the crowd.

“Given that it was such short notice that we spread the news about the service, it was very inspiring and heartwarming,” Chuma said.

The crescent-shaped crowd prepares to recite the Rosary together under the direction of Fr. Hlasbe.

Led by Fr. Andrij Hlabse, S.J., those gathered prayed the Rosary, and a smaller group, many of them wearing Ukrainian flags, sang the Lord’s Prayer in Ukrainian to begin each decade of the Rosary.

“We feel that solidarity with the suffering of those people who now are under bombs, missiles, and an invasion,” Hlabse said before beginning the Rosary. “We also remember that our God is a God who is with the oppressed, those who are violated and kicked aside.”

Hlabse encouraged those in attendance to focus on several intentions throughout the service.

“We pray for peace that comes from the spirit of God to descend upon the Ukrainian land, upon the Russian land, and we pray for justice,” he said. “We pray for those who are suffering.” 

In addition to the people of Ukraine, Hlabse extended prayers across the lines of war.

“And when we hit war, which is a tragedy, always, it seems to me we’re hit with one of the hardest Christian commandments: love your enemies, bless those who curse you,” he said. “So tonight we also pray for Vladimir Putin, for his regime, for all those who cooperate with the evil plan that is being executed on the people of Ukraine.”

Hlabse also encouraged the group to pray for people in Russia who may disagree with their country’s military decisions.

“We pray for the people of Russia, many of whom are opposed to what’s happening,” he said. “We pray that they may have the moral strength to make their voices heard.”

After the prayer service, Hlabse said he was inspired by the turnout and hopes the attendance at events like these sends a message to Ukraine and Russia.

“I’m very moved and encouraged that so many young people at Notre Dame recognize the power of prayer and the need for solidarity, and I hope they understand that their witness is a powerful encouragement to people who are suffering,” he said.

He said he hopes students leave the service with two takeaways. The first takeaway emphasized love and justice.

“As Christians, we believe in a God of love — of love and of justice — and we preach a message therefore of love, of peace, of justice, of reconciliation, not hatred — even for those who attack us,” Hlabse said.

The second message focused on the truth of the conflict in Ukraine and Russian propaganda.

“The second is to realize that Ukraine is a peaceful country that is a military threat to no one,” Hlabse said. “The Putin regime has generated propaganda, falsehoods and lies, not just recently but over the last eight years to justify what is now being done. It is truly a situation in which there is an unjust aggressor and innocents who are suffering.”

He cited evidence of when Putin accused Ukraine of genocide.

“When your propaganda accuses your enemy of genocide, you’ve really leaped quite far,” Hlabse said.

As the Russian attack on Ukraine continues, Hlasbe encouraged students who want to show their support to first pray.

Next, he urges students to continue informing others about the truth of the conflict, to “peel behind the misinformation that has been spread by the Kremlin to justify an attack on a peaceful country.”

Finally, Hlasbe encouraged students to use this time of conflict to put efforts toward leading a life of virtue.

“I think it’s especially important when you’re young to prioritize trying to lead a life of virtue,” he said. “And what I mean is developing those good habits that turn you into a good person, so that when crisis hits, you can respond in a loving and generous way.”

Like many Notre Dame students, Hlasbe has historic and current connections to the nation of Ukraine.

Before his maternal grandparents met in the U.S., they lived on opposite sides of Ukraine — his grandmother near the eastern city of Kharkiv and his grandfather near western city of L’viv. Currently, he has relatives living in the western Ukrainian provinces near Poland and the eastern provinces now occupied by the Russian military.

​​Though Hlasbe is in his first year pursuing a doctorate at Notre Dame after graduating from the University in 2006, he encouraged students with connections to Ukraine to reach out to him for support.

“I’m still building those relationships because I’m new at Notre Dame, but it’s something I’m certainly looking to do,” he said. “If there are people who want to talk or need community and support in this difficult time, I am certainly available.”