Clergy and public gather to pray for Ukraine
Interfaith service held at St. Michael’s Byzantine Church in Pittston
PITTSTON — St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church was the site of an interfaith prayer service for peace in Ukraine Monday night. Prof. Andrii Dumnych of St. Michael’s, originally from Ukraine, moderated the special service.
The rally was supported by the Wyoming Valley Interfaith Council.
Dumnych, who left western Ukraine just two years ago to run St. Michael’s, said that aside from his wife and three children, the rest of his entire family is still in Ukraine.
“I am in touch with my family (in Ukraine) all the time,” Dumnych said. “My mother works in a hospital where she treats people who will end up fighting and defending our country.”
Dumnych said his family was not in immediate danger at the moment, but they heard shelling and sirens all the time.
Prof. Russ McDougall, CSC, King’s College, recently approached Dumnych saying it was a good time to pray together and share with others from many communities.
Rabbi Larry Kaplan, Temple Israel, along with Rabbi Eric Mollo, Temple B’nai B’rith, participated in the service praying and singing in prayer.
“We thought a few weeks ago that would be a good idea and searched for some Ukrainian clergy in town and they were so busy, finally the father. Andrii was able to get in touch with us,” Rabbi Kaplan said. “He was so filled with thanksgiving and wanted this to happen and we invited different clergy all involved with the Wyoming Valley Interfaith Council.”
Rabbi Kaplan said news of the prayer service spread using social media.
Prof. Eduard Shestak of St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, Old Forge, also from western Ukraine, has been in the United States for 10 years.
Shestak painted a picture of current life in Ukraine from stories told to him by his family as well as what he sees reported by the press to the nearly 100 prayer service attendees.
“Through the internet and news reports, we see the horrors and we can suffer with these people and try to understand what they are going through,” Shestak said, of how modern technology is bringing war in Ukraine into the living room of each. “Ease of communication is how quickly help can be sent to these people across multiple platforms and that brings us all together.”
Elizabeth Kuna, of Pittston Township and a member of St. John the Evangelist Church in Pittston, felt compelled to attend the prayer service.
“I attended because all religions were coming together, I think that’s a rarity right now,” said Kuna, who read about the online prayer service. “Like everything else today, it’s rare for people to get together.”
Other area clergy who took part in the prayer service were: Reverend Dr. Bob Zanicky, First Presbyterian Church; Chaplain Marianne Sailus, VA Medical Center; Dr. Ibrahim Almeky, Islamic Association of NEPA; Pastor Adam McGahee, Moving River Ministries; Prof. Russ McDougall, CSC, King’s College; and Fr. Joseph P. Elston, Church of St. John the Evangelist.
“I want to thank you all for coming here and praying for Ukraine,” Shestak said. “I want to thank the governments of the world who are helping the Ukrainian people so much, hopefully ending this war and the immense suffering of the people.”