Christ Cathedral Celebrates Ash Wednesday by Praying for Peace in Ukraine

With Russia currently invading Ukraine, the people at Christ Cathedral prayed for Ukraine during their Ash Wednesday Prayer Service.

Kylie de Best, Editor

To express empathy and pray for Ukraine, my neighbor Mariya Stehnitska and I had the opportunity to attend a mass for Ash Wednesday at the Christ Cathedral. It gave me the chance to learn about what is currently going on in Ukraine through the eyes of people who have family there and from the various thoughts and opinions of many others at the mass. Mariya is from Ukraine and has shown a lot of concern for her family there and the well-being of her home country.

Mariya’s family is from the city of Khodoriv in the Lviv Oblast, and she remembers her simple life growing up in a small community. Though she has lived in the United States since she was seven, she finds her life in Ukraine to still be a big part of her life and memories. She tries to stay in contact with her family in Ukraine as much as possible and reminisces over the photos she has of her childhood there. 

As we entered the Christ Cathedral, we noticed a modest amount of people, but they were very peaceful and respectful. At the start of the mass, beautiful organs played, and it sent goosebumps up our spines. There were also many priests and bishops that entered the church, and a memorable Psalm that was read that connects well with what is happening in Ukraine is “In time of favor I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you” (2 Corinthiens 6:2).

Father Stephen, whose father was from Ukraine, explained the years of oppression his father and family experienced from the Soviet Union. The Russian soldiers came to their village expecting hospitality, and while his dad already knew how to speak Russian, others were forced to learn it as well in order to survive. Finally, in 1991, years after their religion was prohibited and the priests were imprisoned, he explained how Ukraine was finally a free, established government. This made the church proud, and they went through a revival where they could finally express their faith. Unfortunately, at a dark and solemn time we are seeing now with Russia invading Ukraine, Father Steven explained how parishioners walked out during recent services because they couldn’t find it in themselves to forgive what is going on in Ukraine. Through the many emotions and frustrations, people may be having now, keeping faith in a time where it seems that there is no hope is a crucial step in bringing peace to Ukraine.

To end the mass, everyone sang the “Ukrainian Hymn” along with the choir, and after we lined up to get ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. I was extremely moved by everything I heard, and it allowed me to have more of an understanding of the fear and pain the people of Ukraine must be feeling right now.

There were many opportunities before and after the mass where Mariya and I got to interview priests and bishops, and hear the message they have for the people of Ukraine. When asking Bishop Timothy Freyer about how this Ash Wednesday has significance with what is happening in Ukraine, he comments how “we are trying to unite our prayers with [the citizens of Ukraine] and touch the hearts of Russian leaders.” He believes that Ash Wednesday connects him to God by “uniting with Him in this world and showing why He would want us to spend eternity with Him.” His message of hope for the people of Ukraine is that “people are praying and they aren’t alone, and people should focus on this issue.”

Father Steven shared how “though it is not in the best way, it has brought the world together to help bring peace to Ukraine. It comes to show that we are all one people and what is happening there affects us as well, such as with oil and gas prices.” He also posed a complex and impactful question, stating “would we have the same spirit and soul in our country if our freedom was threatened?”

“Would we have the same spirit and soul in our country if our freedom was threatened?”

— Father Stephen


ABC 7 was also there, and my neighbor was interviewed by Sid Garcia to speak about how she is affected by what is going on in Ukraine, stating, “I couldn’t get in contact with [my family] for a few days. I was just glued to the news every single day, and I would pray that I would get to hear their voice the next morning.” (ABC7). She found this moment very special, as she has been wanting to show tribute to her country and make others aware of what is going on and how she is deeply worried about her family. She believes her grandma will be really excited when she finds out she made it on the news.    

Throughout the week, Mariya has been updating those close to her about the condition of her family and what is currently going on in her country. Some words of wisdom she has shared along with this is to “never take your country’s peace for granted.” 

Through all of the distress Ukraine has been through, its citizens have shown a lot of resilience. Their undying love for their country has prompted them to fight and accept all of the risks that come with this. As Christ Cathedral has mentioned, their brave actions despite the tragic state of their country have shown that “it is important to be present for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine in a time of great need.” With continued efforts to bring peace to this country, the whole world has Ukraine in its prayers.