A holy man once said that a beautiful light will come from Ukraine, such that the world has never seen.
A holy man once said that a beautiful light will come from Ukraine, such that the world has never seen.
Mary, through your heart and constant concern for all of your children, Light will surely come to us. Light that is impossible not to notice and toward which it will be impossible not to draw near.
Mary, Your call is getting stronger, and the hearts of Thy Ukrainians and the people of the world are becoming purified because of the Grace of your Son, brought to us through your loving hands. Now we want to live, want to love and want to give life to others. Mary, you are truly a Mother, our Mother, through whom each of us will come to know Jesus and the Love of the Heavenly Father ever better. For all that lives and has existed, has been created by Him.
First of all, we want to thank everyone for the daily prayers and the love that you, our friends, patiently and unfailingly give for our mission. There have already been two pilgrimages to Medjugorje for Ukrainian doctors. Exactly one year ago, a group of obstetricians and gynecologists came to Medjugorje, where they experienced many wonderful moments, after which followed deep conversions amongst themselves and amongst the people they were around. Due to these physicians, the lives of many conceived children have been saved.
The first pilgrimage of obstetricians and gynecologists in Medjugorje for this current year of 2012 was held from March 19 to 27. Attending were 37 doctors from various regions and cities of Ukraine, including in Kiev, Donetsk, Vinnitsa, Kamenetz-Podolsk, Kherson, Kirovohrad, Khmelnytsky, Cherkasy, Chernivtsi, Uzhgorod, Lutsk, Dunaevets, Buchach, White Church, Berdichev, Zhitomir, Odessa, and Bara. Also attending were two Catholic priests, three Catholic nuns, Genya Samborska who is the founder of the organization “For the Dignity of All People”, two doctors who had come on the trip last year, Family Psychologist Galina Maslenikova and obstetrician and Natural Family Planning instructor Ludmila Barakova, and finally also one journalist from Moscow, Russia. We were also blessed with the presence of our wonderful and dear friend Trudy Bement , who traveled from Chippewa Falls, WI to help during the pilgrimage She was truly a great gift to us.
For each of the doctors, the pilgrimage was a complete surprise! Torn from their familiar swirl of official duties and domestic problems, they unexpectedly fell into a different world of prayer and fasting, the messages of Our Lady and daily participation in Holy Mass.
Traveling together on the road for almost 3 days, the doctors got to know one another. They shared their thoughts and talked about life. One doctor, who is director of a woman’s clinic, shared with us something very important. She completely stopped performing abortions a few years ago. After seeing a movie about abortion on television, her 13-year-old son with terror in his eyes went to her mother, clinging to her he said, “Mom! I am glad that you help babies to be born and are not doing what is shown in this film.” The woman was horrified. She thought, “What if my son learns what I am actually doing!” Since that time, she has refused abortion.
One of the doctors in the last day of work before leaving for this pilgrimage to Medjugorje saved a woman from an abortion. This woman came to see him in order to terminate the pregnancy but left with the firm intention to have a baby. The doctor shared, that specifically the preparations for the pilgrimage moved him to talk to the woman and to tell her the truth about abortion. Thus allowing her to rethink and make the right decision.
The bus arrived in Medugorje very late on the evening of March 20. Everyone was very tired from the almost three days of travel. Our dearest friends, Patrick and Nancy Latta, opened the doors of their home again for us. This house of prayer is built to serve only priests and religious and is dedicated to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. For us it was a very great gift and the providence of God to be able to stay there. When Patrick and Nancy learned that another pilgrimage of Ukrainian doctors was coming, they immediately said: “If they are coming they must stay here.” The love and generosity we have received from them and from all those who lived with us and served us, is beyond all words. We felt truly at home!
Our first day began with an introduction. It is interesting that almost every one of the doctors said that they had religious background. But because of communism, many parents were afraid to raise their children in faith and knowledge of God. So for a long time, the hearts of these and many other people of the former USSR settled with unbelief and the rejection of God’s existence. But even with such a serious and complete atheism, the human soul does not cease to seek for his/her Creator and Savior.
Later in the morning we went to the Apparition hill where Our Lady appeared in 1981 for the first time to six children. Two physicians, who had come to Medjugorje last year, were celebrating their first anniversary of Medjugorje. A year ago, one of the leading specialists in obstetrics and gynecology for Ukraine received a great gift of conversion as she was climbing the mountain. She gladly shared her story with the whole group. Our pilgrims were given rosaries and prayer books. Therefore, on the trip to Medjugorje many were able to learn the basic prayers. It was amazing to hear the first Hail Mary prayed, as it sounded out of their mouth, tears rolled down their cheeks. Normally, Apparition Hill is crowded with pilgrims, but it was very surprising to see that our group was the only group on the mountain. It was as if Mary was waiting only for us.
When we finished the joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, the whole group went to the Statue of the Virgin Mary and knelt. Everyone present was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Silence and peace surrounded us all. Many shared that they had never experienced such a moment ever before in their lives. There was an obvious change in their eyes and, of course, a change already beginning to happen in their hearts. One of the doctors, who was a former communist, knelt before the Virgin Mary. Later he shared, that he likes to keep a rosary in his hands and that he felt her special protection.
That evening was also their first participation in Holy Mass. Although the evening program at the Church of St. James is in the Croatian language and is very long, almost all of the doctors participated every day in these Holy Liturgies with great interest and desire. A strong impression was made upon the doctors during adoration of the Holy Sacrament that occurs in Medjugorje on Wednesday, Thursday and especially on Saturday. On Sunday, March 25th, adoration was at night, and many shared that despite spending such a long time with Jesus, they did not want to sleep, but still wanted to stay as long as possible since it “feels so good and peaceful.”
Every day, we gathered together to listen to our instructors – Galina Maslennikova, Lyudmila Barakova and Genya Samborska. They shared with us natural family planning methods, which are known by all the gynecologists, but seldom practiced. The many issues relating to reproductive technology, including contraception, sterilization and in vitro fertilization, were discussed and how they work as an assault on marriage, the family and the dignity of each person, including those children that are newly conceived. Each topic aroused keen interest. This was a real discovery for the doctors and many stayed up late into the night talking to the instructors.
On Thursday we visited the community of Cenacolo, where we met with two young men who shared their life story and how they both became dependent on drugs. It was through prayer and work, that they received healing and new life. The doctors listened with breath taking attention and then asked them many questions, so that the meeting lasted almost one full hour, a full 30 minutes longer than planned.
On Friday we climbed Cross Mountain and prayed the Stations of the Cross. When we reached the top, we all stood around the Cross and held our hands together in prayer, asking God the Father to forgive our sins, to set us free from the darkness in our lives, and to shine new life into our hearts.
After that each one of us asked forgiveness from each other, which brought forward a culmination of joy from the whole group.
Saturday was marked by a meeting with one of the visionaries – Vicka. For the doctors, the long wait in front of the orphanage ‘Mika Kornelia’ did not matter. They were interested in meeting her and hearing her speak. After her testimony, many of them got a hug from Vicka. It was simply joyful and very beautiful.
In the evening we prayed at the statue of the Risen Christ. Then after dinner, in procession, we all brought lighted candles to the Crucified Jesus Christ as a symbol of hope. Father Andrew preached a beautiful sermon, encouraging each of us to become a burning candle of hope for others and to bring peace and joy into the lives of all whom we meet on our way.
The very painful and difficult issue of abortion did not leave anyone indifferent. One of the doctors read the poem that was written by his twenty-year-old daughter. His daughter instinctively felt what her father was involved with, and wrote a poem about the suffering a woman experiences in a situation where the father of the baby runs away but the woman makes the decision to keep the baby. This poem has already saved many lives. The doctor has given this poem to many of the women who have come to him for an abortion. All of the doctor pilgrims expressed their desire to have a copy of it.
The doctors listened with great interest about the life of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla – a mother, who heroically sacrificed her life to save her child, whom she was carrying in her womb. The doctors received the Holy Icon of St. Gianna in the hopes they would hang them at home or work as a special reminder of the intercession of St. Gianna in helping them serve people. With much gratitude all of the doctors took the gift of materials for Life: baby models of 10-12 weeks, booklets on prenatal development of the child, as well as books in defense of family and marriage and other materials. Everyone wanted to have more materials. They were especially fascinated by the 12-week-old baby models.
For Sunday’s Holy Mass we were allowed to be in the chapel of “Mothers Village” which was built after the war, in what was former Yugoslavia. The doctors were introduced to the history of this charitable cause which was built on the providence of God through the heart of Father Slavko Barbaric.
After this our group was waiting for one more surprise – a visit to the center, ‘Mika Krispina’. This center was created to support women who find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances, who are awaiting the birth of a baby and are in need of love, support and protection. In the center, the women can live in peace before giving birth and also stay for the time necessary time after their baby is born. The visit to this center emphasized the one way in which both the lives of the mother and of the child can be saved. This was a new experience and doctors had many beautiful question, for example: “ how we can organize similar centers in Ukraine?”
The Farewell on Sunday night was very touching. The doctors, after dinner, shared their experiences with words of admiration, gratitude, and hope for future cooperation and positive changes. The doctors were interested in organizing the Ukrainian Association of Physicians Respecting Life, and expressed a desire to be members.
Throughout the week the doctors shared their impressions of the pilgrimage. Throughout their weeklong stay, they barely slept more than a total of 20 hours, because they wanted to learn, listen, and share their thoughts with their colleagues. They wanted to change the society in which they live.
Here are some of the testimonies that were shared:
I have felt for a long time, that our profession is very unusual. But I did not realize until now, why it is so amazing. Now I am able to understand the responsibility that rests on each and every one of us, the moral aspects of which we have to think about. If we really work, we can improve our professionalism. We have been told that to be an obstetrician is an art, and it is very demanding. But I realize now how beautiful my profession is. I am among many people who think alike. Now that we are all gathered here, we are overwhelmed by our feelings. We have a lot of work to do.
We have worked very hard, both physically and mentally, and also spiritually. I wrote down everything that happened. Thanks for the retreats in which we participated. You have planted the seed into us. We listened and heard a lot of candid and spiritual things. In my entire life, I have not done so much praying, as I have here on this pilgrimage. You pulled us out of our everyday life and it has not been in vain. I hope to continue and to keep in touch with everyone.
It was through my friend who came on this pilgrimage for the doctors last year that I was invited to come here. When I asked her where I was going, she just told me that it is a holy place. The method of Natural Family Planning, I knew, but I ignored it. I am so grateful to Ludmila Barkova who was able to share it with us. Now for me, this method will actually be in the first place. I went to the Church very seldom, but now I have reconsidered everything.
I cannot express all the feelings of gratitude. I was here a year ago. My first time here I came without any emotion, but this time, when I returned, I really wanted to come and to experience the goodness and the love again. I discovered God on my previous trip when I came to hear and understand that we really need to live with God and that He will help us and is always close to us. In life we need to rely on Him rather than on ourselves. This past year, which I lived with God, everything became much easier, both in life and at work. I was told to begin praying the Rosary, and I thought, how can it help me? But I decided to try. And when I began to pray, I became no longer afraid. In Medjugorje, we often hear the word “love”, we see people smiling. One cannot help but smile back. I would love to see our country with this similar love and joy. You just need love. Love the small ones, the old and the sick.
I had so many problems. Some gradually resolved and others did not. These were deposited somewhere far away. I tried to run away from them. When it was offered for me to come here, I actually agreed with enthusiasm. I did not care where I went. I just wanted to leave and to go somewhere. I felt an inner freedom and relief, and after all this time, all of which we spoke, nothing was alien to me. In my opinion all of which we have said is how we should live. I have a lot of impressions, which I would like to share with my family and friends, but I do not know how to convey all this in words because one must come here to Medjugorje to understand. This is a wonderful place. There are no words that could convey this grace and this love. And now I am going home with some ideas and am more than confident that the relationships between parents and children must be in the first place. I always had them in the 2nd place in my life. I think my coming here was not an accident.
We were here just like students, who were learning something that we all knew, but did not understand. To many of us, all of this was very important. We need to work at the universities and schools, to carry this information to everyone. I really like the fact that we have the same God and the same Blessed Mother Mary no matter if we are Orthodox or Catholic. We have been here together with Catholics and there was no barrier.
I think we don’t love enough in the Ukraine. I am glad that I came here and realized that each of us can bring love and kindness. I realized that only with God can a person be an honest man.
This is a very spiritual place, an oasis. My soul is at peace. I have always believed that abortion is a sin, but thought that women would still do it, and therefore, there was no escape. But my opinion has changed, and there has been a change in my heart. We should try to work so that every child is born. When my friend told me that she is expecting her second child, I do not know what happened inside of me, and I said to her: “Why do you want to have a second child?” But I now realize that children should be born, and our society needs to change. So we are happy to have children, and not look at children as a burden.
This time I noticed that the climb to Cross Mountain is much easier when going down. And I want to say that we will not descend to the level where we were when we arrived. I have survived the cleansing and healing of my soul.
I have never experienced such peace of mind and have never had so much useful information. We have gained strength and now we can look at everything from another point of view. We have a new attitude toward work and people. Thanks for the information we have received. Many things we did not know, and if we knew it we did not pay attention to it. With us, you had to work hard, but now, thanks to you, many children will be born and we will help you.
When we arrived the first night we were told that we have come home to our Mother. For me it was very strange, is there anything that can replace the mother’s house? I received so many kind words and smiles. Thank you to our priests who brought us a lot of important spiritual information.
When I came here, I did not expect my life was going to change. Much surprised me here. I went to the church maybe once a year and then only at Easter. Here I saw people from all over the world going to church. I saw their piety and how earnestly they pray. I saw some amazing things here. I feel like I took my head out of the hatch of a tank. Before I sat inside and looked at the world through a small window. Now I can see all around.
I felt the generosity and love. I am not ready to explain everything that has happened to me, I need a lot more time to understand and ponder over the many things that have happened. My daughter is an obstetrician-gynecologist. She is still learning and I would very much like her to come here. We were imposed upon a lot, and life back then was different. Only now do I understand what is really important. We learn to live differently.
Pani Genya Samborskaya on behalf of all physicians thanked those who silently and beautifully served us all these days in the Castle which is dedicated to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Thank you to all the people who were preparing food and sweets, cleaning the tables and washing dishes. Many of these people arrived in Medjugorje specifically to selflessly serve the doctors because of their love and desire to help. All of them were fasting and praying long before this pilgrimage began.
The final event of the pilgrimage was a meeting with Patrick Latta. His testimony made a deep impression on everyone. He spoke about his life and the life of his family and children. He was once completely distant from God. But this changed and continues to change thanks to the Virgin Mary, her messages, as well as through prayer, fasting, reading Scripture, Confession, and the participation in the Holy Mass.
Everyone went home from Medjugorje, not only with gifts for family and friends, but also and more importantly with a large amount of impressions experienced during their pilgrimage. We were afraid that with the departure of the group from Medjugorje, their spiritual uplift would end. But on the bus back home, for about four hours the doctors continued asking questions on spiritual subjects. Already on the train station in Lviv, one of the doctors (who did not let the Rosary go from his hands since the very first day) shared that he was bringing back not an empty bottle of vodka, without which before the pilgrimage he could not live a single day, but coming back much more alive. And when he learned that by God’s Providence, he would be in the same train room as Fr. Andrew, he expressed the hope that he could also quit smoking (which he was to quit the next morning). On the train the doctors did not hesitate to pray the Rosary together out loud, in the presence of other people around. Father Andrew said: “Waking up in the morning, I saw a doctor reading the prayer book. Later she told me that what happened to her in Medjugorje will be a learning process for many years of her life. ”
The very next day after arriving home, we started receiving phone calls from other doctors who had already heard the story from their colleagues of the pilgrimage to Medjugorje. These obstetricians were expressing their desire to go to this wonderful place.
After the pilgrimage one obstetrician and gynecologist Aleksandra from Kiev, who works as Assistant Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the National Medical University, ‘Bogomoletz’, has taken an active stance to protect unborn children. She immediately responded to the invitation of Genya Samborska to take part in a press conference organized by the charitable organization, “For the Dignity of All People.” At a press conference titled, “Legal abortion – the main factor in the decline of population in Ukraine” they have been able to describe the consequences of abortion. The young doctors have signed an appeal to the President of Ukraine Yanukovych and the Chairman of the Supreme Council Volodymyr Lytvyn on the need to ban abortions in Ukraine.
One of the doctors decided to quit her job. She said she could no longer sign the death sentence of unborn children.
Another doctor had the courage to admit that when she does abortions, the broken bodies of aborted children do not allow her to sleep. In Medjugorje she prayed on her knees. We will also pray for her and for all physicians who have been victims of the communist system.
We thank God our Father, our Mother Mary and all those who, through their donations, labor, and especially by fasting and prayer have made possible this extraordinary pilgrimage. We especially would like to thank our sponsor, who prefers to remain anonymous, who with unimaginable charity and love, continue to help and sponsor specifically this mission for the pilgrimages. Please continue to pray for these doctors and for us, that we might continue this very important mission of Life.
Always yours with much prayer,
Chalice of Mercy