Chalice of Mercy was founded in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin by Ukrainian-born Valentyna Pavsyukova, along with American friends in 2007.
Valentyna had come to the United States from Zaporozhye, Ukraine in 2002, at the age of 18, after her name was picked in the U.S. Government Green Card Lottery. Her mother had entered her in the lottery the year before without telling her, hoping to provide her daughter with a rare opportunity. An ocean away from family and friends, with little knowledge of English, she entered a painful period in her young life. This was made even more difficult by the fact that Valentyna had had almost no exposure to religious faith growing up in post-Soviet Ukraine. The one exception was her grandmother, who had taught her the Our Father Prayer and urged her to pray it especially “when times are difficult and just in case God exists.” This simple prayer began to stir in her an awareness of God as a loving Father. The first seeds of hope were planted in her heart.
Two years later, she had now begun to read the Gospels, and they came alive for her. She was also fascinated by the little she encountered of Catholicism, mostly consisting of images – often in old movies – of rosary beads, altars and candles, priests in cassocks, and people kneeling in holy silence. When the opportunity came to accompany a Catholic coworker to Mass, she welcomed it, and at the moment of Consecration she knew with simple certainty that before her on the altar “whatever that priest was doing was the truth: that was the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!” With the support of a growing circle of Catholic friends, she was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2007.
On fire with her newfound faith, Valentyna wanted to give herself completely to God, but didn’t know how. She thought of joining the Peace Corp and serving the afflicted in Ethiopia. But suddenly it dawned on her that her mission territory was to be her homeland, Ukraine, where the people were hungry and thirsty for faith.
The Mission Takes Shape
As Valentyna deliberated about the precise nature of her mission, she consulted an uncle in Ukraine, telling him she wanted to spread the Word of God. He replied that she should do so with deeds more than with words.
This struck home, and two priorities began to emerge. The mission of Chalice of Mercy would have a medical focus, because so many hospitals and care facilities in Ukraine were run down and antiquated; and it would be dedicated to God the Father, so that he might be known and loved in her country and throughout the world.
On a visit to her family in Zaporozhye in 2007, just months after becoming Catholic, Valentyna rejoiced to discover that a Polish priest, Fr. Jan Sobilo, had been assigned to a small parish there, agreeing to leave his homeland to minister to a tiny flock. Even more thrilling was the fact that he had built a Shrine dedicated to God the Merciful Father. As she explained to him what she envisioned for Chalice of Mercy, Fr. Jan resonated with it and became a spiritual father to her and to the mission. Fr. Jan Sobilo was later ordained as a Bishop in 2011.
Upon returning to the United States, Valentyna worked with a friends from Chippewa Falls, to formally establish Chalice of Mercy as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. They then contacted the Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach of Springfield, Illinois, who recover surplus medical equipment from hospitals and manufacturers and distribute it to developing nations. Partnering with the Sisters, they prepared to ship a 40-foot sea container of medical equipment in the fall of 2009. Valentyna knew how precious this equipment would be to the antiquated healthcare institutions that would receive it. But just as she was adding hospital birthing beds to the shipment, she realized they could be used not only as beds of new life, but also beds of death through abortion, which is rampant in Ukraine.
She understood in that moment that the mission of Chalice of Mercy also must be clearly mission of Life, promoting human dignity from conception to natural death.