“Faith and Light” celebrates 25th anniversary of special friendship
As early as in 1968, a family of Profites from France went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, the place of appearance of the Virgin, separate from their parish community. Parishioners believed - a family with two sons with a disability do not fit into the common group of pilgrims. Local tenants were also not prepared to accept special pilgrims. Although the premises for of Luke and Tadea’s parents were successfully found, its owner warned - the family is to have lunch separate from all other visitors, so as not to embarrass them.
A trip to Lourdes for the family of Profites has become a painful experience, but Camille and Gerard were not going to put up with that reality. Three years later, together with Jean Vanier, founder of the international Lairsh movement, and Marie-Helen Mathieu, director of the Christian Disability Support Office, organized a pilgrimage to Lourdes for nearly four thousand families with children with a disability. That year, the bishop of Lourdes welcomed the special pilgrims in the city. In this pilgrimage, the family did not pray for healing children, but for the transformation of the hearts.
So, in 1971, the international Christian movement "Faith and Light" started, which brings together families with children with disabilities, and volunteers who want to make friends with them. In 1992, the first community of "Faith and Light" appeared in Lviv. In 25 years of celebrating the birthday of the movement already 36 communities from different parts of Ukraine have gathered. Celebration of the anniversary will last for a year, but it was decided to start it symbolically - the all-Ukrainian pilgrimage to the Unev monastery, which took place this Saturday.
“It is good that our anniversary celebrations begin with a pilgrimage to the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in Univ,” wrote Zenya Kushpeta, the founder of the Faith and Light movement in Ukraine. – “We thank Jesus and Virgin Mary for the generous blessing of all our communities and the kindness we have received. The seeds that the Lord has sown during these 25 years in the hearts of friends with disabilities, their friends, parents and chaplains of communities, sprout and bring good fruits. We are not alone - we have friends, a community!”
Members of the Faith and Light movement try not only to serve the poor, do something for them, but to stay beside them, to become friends for them. Natalia Hrytsiv, who has been a volunteer for “Faith and Light” for ten years already, says:
“I arrived with my friend Lesya on a pilgrimage to Unev. We come to each other’s birthday parties, go out to have a pizza, ride the tram. Lesya loves live concerts and cocoa in McDonalds. My two sons and husband also welcome her, and she, in turn, constantly cares of them. Lesya listens attentively and sincerely cares about my life: work, family, and even my cat. Thanks to Lesya I learned simplicity, attentiveness, sensitivity and delicacy. Lesya is very happy to be on this pilgrimage, because here she met friends from all over Ukraine, whom she had not seen for a very long time.”
Mrs. Ivanka Vynnytska with her son Oleg has been already 13 years in "Faith and Light", so she is not the first time on her pilgrimage:
“Our pilgrimages are always a special experience of peace and tranquility,” the woman shares her impressions. “It seems like you're in a completely different reality. You do not feel such a reception as here, in any other place. Our Liturgy is also something special. When we say "Our Father", we take one another’s hands, and during the "Credo", shake hands, or embrace the neighbor, and say: “Christ is in the middle of us.” Chaplains of "Faith and Light" can be recognized from afar - they are happy, smiling and direct.
The pilgrimage to Univ brought together more than five hundred pilgrims from all over Ukraine. Father Tomasz Błaszczak, a monk of the congregation of the Oratorians and the vice-provincial chaplain of “Faith and Light”, explains why it is so important for the members of the “Faith and Light” Movement to get together:
“In order that God is present in the community, one person needs to glow with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are going to forgive - when one person is glowing, he can help others blaze up,” said the priest.
Several years ago, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk appealed to all parishes in his pastoral message on the gift of persons with disabilities - to open the doors of the temples, but first and foremost, the doors of heart to people with special needs.
“On the 25th anniversary of Faith and Light, we want to inspire as many people as possible to follow this call,” says Pavlo Koval, provincial coordinator for the movement in Ukraine. “And to testify not only the need of people with disabilities in help, but also their gifts. They remind us of the true value of human relationships: trust, friendship, acceptance, joy and love that we all once again experienced during this pilgrimage.