Small steps to a big goal: St Nicholas house of Mercy launched in Lviv
In Lviv, the chapel of St. Nicholas of the House of Mercy was consecrated, and the fundraising for the repair and arrangement of premises was launched.
This Sunday, December 29, in Lviv, a solemn consecration of the chapel of St. Nicholas House of Mercy was held by the Metropolitan of Lviv of the UGCC, His Eminence Igor (Voznyak), in concelebration with the priests of the Archdiocese of Lviv. The joint prayer was attended by representatives of the city authorities, teachers, volunteers, and, in the first place, by the children, for whom this center is intended.
In his speech, Metropolitan Igor thanked all those who contributed to the creation of the House of Mercy in Lviv and conferred on its initiator and chief promoter Fr Roman Prokopets the right to wear epigonation and gold pectoral cross. The Bishop also noted:
“The Lord knows all our needs, but he wants his children to talk to him and communicate their needs. This chapel is the most important room in this house because Jesus Christ will be present under humble guise of bread and wine. Here a priest will forgive people's sins in the name of the Lord. Here the Lord will purify souls and make them holy.”
The chapel, which was consecrated by His Eminence Igor on Sunday, was intended to be arranged in the room where the assembly hall used to be. Recently, for the first time in more than half a century, windows were opened here, which had been clogged almost since the beginning of work in the boarding school building. Their renovation began. The windows are not just large – they are huge. Most likely, they were installed during the construction of the building in the middle of the last century. According to the restorer, Mr. Nestor, they are exactly more than a hundred years old. The wiring was also changed and the floor and walls patched in the chapel. One wall is so wet that it will only be possible to continue working on it for half a year when it dries. The repaired walls will be painted in a light color so that one can arrange exhibitions of works by participants of the icon-painting workshop operating at the center.
As Fr Roman Prokopets told to the readers of RISU, there is still a lot of work ahead, but we started with the chapel:
"The chapel is the foundation of our chaplaincy service, it is the place where human action ends and God's begins. What we as human beings cannot change, we entrust to God. Many people come and find during a common or private prayer an answer to current and pressing challenges and needs. And it's always a good way to solve a problem, to have the whole Church pray for a specific need with which a person comes to the community. Prayer is the basis of our service, and that is why we started the construction of the House of Mercy from the chapel. On Sunday, Metropolitan Igor consecrated the chapel so that we could each time turn to our Lord with confidence and be renewed through the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Now we are launching worship on a consistent basis in our chapel of St. Nicholas in the House of Mercy. Every Sunday and on holidays, the Liturgy will begin at 10.00. On December 31, to mark the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, a thanksgiving Liturgy was held at 19.00. Every Thursday at 12.00 we hold an akathist service to Saint Nicholas in the intention for the gift of parenthood."
In addition to the chapel, they intend to equip several more rooms in the near future. In particular, to arrange a social hoste for people from among orphans who are graduates of boarding schools and are already students - so that they would have a place to spend the night, clean themselves up. A project and cost estimateare already drawn up, which also include equipment for kitchen, laundry and shower. All that stuff - repair, furniture, equipment will cost about a million hryvnia. On Sunday, they started fundraising.
“We must also take care of certain conditions for the activities of our chaplains' office and the coordination of work in the House of Mercy, as well as the arrangement of the volunteer space so that our volunteers have a place to work,” says Fr. Roman.
There will also be a kitchen for the cooking school “Kazanok”, which has been operating for several years at the Center. In the near future, we plan to equip rooms for classrooms. From January 2, the "Christmas school" for orphans will start.
"We set ourselves a task that the House of Mercy had its own premises in Lviv. We have now got it. This is the first winter that we experience within the walls of this house. This building stood empty for more than five years, communications were cut off and partially destroyed. Everything needs to be restored step by step. First of all, we do the most urgent things, so that some elements from outside or inside do not fall on one's head. We study and investigate everything so that careless actions do not cause damage to the building. We have already solved the pressing issues of conducting the rain roof drain to the sewer so that it does not get into the walls and the floor does not rot. The pipe was cleaned and repaired. For the near future we plan strengthening and waterproofing of the foundation," says Fr. Roman Prokopets.
The priest is convinced that in small steps, through the efforts of the chaplains, volunteers, patrons who come and contribute it will be possible to finish the job: "We want everyone to find in the House of Mercy what they are looking for, want that the door of mercy was opened for those in need and for the benefactors, so that the Orphan Care Center was further the platform that unites these people, gives the opportunity to be helpful to each other and that this cooperation, the sacrifice, support, help, helped them to discover the heavens. We hope and ask for this our patron Saint Nicholas, as well as for intercession and help. Saint Nicholas was chosen as the patron Saint, because he is the closest for children, as well as for adults, because they are pleased to receive good surprises. Saint Nicholas is both an example for us and the one to whom we turn in every need. When we pray to him reading the akathist and other prayers, we remember that he helps on land and in the sea, and never stands aside from our problems. The future of every society lies in the ability not only to receive, but also to give. By helping those who need it the most, who are least protected, we are creating our future. And the more people are aware of the needs of others, the more they respond to them, the more mature we will be as a society. Our task is not to solve the problems of others, but to help, support, teach to find solutions. We already have many examples from our experience of how people who received support and help from us, eventually refuse it and try their own forces, slowly getting back on their feet. And most of all, I am glad that many of those whom we have helped are already helping others."
The fact that the House of Mercy appeared in Lviv can be called the victory of the year – the victory of kindness, generosity and compassion over bureaucracy, greediness and callousness. It seemed barely probable at the beginning of the year. It should be noted that the orphans had in Lviv their home where one could listen to them, provide help and a chance in life, the chaplains of the mission "Orphan Care Center" of Lviv Archeparchy of the UGCC have announced a fundraiser at the beginning of the year to try to compete at auction for the building of the former boarding school No 2 located at 7 Korolenko, Lviv, which the regional council had decided to sell.
The house located at 7 Korolenko was built in the 40s of the XIX century. In 1856-1857, it was reconstructed according to the project of Emanuel Gall. In 1912, the main rooms of the house were built (architect Sigmund Dobzhansky). This building until 1939 belonged to the society of artisans "Zirka". After the war, there was an Institute of folk art, later a boarding school. In 2014, the school was moved to an adjacent building. The same year, by order of the Direction of the common property of Lviv Regional Council, it was transferred to the balance of the school-gymnasium of I-III stages of the Blessed Klyment and Andrey Sheptytsky. A year later, she refused this room because it was unfit for study. Then the building was transferred to the balance of the KP of the Lviv Regional Council "Real Estate and Property". On October 25, 2018, the session of the Lviv Regional Council supported the decision to sell non-residential premises on Korolenko, 7 from the auction, which is scheduled for January 2019. The total area of the premises is 2 929.9 sq m. In addition, there are 0.5 hectares of the local area, where there was a stadium and the economic premises that are now destroyed. Therefore, although the premises needed significant investment, it was a tasty morsel for business structures.
According to Fr Roman, in the building located at 7 Korolenko str., the Center started operating when there was still a boarding school. It continued operating even when the school was closed: there was a warehouse - the base of St. Nicholas. The document on cooperation between the boarding school and the Center was signed in 2013 and under the terms continued to operate until one of the parties stops cooperation. There were no reports of this to the Orphan Care Center. After the football team of the Orphan Care Center in 2018 won the world Cup among children under guardianship, representatives of the regional council promised to build a platform for training, the Center had to choose a place. The very first option offered by the chaplains, Korolenko 7, was rejected by officials. Negotiations continued for half a year, but without any results. Then the Orphan Care Center asked for the transfer of this room for long-term use. It turned out that two weeks before it was decided to sell the building of the boarding school at auction. Metropolitan Ihor Vozniak and the Orphan Care Center received answers to their appeals that nothing can change.
The Regional Council said it was late to reverse the process, they promised to allocate the means gained from sale on capital expenditures in the social sector - institutions of culture, health care, education, social protection and to look for any available options. They questioned the needs of the Center in that large premises and the ability to handle them, emphasizing that the premises require a huge amount of money for repairs and significant maintenance costs.
However, the chaplains did not lose hope, they appealed for support from the public, the deputies of Lviv City Council, they announced a fundraiser to try to compete for the premises at the auction. On the first day, January 29, they managed to collect a little more than UAH 119 thousand. On January 30, the Center held a holiday "Warm Evening on Korolenko, 7” to sum up the results of the events held last year, to thank the volunteers and benefactors. They held an auction of works by students of the icon painting school, during which it was possible to collect UAH 32 346 and USD 51.
In total, they managed to collect more than UAH 300 thousand, but the starting price of the auction, which exceeded UAH 29 million, was still very far to go. Therefore, despite all efforts, the building of the former boarding school was sold at auction. The building was purchased for UAH 35 million by a brokerage firm from Kyiv, set uo just four months before, in the interests of their client, whose name was not disclosed. However, the Lviv Regional Council failed to make a contract of sale, and therefore to transfer property rights, because the Economic Court of Kyiv at the suit of the Lviv City Council decided to terminate the decision of the Lviv Regional Council on the privatization of the building of the former boarding school. This decision was made an hour after the end of the electronic auction.
After lengthy negotiations between the city and regional councils in May, the deputies agreed that the city had to allocate for the premises on 7 Korolenko street to theregional council a subvention of UAH 40 million. On August 1, 2019, the session of the Lviv City Council decided to buy out the building at 7 Korolenko street for UAH 40 million and transfer it in the ownership of the Orphan Care Center of the Lviv Archdiocese of the UGCC. In the middle of November, Fr Roman Prokopets received official documents that this building is already the property of the Mission “Orphan Care Center”.
And on November 10, the Day of Prayer for Orphans, the first Liturgy was celebrated in the chapel. This became possible due to the fact that the renovations began in August, as soon as the decision of the City Council on the transfer of the building to the Center was obtained. Although it is clear that a lot of work, money, effort are to be invested, for chaplains it is important that the House of Mercy was revived and operated as soon as possible, so that there was a place to work and pray with children and their mentors, adoptive parents. Therefore, first, they plan to restore a small part of the building, and then gradually repair and give new life to the entire building.
“We strive and are already working to ensure that within the walls of this House of Mercy, the children, coming with their problems and needs and finding solutions to them, feel care and understanding, so that in communicating with chaplains, with volunteers, as well as through God's word, they have the opportunity to develop, grow spiritually, and feel that they are not alone among the problems they faced, that there are people who are ready to help them solve them,” says Fr. Roman.
It should be noted that the mission has been operating for ten years and covers more than two dozen boarding schools and family-type children's homes not only in Lviv but also in the region, even beyond its borders, including in the East of Ukraine – in the Dnipropetrovsk and Luhansk regions. This is a mobile group of chaplains and volunteers who travel around these institutions and work with children and families. Various projects are ongoing in different institutions, in particular, the cooking school "Kazanok", the icon-painting workshop "Kapelanchyky" (Little Chaplains), there are two football teams, one of which, dubbed "Kopa", is a two-time world champion among the teams of children under the care. There are also various projects involving the volunteers, for example, in 2018, together with its leading specialists, we implemented the project "IT-schoolboy" for the children. Several times a year, the Center holds large-scale events, which brings together more than 700 children from all over Ukraine. During the summer holidays, the camps are organized, and the first problem that always appeared was where to hold them.
According to Fr Roman, the Center works with all categories of children who need social care, and having an equipped room, will be able to help a much larger number of children.
"Having got the House of Mercy, we can not only go to the children ourselves but also will be able to receive them at home. From the very beginning of our activity, we realized that it is not necessary to separate orphans from other children, from society. According to the data we receive from the children's service, there are about 600 orphans in Lviv, and more than 2 thousand in the region. We cannot now embrace all of them with care, but we try every day to respond to the needs that are facing children, parents, caregivers or mentors. In cooperation with the children's service, we conduct various training sessions, projects and programs that help children enter into the life after boarding school, get a profession that will help them support themselves and have stability, as well as gain confidence in their abilities. We try to convey to children in boarding schools, family-type homes that they are full-fledged members of our community - the city, the region, Ukraine as a whole, and undoubtedly can claim a happy future. We want children who, despite their young age, have already experienced some kind of tragedy, war or violence in their lives, to be able to at least get spiritual peace here, to know that there are people who wish them well and can help them, that life can be much better than it was before. And although we can't reach out to all orphans, we are working to make sure that they know about us, so that if necessary, there is a place to turn. We are always open to various types of assistance for both the child and the family that is faced with a problem or is considering adopting a child, as well as for everyone in need," says the priest.
To implement such ambitious plans, it is necessary not only to have a huge amount of money. Now the work continues thanks to the benefactors who made donations during the collection of funds for the buy-out at the auction, and the donors who are getting involved in the good cause. However, the Orphan Care Center is not only looking for sponsors-benefactors, but also of ideas, it is developing the concept of the House of Mercy being self-supporting and not a burden to the community, which at the same time would be a response to the needs of our city and our society.
"After WWII, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky allocated a huge amount (about UAH 117 million in equivalent for the current money) to take care of orphans. To find money, the Metropolitan appealed to the public, to Ukrainians around the world, various international organizations. We are also open to the whole world. We are now talking about the needs of this House so that people of good will could help answer them. We are encouraging everyone to come up with their ideas and suggestions on how to build this House of Mercy in Lviv," says Fr Roman Prokopets.
He promises that everyone who wants to help will be welcome in the House of Mercy and will find work to his abilities. The main thing is to have a desire to join the great and necessary cause.
Details for assistance:
Account: 26003053749934, PJSC "PrivatBank",
MFO 325321, EDRPOU 37527309.
Purpose of payment should be "voluntary donation",
the recipient is the Mission "Orphan Care Center" of the UGCC.
Contact: 097 295 36 06; 096 749 79 80.
Photos of the Orphan Care Center