MARMORA – Europe changed forever Feb. 24, as Russian President Vladimir Putin launched “a special military operation” in Ukraine.
Shockwaves echoed from Kyiv, Ukraine, to the borders of neighboring nations. Across the globe and the U.S., millions watched the conflict unfold on live TV and in news headlines.
In Cape May County, the impact was no less powerful.
How are local churches and individuals responding to the crisis and to what hope can we all cling?
The war in Ukraine is, sadly, not a new one. Both Russians and Ukrainians share a Slavic bloodline and similar traditions. Current hostilities are rooted in ancient grievances, betrayals, and religious disputes between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches.
For Monsignor Rev. Peter Joyce, in Marmora, the conflict is personal. Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish oversees two congregations in Marmora and Woodbine.
According to Joyce, many congregants of St. Casimir, in Woodbine, are of Polish and Ukrainian descent.
“These are our brothers and sisters,” Joyce said during a March 9 phone interview.
St. Casimir was founded by Polish immigrants as the community flourished in the early 20th century. Woodbine itself was founded by Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire.
Joyce also explained the relevance of the parish’s namesake. In 1941, Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe exchanged places with a fellow inmate at Auschwitz.
“The founding principle of Jesus’ teachings is to lay down his life,” Joyce said.
He instructs congregants to set aside time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for those in Ukraine.
Contributions are collected by the Diocese of Camden and more details will be made public in the coming days.
The North Wildwood United Methodist Church recently held a prayer vigil, led by the Rev. Kate Aaronson.
The Ukrainian flag flies outside the church building, near the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture.
According to Aaronson, approximately 80 people attended the vigil.
“As long as we have prayer, we have the means of changing the world,” Aaronson said March 11.
For members of Beth Judah Temple, in Wildwood, the conflict is especially relevant and resonates with many.
“We in the Beth Judah community are saddened by the events in Ukraine and the loss of innocent life,” Rabbi Ron Isaacs wrote March 9.
Beth Judah began when Jewish settlers migrated from Woodbine to Five Mile Island, in 1911. Their stories of resilience and quest for freedom live on.
“It both saddens and angers me that an aggressor would simply invade a country, unprovoked, and go to war,” Isaacs said, adding that the illustrator of his latest book, “A Fresh Start,” is Ukrainian and has found refuge in a nearby country.
Keep My Faith
Chandi Ankrum, missions chairperson of Tabernacle United Methodist Church, in Erma, is helping to organize a relief effort.
She responded by contacting the Rev. Holchuck of the Ukrainian Orthodox Ascension Church, in Clifton. Dropoff sites included 7 Mile Brewery, Middle Township Municipal Building, Whalen’s Auto Repair, Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce and Lower Township Municipal Building.
“The churches all responded in solidarity,” Ankrum said via email March 11.
According to Ankrum, the donated items will soon be shipped to Ukraine. Further opportunities to give will continue.
According to Isaacs, hope rests in the future promise made by the Biblical prophet Isaiah: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall people learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at email@example.com.