Perth Amboy Community Gathers for Prayer Vigil for Peace in Ukraine

By: Katherine Massopust

PERTH AMBOY – On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, the community of Perth Amboy held a prayer vigil to pray for Ukraine. The vigil was organized by the city of Perth Amboy and Assumption Catholic School. Over a hundred people gathered at city hall circle in support of Ukraine. Participantsincluded Mayor Helmin Caba, members of the Perth Amboy City Council, local politicians, students from Assumption Catholic School, and citizens of Perth Amboy and surrounding communities.

The vigil began with Principal of Assumption Catholic School Mrs. Lissette Shumny, who spoke of the generosity of the community which has been incredible. She stated that many donations were received toward the humanitarian fund for Ukrainian aid. Mrs. Shumny stated that the school has united in prayer daily for the last 3 weeks to pray to the Blessed Mother for peace in Ukraine. She gave a brief history of the Perth Amboy Ukrainian Community, “The Ukrainian Catholic Community has gathered to worship in the City of Perth Amboy since 1908 at its original location on Wayne Street. Our current church, the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Alta Vista Place was built in 1952 by Ukrainian immigrants which established themselves in our city.In 1963, our school (Ukrainian Assumption School which was later renamed Assumption Catholic School) opened and has been a staple in this community. It has served as an important foundation in many families lives as they entered Assumption Catholic School to educate their children. These same children have become pillars of the community of whom we are immensely proud. Currently, our demographics have added a beautiful diversity to our school, yet our Ukrainian Catholic identity is at the root at who we are. We need your generosity and support. Pray for the nearly 3 million Ukrainians, mothers, children, and refugees. Pray for the soldiers that stood their ground against all odds. Pray for the world leaders that they find the strength and guidance to help put an end to this unprovoked attack.”

Fr. Michael Morgan, Priest at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Perth Amboy gave the opening prayer. “We need to pray for peace among the nations of the world. Let us pray for peace on earth.”

NJ Legislative District 19 Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez offered her remarks, “We are here to offer our collective support to people of Ukraine to this evil attack on democracy.” She denounced the Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital intentionally killing women and children. “Despite these horrorsand against all odds the Ukrainian people are holding strong in their determination to remain a free and sovereign nation. I am proud that our country and our state has taken action to block the Russian government in every turn to make sure that they do not engage in the world economy while waging a senseless war. I urge everyone to pray for the people of Ukraine – for the brave men and women on the front lines fighting for freedom and the loved ones they are fighting for. Let us all pray for an end of this conflict and for the recovery of the Ukrainian people.”

Members of the Assumption Catholic School choir sang a hymn to the Blessed Mother.

The next person to speak was Mayor Helmin Caba who recognized the members of the City Council, County Commissioners, and other politicians who were present to unite in the power of communal prayer. He cited the definition of local leaders, “Our job is to protect our residents and provide services to preserve the best life in our cities. We are to serve our communities and represent our residents to preserve their welfare. We are to serve our community to preserve their wellbeing.” Mayor Caba spoke of the sorrow of the people of Ukraine. “Imagine leaving all your belongings, your home, your job, your community – all of it – leaving it behind. Their reality serves as a reminder to each and every one of us that we should not take our freedom and our liberties for granted. We are a diverse community made up of many different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and beliefs. There is so much that divides us, yet there is so much that unites us, and perhaps nothing is more important than our shared beliefs on democracy and freedom.Today we stand united in support for peace with the Ukrainian people in prayer for the protection. We remain humble by their remarkable courage. We stand in solidarity for peace and for freedom.”

Assumption Catholic School Student Kiera Colon read a poem.

Mrs. Shumny explained that the significance of the Moleben Prayer Service which began in the beginning of the 20th Century in Ukraine. “It honors Mary, the mother of God, which is usually said during the month of May, but we will honor her now for the love of Ukraine.”

Mrs. Shumny introduced Fr. Ivan Turyk, Pastor at Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption in Perth Amboy. Fr. Ivan began, “It is painful to see forces of darkness at work.” He quoted the Gospel of John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Fr. Ivan continued “What is going on in Ukraine is very dark, but each candle that is lit at today’s vigil, reminds all who gather that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World and who brings Hope and Peace to all of us even in the midst of the darkness of war. I ask you to light the candles. They are made from the beeswax, the same ingredients from Ukraine, the Breadbasket of Europe which flows with honey and milk. It is so prosperous and good. We stand here together to pray for my motherland Ukraine, and I am so proud and honored that of my adoptive land of the United States of America who gave us so many opportunities to my fellow immigrant Ukrainians to participate in today’s service to show that the voice of the Ukrainian people cannot be silenced by the munitions of the Russian army. We pray for the ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian occupants. We pray to the Blessed Mother of God for her to intercede on her behalf to our LordJesus to bring an end to the war in Ukraine.” Fr. Ivan Turyk then led the vigil in the prayer of the Moleben.

 After the Moleben, Assumption Catholic School Alumni Apryl Coffman Shumny sang a beautiful rendition of “Via Dolorosa”.

 Mrs. Anna Maria Kukuruza, the Second Grade Teacher at Assumption Catholic School and parishioner at Ukrainian Assumption Church gave a brief history of Ukraine. “When someone says: “Glory to Ukraine,” you respond, “Glory to its heroes!” She explained giving the Ukrainian translation.

 Mrs. Kukuruza continued, “I am here today to talk to you a little about courage. I am a second-generation Ukrainian, which means my grandparents came here from Ukraine. My family and I have always been active participants in the Ukrainian American Community. We have never been shy when talkingabout our Ukrainian background or explaining where Ukraine is. We are proud of our Ukrainian ancestry. Our families were forced to leave our beloved homeland to escape during World War II and never to return for fear of retribution. Being courageous was instilled in us to never forget what we left behind, our country, culture, and language. Twenty days ago, Russia illegally invaded the independent country of Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians have become displaced refugees. Prior to February 25th, Ukraine had a total population of 40 million people. To put it in perspective, it would be as if the entire city of Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the United States would just up and leave. Families leaving everything behind with nothing but a backpack on their backs to leave home for safety. Others are staying behind to preserve what has and always been rightfully theirs. If there is any word to describe Ukraine or its people, it is “Courage”. Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the blitz of Russian missiles, especially the death of at least 71 children as genocide. We are no strangers to that. In 1932, Russia tried to eliminate Ukraine by hunger, a genocide called the Holodomor (forced famine), yet we survived, and we have courage because we refuse to let history repeat itself. We here today must have courage. We must no longer silently observe like we had for decades during the Russian regime where you cannot express your opinions and beliefs in peace, where the nation has turned into slaves. We must have courage and understand that Ukraine is not only protecting itself, but alsoEurope and the world’s shared values. We must have courage in our convictions to help in any way we can. So often we have seen the power of prayer. Our brothers and sisters in Ukraine need our help more than ever.”

 Fr. Michael T. Chendorain from St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church gave the ending prayer. Students from Assumption Catholic School then sang another hymn. Fr. Ivan Turyk then led the vigil singing “God Bless America” and then the Ukrainian National Anthem. “The glory and freedom of Ukraine has not yet perished”. This ended a beautiful evening of prayer.