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Immaculate Conception Abbey in Zhytomyr, Ukraine

On Friday, March 4th, the Sisters of Immaculate Conception Abbey in Ukraine had to flee the monastery in Zhytomyr due to Russian attacks in the area. They arrived safely in Lviv and are now at the monastery with the rest of their Benedictine sisters and brothers. They are about 30 miles from the border of Poland.

They continue to receive and shelter migrants fleeing from Kiev, Mariupol and other destroyed cities. The number of migrants increases daily. They are sheltering over 150 people using every space in the monastery; over 50 are children, including at least one newborn. The guests, along with the sisters, assist in cooking and cleaning.

A message from Mother Abbess Klara: "We sisters are very happy that we can help and serve the refugees .. and bring them joy .. after the horror of the war they went through here it seems to them that they are in paradise .. we try to provide them with everything they need .. we are not doing anything extraordinary .. we are doing what each of us would do .. we are glad that we are all here together…"

Thank you for your prayers!

Please continue to hold the Sisters and all the innocent people of Ukraine in prayer.
Please pray for a cease fire- an end to this war.

We are accepting donations for humanitarian aid for the Benedictines in Ukraine and those in the surrounding areas:
Donate online indicate "Ukraine" in the special instructions. 


OR send a check with "Ukraine" in the Memo to:
345 East 9th Street
Erie, PA 16503

With Jesus in the Basement

Sisters sheltering in the basement
Sisters have taken the Blessed Sacrament in ciborium to be with them. The sisters are agitated, but Sr. Maria said, “We are not fearful. We have Jesus with us.”


Only 150 km from the border with Belarus, from where Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory, is the city of Žytomyr. And in the city, since 1988, 10 Benedictine nuns have lived in the monastery of the Immaculate Conception.  Another 7 reside in the monastery in Lviv: the only two female monasteries in Ukraine, affiliated with the Lithuanian Benedictines of Vilnius.  With some difficulty, but we managed to contact Mother Klara, the abbess, and Sister Maria Liudmyla, who had only returned to Ukraine from Rome for a few weeks, where she was studying theology at the Benedictine University of Sant'Anselmo.

 The nuns took refuge for fear of explosions in the lower part of the monastery and in the dark.  Even in these terrible conditions they do not give up singing the Divine Office as always.  We hear them at dawn immediately after the conclusion of the "morning prayer."

"We are not alone below,” Sister Maria begins, “we have the precious company of Jesus. In case we need to leave the monastery urgently, or there are incursions from the outside, we have brought the ciborium of Jesus in the sacrament below with us.”

 “Yesterday morning,” continues the nun, “we were awakened by the first explosions, and the skimming flight of airplanes.  Terrible noises that clashed with our singing of Lauds, which we still wanted to continue.  Fortunately, last week we were able to transfer our infirm sisters to Lviv, which being further west and only 70 km from the Polish border, is a little less risky.  But this morning they let us know that the sirens sound there too.  The rest of the sisters have decided to stay here: this is our home, we will not abandon it.  On the other hand, it would now also be difficult and dangerous to move, Russian troops are already in our region.  We are fine, but we are very tired: we have not slept for two nights, we have watched in prayer;  we were afraid of new missile attacks, but luckily there were none tonight.”

Sister Maria continues her story: "We are in contact with Kyiv and other cities, and there too there is a lot of suffering and fear.  We are told that the attacks not only concern military targets, but also civilian buildings, important infrastructures and even hospitals.  It is not, as they want us to believe, a question that concerns the areas inhabited by the Russian-speaking populations: they are invading the whole country.”

 And again: “We do not believe we are being attacked by the Russian people.  Among our sisters there are also two Russian nuns [one from Moscow and one Kaliningrad] and also two Belarusians: their parents and friends are terribly distressed for their life and to know that the missiles and attacks start right from Belarus and Russia.  There are many families who are divided between the two sides of the conflict." In Žytomyr there is an important Polish community.

“Since yesterday morning, in addition to the ten of us, two refugee families have entered the monastery.  In the monastery in Lviv, being close to the Polish border, there are many more refugees in transit.  They tell us that there are long lines at the borders.”

Mother Klara does not lose her equilibrium, and she ponders every decision in a shrewd way in relation to the changes in the external situation: “Friends and Oblates are helping us, with basic necessities.  Both yesterday and today a priest came to celebrate mass.  Pray for us, but also from now on are organizing humanitarian and medical aid.  We count on your support.  We know you are close to us.  And we know that Pope Francis is too.”

-"With Jesus in the Basement" by Roberto Cetero
Orginally posted to: L'Osservatore Romano, March 2, 2022


The Blessed Sacrament in ciborium
The sisters have taken the Blessed Sacrament in ciborium to be with them. The sisters are agitated, but Sr. Maria said, “We are not fearful. We have Jesus with us.”