A St. Petersburg prayer vigil for Ukraine promotes unity and peace
Community members from different churches across the region came together to pray for peace and an end to the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
As many Catholics began the somber season of Lent on Wednesday, about 150 people gathered on the front lawn of Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church in St Petersburg, to show support for Ukraine during a prayer vigil.
Although the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is considered a solemn day in the Catholic community, the sun was shining bright as attendees of the vigil handed out sunflowers and shared ribbons of yellow and blue among themselves.
Those who attended came from different churches throughout the area to pray for an end to the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
Many faith leaders of different denominations spoke at the vigil, sharing prayer and thoughts that focused on a common theme of the importance of peace during this time.
A few of the faith leaders included Rabbi Jenn Mangold from Temple Beth-El, who shared a prayer for peace with the crowd, Reverend Dr. Guillermo Marquez-Sterling from Pass-A-Grille Beach Community Church at United Church of Christ, Reverend Ben Atherton-Zeman from the Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg, and many more.
When Reverend Ben Atherton-Zeman spoke, he said the people gathered at the vigil were not just there for a sense of charity but because of their interconnectedness to each other and the Ukrainian people.
“We are here because we are connected to you. We are here to remember that your pain is our pain, and your triumphs, our triumphs and your peace, our peace. So we will work for peace in our hearts, in our homes, in the world, and in Ukraine,” Atherton-Zeman said.
Faith leaders at the vigil stressed the importance of unity among community members and religions in order to help the people of Ukraine.
In a flier sent out by the Diocese before the vigil, it was stated, “You may think there’s nothing you can do to stop this aggression, but we can stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and speak as one community against this crime and injustice.”
People in the crowd that came to show support agreed with the importance of unity at this time.
Martha Clymer, a member of the local Ukrainian Orthodox community, said her father is from Ukraine and that she has cousins living there now.
“Ukrainian people are very strong and passionate, but they really cannot do this alone. They need the whole world to support them, and come through with the promises that they've made for them,” Clymer said.
Reverend Dr. Guillermo Marquez-Sterling said although he knows thoughts and prayers have immediately gone into action for Ukraine, it is important that “feet should also follow the prayers.”
“That's why you're here today. Because God gave you feet so that you could march yourself over here and then stand in unity and solidarity with this community, not only for the people of Ukraine, but for the local Ukrainian community. And most importantly, that together, we stand for peace,” Marquez-Sterling said.
The Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church announced the many ways they plan to support Ukraine. At the moment, the church is taking donations of hygiene items and money to send overseas. They even have a way you can order supplies on Amazon to be shipped directly to the church.
Olya Czerkas, a parishioner of Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church who is working to organize ways for community members to support Ukraine, said the best way for people to volunteer their time or donate is by going to the church’s website or calling and texting 727-421-0221 for more information.
Czerkas said it is important that people who are interested in volunteering or donating through the church check the website before contacting the number, because there will be updates and information posted there about different ways to help.
For more information on how to get involved, you can visit their website here.