Monday, March 14. I am writing from Paris at about noon. I am here to conduct training for staff of Depaul International—Irish and English employees who work for the homeless. My co-presenters are Sr. Maria Parcher, DC, from the United Kingdom and my boss, Mark McGreevy from London. We have been working all morning preparing the room we use, fetching refreshments, swearing at technology and otherwise doing the usual to be prepared for 17 folks taking three days here to learn about Vincentian values, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, Blessed Frederick Ozanam and the history of Depaul International. We have done this values course many times here, in London, the USA, Slovakia and Ukraine.
Our day is full and exciting but the sub-story is all the calls, emails and worry we do about our people in Ukraine and the staff in other countries who are raising money, receiving refugees and sending supplies. One of our Vincentian priests was traveling yesterday on a train with boxcars of medical supplies through Ukraine. He was the only passenger in the train car, delayed several times because of Russian bombing.
Mark, my boss, has been on the phone solving problems with fundraising, moving staff to safety, getting supplies collected and delivered. I overheard him talking with staff in London about his upcoming zoom meeting with the Irish board tomorrow and a USA Zoom meeting next week to update both groups. He also was working with his staff about two billionaires who were asking how much to give. One owns a manufactured housing company who offered to send his team to Slovakia to work with us to build shelters for Ukrainian refugees—and needing land provided to start—and would we be able to make this happen.
Mark was asking his staff how much money we need to raise to provide for immediate needs and the rebuild that will be necessary—the billionaires want to know.
I heard today that Poland was granting free passage on its trains to Krakow. I watch the BBC on TV here in Paris and find that most European countries are extending services and shelters to Ukrainian refugees. Lord what more must be done here?
People have remarked to me just how generous people have been—throughout the pandemic and now to help the Ukrainians. We are all amazed and grateful. I know many of you who read my story of the week are among them; we send our thanks. I also am grateful for the staff I will be meeting in a few minutes who will go home on Wednesday to continue working hard in their jobs to help the poor in the manner of St. Vincent de Paul. My job is to teach and inspire. I pray for my own inspiration and for all who work with the poor.
Monday 6:00 PM: word just arrived that our train with medical supplies (needed yesterday) has arrived in Kharkov and the Ukrainian police were helping to get them delivered to the hospitals. Thank God.
Tuesday 6:00 PM: Our second 12-ton load of medical supplies arrived. We are serving 2,000 meals a day prepared by our homeless people. My friend and confrere Vitaliy hears constant gunfire and shelling where he is staying at our house in Kharki. He lost one friend today to gunfire, a second is in the hospital from a gunfire wound.
We have much to think about and much to pray for. Make your list and get to it.
Fr. J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Public Service at DePaul University and Values Director for Depaul International, an organization that serves homeless people in seven countries.