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Ukraine! Why are you going to Ukraine?

March 22, 2024 

Friday, March 22   

12:42 p.m. 

Krakow, Poland     


I just arrived in Poland, where we will spend the night before driving into Ukraine tomorrow and will tour throughout the central, southern, and western parts of the country over the next two weeks. I’m here with Bruce Compton of Catholic Health Association, and Monsignor Robert Vitillo and Christian Kostko from the International Catholic Migration Committee.  


If you are reading this blog, you in some way have made this journey possible. Therefore, I want to start by thanking you for all you have done, not only for Mission Outreach, but also for me.  


It may be helpful for this introductory blog for me to answer the most common questions I have received about this visit: Ukraine! Why are you going to Ukraine? 


There are two practical purposes of this travel and one philosophical one. The first practical one is to follow a 40-foot container of medical supplies and equipment that Mission Outreach sent to Ukraine last year. I’ll see many of the hospitals and clinics that are currently using the items and learn from the clinicians and administrators there what else we can do. (Thanks to Bon Secours Mercy Health, we’ve already started on a second shipment because the first one was so successful.) 


The second practical reason I am here is to be with people in country -- as well as Bruce, Msgr. Vitillo, and Christian – to listen and learn how Mission Outreach can further assist health care providers in Ukraine. Last year at this time, we were anticipating how “recovery and rebuild” would look after the war is over; but it looks now as though we will have to figure out recovery and rebuild as the war goes on. 


Now for the philosophical one: I was not clamoring to be in Ukraine, and we would do all we could to help (as we would any international partner) even if I didn’t visit. However, they asked me to come and see and listen directly from the people who are affected by this unjust invasion so I can understand if there is more Mission Outreach can do to increase access to health care here. Our foundresses, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, believe in solidarity with those who are suffering. So, the philosophical reason I am here is to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are fighting for their freedom and livelihoods.  


We are about to enter Holy Week, and I have been thinking a lot about the Stations of the Cross. It’s a meditation on the path Jesus of Nazareth took from his trial to his execution. The thing about the Stations is that they end on him being placed in the tomb – Easter Sunday hasn’t come yet. Jesus was a human being experiencing real emotional and physical pain. The people who watched Jesus suffer hadn’t yet experienced the Resurrection; at that particular point, all they knew was that a person they loved – who had the courage to stand up to both occupying Rome and corrupt Jewish leaders – was unjustly humiliated, tortured and killed.  


I expect this journey over the next two weeks might be a sort of “Stations of the Cross” type of meditation as I learn, observe and listen to the Ukrainians I meet. I know I will see suffering; but I also will see heroism, resilience and love. As I plan to share with you the results of my practical reasons for coming here, I also hope to share some deeper reflections on what this all means for all of us as citizens of the world and children of God.  

Erica Smith Signature
Ukraine! Why are you going to Ukraine?