Adding up the totals for Poland and Ukraine, there are more than a thousand Catholic convents that are currently helping war refugees affected by the Russian invasion.
According to information released on March 15 by the Council of Major Superiors of Congregations of Women Religious in Poland, reported in Vatican News, female religious are providing “spiritual, psychological, medical, and material support” in 924 convents in Poland and 98 in Ukraine, engaging some 150 religious congregations that have already helped around 18,000 people.
According to the Council, 498 convents in Poland and 76 in Ukraine have improvised shelters that have received 3,060 children, 2,420 families, and approximately 2,950 adults. In 64 institutions there are 600 places available for orphans, and in another 420 there are almost 3,000 places for mothers accompanied by their young children. The is also room for the elderly and the disabled.
Between February 24, the date of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and March 14, the day before the report was released, about 1.8 million people had already fled from Ukraine to Poland alone, in addition to the approximately 2 million Ukrainian workers who had been living in Poland since before the war. The data are from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Council of Major Superiors of Religious Congregations adds that the sisters have been working, among other tasks, in the preparation and distribution of meals, as well as in the collection and donation of toiletries, clothes, and blankets for the refugees.
As if this were not enough, the nuns present in Ukraine have also been personally helping to evacuate people from places hit by Russian attacks. They are also looking for jobs for refugees in Poland, as well as creating vacancies in their own convents and helping as translators. The sisters are also providing places for Ukrainian children in Polish schools.
The religious communities in the land of St. John Paul II have been collecting food and hygiene items not only for distribution to the refugees who have arrived in the country, but also for shipment to the Ukraine with the help of other congregations across the border. Religious have also been sending cash funds through their foundations.
It is worth noting that the data reported refers only to the women’s congregations, and that in addition to them, men’s orders and diocesan priests in Poland and Ukraine have also been working to help the refugees in similar ways.