Local Catholics Finding Unique Ways to Assist Humanitarian Relief Efforts for Ukrainians


By Tony DeGol

Like just about every Catholic in the world right now, Paula Imler wants to do something to help ease the suffering in Ukraine.

Besides praying for peace, the parishioner of Sacred Heart in Altoona also made a beautiful quilt in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Imler’s husband shared the news with the pastor of Sacred Heart, the Very Reverend Lubomir Strecok, VF.  Eventually, it was decided that the parish would sell raffle tickets for the quilt, with all of the money raised going to Catholic Relief Services to aid in humanitarian relief efforts.

“I feel very blessed to be able to help, and I just feel like I’m a small part of this,” Imler remarked. “It has also been nice to see how everybody has jumped in to help as a faith family.”

Imler drew the winning ticket at the Noon Mass on April 24 at Sacred Heart. The effort raised $1,074 for CRS.

That spirit of compassion and generosity is alive and well not only at Sacred Heart, but at faith communities throughout the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Faithful contributed more than $8,000 during a special collection at the Mass that Bishop Mark celebrated on March 25 in communion with Pope Francis and in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and Russia. All of the money went to Catholic Relief Services.

Catholic schools in the Prince Gallitzin Quadrant, which includes Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, All Saints Catholic School in Cresson, Holy Name School in Ebensburg, Saint Benedict School in Carrolltown, Saint Nicholas Catholic School in Nicktown, and Saint Michael School in Loretto, raised about $5,000 to assist the Ukrainian refugees in Poland. The funds were raised through a combination of a t-shirt sale, dress down days, and individual donations.

The efforts of the schools are particularly meaningful to Father Andriy Kelt, the pastor of two Ukrainian Catholic churches in Cambria County and a Religion teacher at Bishop Carroll.

“We have seen truly heartbreaking images of pure evil when Russia invaded the peace-loving country of Ukraine,” Father Kelt said. “It is one of hardest things to watch, especially the little children and women losing their lives, their homes, their whole way of life. The fundraiser that we had will help countless families who are without a home and food.”

The efforts of local Catholics are especially reassuring to Imler, who, like everyone, is horrified to see the tragedy unfold.

 “I want them to know that all of us are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers,” she stressed. “God works through people, and we’re praying for them all.”

[Photo: (Top) Paula Imler stands beside the quilt she made to assist those suffering in Ukraine. (Inset) Father Andriy Kelt and Bishop Carroll Catholic High School students show their support for refugees.]