By DIANE SCHLINDWEIN
EFFINGHAM — When Father Michal Rosa, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Effingham, first heard of the Russian attacks on Ukraine — and the plight of the people fleeing their home country for Poland — he was naturally concerned. His parishioners, knowing their pastor had grown up and was ordained in Poland, were especially eager to help the refugees and asked Father Rosa what they could do. Of course, he first requested that they pray.
However, in March “after much consideration and prayer” Father Rosa decided to reach out to his friend, Father Marcin Kokoszka, to see if the Effingham parishioners could also help financially. As luck would have it, Father Kokoszka had already planned to travel to see Father Rosa in Effingham, so the two friends went ahead with their visit. Together they also met with Bishop Thomas John Paprocki at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Rosa says he knew Father Kokoszka, who lives in Poland two and a half hours from the border of Ukraine, would know what to do. Moreover, Father Kokoszka, who is the economist for the Diocese of Tarnov, has personally been actively involved in helping Ukrainian refugees.
Father Kokoszka agreed that if money was collected, he would ensure the funds were used to help the people in need. By the time Father Kokoszka completed his visit to the Springfield diocese and was set to return home, Sacred Heart parishioners had already donated close to $31,000. That money was carried to Poland by Father Kokoszka. Since that time the parish has collected nearly $8,400 more, with donations still coming in, from Sacred Heart parishioners and some others as well.
“Growing up in Poland, Ukraine is Poland’s neighbor, three hours away from my parent’s house,” Father Rosa said. “So I am familiar with the areas that are now in the middle of the conflict. And I am in regular contact with my family, especially my parents, in Poland. The great openness of the hearts of the Polish people is being shown right now through their assistance to Ukraine people. And I know many priests with the Diocese of Tarnow. They are actively helping refugees every day.
“As for the people of my parish, they came to me and asked what they could do, and this was one way we could help right away, because we had a direct connection,” Father Rosa said. “I am very happy that the people here were so generous.”