During Holy Week this year, I invite you and all of the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of St. Augustine to pray for peace in Ukraine and an end to the unwarranted incursion by Russia into this country. It was in 1917 that Our Lady of Fatima appeared and requested prayers for the conversion of Russia.
Ever since the first incursion into Ukraine some weeks ago, we have seen the devastation inflicted upon that nation – and now in recent weeks, we have learned of the atrocities being committed against innocent civilians – women, children, and the elderly. So many have had to flee and become refugees – even today we learn of attacks on innocent civilians seeking to flee for their safety.
May this Holy Week be a time in which we as priests and the faithful pray for peace, more so than perhaps any time in our lifetime. Any financial support should be directed through Catholic Relief Services. May we all pray in earnest for Mary’s intercession – take an extraordinary step in prayer this Holy Week – pray a rosary and if you can, visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine. There, at the site of the first Mass in our country is the Shrine Church of Our Lady of La Leche on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios.
This shrine church was built in 1965 as Prince of Peace Church as part of the 400th anniversary of our diocese – and the Our Lady of Fatima statue of our Blessed Mother is still there. Never does intercession to Mary go unheeded.
As you know, I, myself, and my family were refugees as we had to escape Communist tyranny in Cuba in the early 1960s – and over the years, so many other refugees from other places and nations have found a safe and secure home in the USA. How proud we all should be that our Holy Father, Pope Francis held high and kissed a flag from Ukraine. For all in America, this should inspire us on behalf of the cause of freedom and the rights of human life at every stage and in every place – this is the sort of solidarity with all people that St. John Paul II spoke so often about.
To our priests, I encourage all of you to pray for peace this Holy Week and not shy away from the mention of Ukraine.
I am so grateful for your priestly service to our faithful. I remember you daily at Mass – and I am grateful always, mindful that I am remembered by you whenever you offer Mass.
Most Rev. Felipe J. Estévez, S.T.D.
Bishop of St. Augustine