By Denise MacMurtrie
When our 18 year old daughter Regina was told she was being sent to Ukraine as a Heart’s Home volunteer, our whole family had to look it up on a map. What an unbelievable blessing it was for me and my youngest daughter Amanda to spend two weeks with Regina in Eastern Europe learning first-hand about her life in Heart’s Home! Our trip was more than a vacation—it was a pilgrimage and a time of retreat. We spent our first five days in Poland, visiting the shrine of Our Lady of Czestachowa on the feast of the Assumption, and in Krakow, exploring the beautiful city of Blessed John Paul II. They were wonderful days, spent re-connecting with Regina before heading to her new home in L’viv, Ukraine.
At the time of our visit, Regina lived with two lay consecrated women (as they were expecting two more volunteers due to arrive in October and November). Aude and Maria wholeheartedly welcomed Amanda and me with loving hospitality. We ate delicious home-cooked meals that blended the Ukrainian customs and cuisine with those of the Heart’s Home missionaries’. Friends visited freely each day and the community was always eager to offer tea or set an additional place for dinner. There was always so much joy around the table as friends obviously felt welcomed and accepted in the simple, warm apartment.
It was a very powerful experience to go with Regina to the nursing home or to spend time with homeless women in the park. Regina was so excited to bring us to meet her dear babucias. In spite of the dreary, unpleasant conditions, I watched faces light up as Regina entered each room. One friend shared her personal story, others joked with Regina in, what seemed to me, an ongoing banter. Regina translated for us and it was obvious that the visit from Heart’s Home missionaries was a brilliant ray of light in an otherwise monotonous day. Visiting homeless friends in the park offered another view of this ministry of compassion. I thought, “How many people pass by, hardly noticing these lonely souls?” Yet Regina and her community have eyes to see the beauty and dignity of each person and value the moments they spend sitting, sharing, and laughing together.
Joining the prayer life of the Heart’s Home community was my most treasured part of our visit. Hearing Morning, Evening and Night prayer (of the Liturgy of the Hours) being recited and sung in Ukrainian was beautiful and moving. We prayed a daily rosary and attended daily mass at the Greek Catholic church or the Polish Roman Catholic church. I had never experienced an Eastern rite liturgy before and it was very rich—I felt as if I were touching history as well as the Heavenly Banquet. My favorite time of the day was the hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in their simple chapel. Words cannot express the gratitude I have in knowing that Regina spends time each day in the Presence of Christ. It is certainly this daily personal Meeting that allows each Heart’s Home missionary to easily and freely brings the love of the Lord to every friend they encounter. I thank God for this beautiful mission, and that He has called my daughter to be part of His work.