An order of nuns works to get medicine and supplies to Ukraine. The prayers ship free

Jeff Gammage, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Religious News

The foundation of the local Order of St. Basil reaches back more than a century, to 1907 when Bishop Soter Ortynsky of Ukraine was named bishop for all Catholics of the Byzantine Rite in America.

He established headquarters in Philadelphia, where he found the churches run down and the immigrant parishioners illiterate and desperately poor, according to an order history. Scores of children were orphans.

Needing help, Bishop Ortynsky and other church officials arranged for a group of Basilian nuns from the Yavoriv monastery to come here. They arrived about 1911, teaching religion, language, and culture, and opened an orphanage and school at Seventh and Parrish Streets in North Philadelphia.

To provide financial support, the nuns started carpet-weaving and printing businesses. Some of the early books they printed now are displayed in the Legacy Room at the motherhouse.

In the 1920s the immigrant community was growing, and in 1926 the order secured a 130-acre property in Fox Chase, where an existing farmhouse served as both motherhouse and novitiate.

The sisters laid the cornerstone for a new motherhouse in 1930, and a year later they opened St. Basil Academy, a boarding school for girls of Ukrainian heritage. In 1947 the Sisters founded Manor College, which opened with a student body of 11 young women.


Today the private, Catholic institution embraces its Ukrainian heritage as it offers two- and four-year degrees to 750 students of all faiths and backgrounds.

The campus lies a short walk from the motherhouse, where donations continue to arrive. One person went shopping at Target, then dropped off a big red-and-white bag of supplies, the $300 receipt still inside.

The sisters say they’ll continue to accept, sort, and send goods and money for as long as needed — including after the war.

“It will take years to rebuild, many years to heal and heal hearts,” said Sister Kopyn. “I wish and dream that one day we will wake up and hear the good news that everything is ended. And all people can be peaceful, and go home, and make a new life again.”


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