By Ellen Rose O’Connell, SC
Our vocation is to go all over the world and to do what the son of God did. He came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with His love.St. Vincent de Paul
Vincent de Paul is famous for his “one-liners” that speak the truth. As we think of the future of the charism of Charity, we do well to look to Vincent for a direction. Certainly, the world is faced with terrible crises that call forth the compassion of which Vincent speaks. We see many Sisters of Charity, Associates of Charity, leaders and workers in our Sponsored Works who live Vincent’s words to bring compassion and Charity to the troubled world that they serve.
One person who lives the Charity charism is Todd Gable, a Charity Associate since 2015. He joined the Charity family as a senior at the College of Mount Saint Vincent (CMSV). As an English and Education major, he began his student teaching by helping foreign students learn English as a second language. With the help of his professors at CMSV, particularly Sisters Margaret Egan, Ceil Harriendorf from Campus Ministry, and Jane Iannucelli, Todd’s desire to teach became a calling, a deep desire to serve students with all kinds of needs.
Upon graduation in 2015, Todd joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Ukraine with a 27-month teaching commitment. Of his decision, he said, “It was my trip to Guatemala with the Sisters of Charity that cemented my desire to join the Peace Corps. During that time, I was in the process of discerning whether to join the Franciscan Friars or to join the Peace Corps. After visiting the SC mission in Guatemala and experiencing the sisters’ work and the community they had embraced, I was certain that I wanted to join Peace Corps to serve people in Ukraine. My reason for choosing Ukraine is that they had just experienced a revolution and officially broke free from a pro-Russian government to pursue a path toward democracy.”
He lived simply, representing the best U.S. cultural values and learning about the prolonged suffering of the Ukrainian people under German and Russian domination. He met his wife, Oleysa, and they eventually returned to the States to begin their married life. Todd and Oleysa continued to gain energy from a sense of charism and mission in their new situation. As they settled into a new life, they desired to help their friends and family in Ukraine.
When war broke out in Ukraine last February, Todd’s friends contacted him for assistance. “There are moments in our lives when we are called on for service,” he says. “My experience witnessing the life of service the Sisters of Charity lead gave me the courage to say yes. As a student, I spent time with many Sisters of Charity. I enjoyed it; I was touched by what appeared to be a God-like ability to love people unconditionally. I was also inspired by their tireless pursuit to serve. They gave me the courage to answer the call when it came.”
Todd’s Ukrainian friends asked him to organize a stateside response by procuring, packing and sending emergency individual first aid kits (IFAKS) for Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines. He and Oleysa engaged friends to raise funds to finance the project and reached out to students from CMSV to assemble the kits in their apartment.
When the need grew, Todd’s friend and fellow SC associate Fr. Chris Keenan suggested that he reach out to Sr. Donna Dodge. “When I called Sr. Donna and proposed the idea of collaborating on this project, the response was an immediate “yes,” which did not surprise me at all. Her only question was, ‘Why didn’t you call me sooner?’”
Sr. Donna offered Todd the use of the community room at Le Gras Hall. The assembly of IFAKs soon began with Sisters of Charity, associates and SC Center staff members joining the friends and CMSV students. Together they would create, pack and send over four thousand IFAKs. Oleysa made three of seven trips to Poland to personally deliver the life-saving kits to contacts in Poland; friends Yana Chapialo and Marta Thomakiv made the other four trips. Once in Poland, the IFAKs were driven across the Polish-Ukrainian border, where others distributed them to Ukrainian troops.
In response to the assistance provided, Todd says, “I am immensely grateful for the time, resources and space the Sisters of Charity, associates and SC staff provided toward our effort. I am especially grateful to fellow SC associate and staff member Christina Clohessy, who went above and beyond to coordinate the logistics of unpacking, assembling and repacking IFAK materials.”
The Charity Charism knows no boundaries of nations or peoples. In the eyes of Todd and other young followers of Vincent de Paul, we truly are one world.
For more information about projects involving SC associates, please contact Maureen Reiser: email@example.com
Prayers for Peace
As the war continues in Ukraine, we ask our friends and supporters to pray for all who suffer the devastating consequences. Associate Todd Gable shared his and Oleysa’s fears and heartbreak about the war:
We are fearful for our family in Ukraine. For now, they are together, but the war grinds on. Every day we hear of friends who died in the war defending against Russian aggressors. This pains us the most, knowing that so many bright Ukrainians are dying to defend their families. After serving in Ukraine for four years, I made many friends and met thousands of teachers and students. Everyone I have met has been impacted by this war. Some have died, and the vast majority have been displaced.