The Église de Gasperich in Luxembourg-Gasperich hosted a Ukranian First Holy Communion for eight children on the afternoon of Sunday 25 June 2023.
The Église de Gasperich allows Ukrainians in Luxembourg to use their premises, with Priest Taras Bordiuk coming over twice a week from Brussels for the service. Also present at Sunday's service was a second priest who recently moved to Luxembourg from Ukraine with his six children and hoped to be able to stay here.
Speaking to Chronicle.lu afterwards, Louise Benjamin (also known as Louise Schilling), who attended the service as a guest with her son Edouard, described the mass as similar to a Luxembourg mass except for the fact that the congregation was filled with mothers - the lack of fathers and grandparents was noticeable, although the day remained one of celebration. The mass was also more relaxed that a typical mass in the Grand Duchy, with young children having a dedicated corner to play and there was a lot of movement among the congregation. Moreover, there were no hymn books, although everyone seemed to know what to sing and when.
"The priest was just magical with the children. He explained everything and talked to them in detail and included all children, not just the children taking their First Communion," noted Louise. "The children were of different ages but they all had relaxed and happy smiles on their faces."
Louise explained that her son had been invited to join in the children-centred parts of the mass, as well as singing and other activities. She described the service as very welcoming, also to non-Ukrainians, and "there did not seem to be a language barrier" among the children. She said that both she and her son "felt honoured to enter the church of another religion and another culture and to be welcomed and to witness such a personal ceremony in times of war."
"It was a powerful service," Louise added. "I thought that some of the mums would be crying their hearts out after a tumultuous day on Saturday with the news about Russia and missing their family back at home. Instead, I pictured a church full of very strong women working together in a team to support one another and to give their children a really special day."
The children were dressed up in traditional Ukrainian clothing, with their mothers having arranged to ship their daughters' dresses over from Ukraine. Others made gypsophila garlands for the girls' hair or ordered special biscuits for the occasion. Following the mass, there was cake and crémant, as well as fruit.
The church was decorated with roll-up pictures of the Saints and special vessels brought over from Ukraine.