Williamsburg churches create human chain to call for peace in the Ukraine

Crowd gathers outside of Annunciation Roman Catholic Church for prayer service
Roughly 500 people gathered in front of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church for a prayer service calling for peace in the Ukraine on Sunday, Aug. 28.
Photo courtesy of DeSales Media

Worshippers from neighboring Catholic churches in Williamsburg came together on Sunday, Aug. 28 to call for peace in the Ukraine by forming a human chain and partaking in a prayer walk from one parish to another.

Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-Annunciation Parish, led the human chain from the corner of North Fifth and Havemeyer streets, outside the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church, to the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church on Driggs Avenue.

Brief prayer services were held outside both parishes, with a mass also celebrated at Holy Ghost by Ukrainian Catholic Church Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Eparchy of Stamford. Before leading the gathering along North Fifth Street to Driggs Avenue, Gigantiello began the service with a statement in support of the war-torn country.

“We come here today to show our support, as we did when the war broke out a couple of months ago, and you came to us and we prayed together for your friends, your family, and your homeland,” Gigantiello told the crowd. “Even though we are very far away, we are united in prayer that this war will end and that we will stay united in peace, in love, and in faith.”

Thousands have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, and, half a year since it began, the war continues overseas. 

According to John Quaglione, deputy press secretary for the Brooklyn Diocese, roughly 500 people came out to the dedicatory event. They lined the streets decked out in the yellow and blue colors of the European flag and wore Lithuanian flower crowns and rosaries.

Marchers wore the colors of the Ukrainian flag and Lithuanian flower crowns.
Marchers wore the colors of the Ukrainian flag and Lithuanian flower crowns. Photo courtesy of DeSales Media

“It was just such a powerful representation of the good of people, of all people,” Quaglione told Brooklyn Paper. “There was a true sense of goodness in the minds of everyone that was gathered there.”

After Gigantiello’s opening prayer, the procession sounded an air horn before the church bells rang — at which time parishioners hoisted their American, Ukrainian and Lithuanian flags, and began waving.

The crowd followed after them, linking arms and singing songs. Some marchers even called their friends and family that stayed in Europe during the conflict so they could join in on the service.

The prayer service also served as a commemoration of Ukrainian Independence Day, celebrated Aug. 24, as well as a symbol of continued unity throughout the borough. Overall, Quaglione said, the prayer service was a touching experience that proved the people of Brooklyn are still standing in solidarity with the eastern European country.

“The church successfully achieved the goal of making sure we remain cognizant of the Ukrainian conflict,” he said. “We continue to send the message to the people of Ukraine that we didn’t forget about them.”

The procession led the crowd with American, Lithuanian and Ukrainian flags.
American, Lithuanian and Ukrainian flags led the procession through Williamsburg. Photo courtesy of DeSales Media

After the ceremony, organizers held a fair where they sold handmade rosary beads and candles, with proceeds going towards Ukrainian relief. Other supporters set up a letter station where both participants and passersby could write messages to soldiers or make a donation to them during their time of need. 

Quaglione emphasized the importance of supporting the nation — to which many Brooklynites are tied to — by speaking out against the unjust treatment of the people and continuing to remember them throughout the war. 

“We can’t remain silent in the midst of this,” he said. “If we remain silent, we’re failing Ukraine.”