My Dear Cathedral Parish Family,

Below is a letter from Fr. Tomasz Szopa, the rector of the Saint John Paul II Shrine in Kraków, Poland. Through our own Fr. Martin, we have been in touch with the St. John Paul II Shrine in Poland. As soon as the war broke out in Ukraine, they immediately went into action to help the Ukrainian refugees fleeing into Poland escape the war. On Ash Wednesday, with the bishop’s permission, we dedicated our collection to assist with their efforts in helping refugees.

Because of your generosity, we have been able to send $15,000 to assist them in their work. If you have not had the opportunity to support this work of charity and would like to make a donation, you can do so online at, or you can send a donation to the Parish Office by check with “Ukrainian refugees” in the memo line.

I am so proud of our parish community and our Catholic Church that we choose to open our hearts wide to Christ by loving those in need in a time of crisis and darkness. Thank you for your generosity.

In Christ,

Father David

Very Reverend David A. Boettner, V. G.
Vicar General- the Diocese of Knoxville
Rector – Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Laudetur Iesus Christus! (Let Jesus Christ be praised!)
Dear Father,

This is Fr. Tomasz Szopa, rector of the Saint John Paul II Shrine in Kraków, Poland. I have your e-mail address from Fr. Marcin Gładysz.

As you know, the war in Ukraine and the invasion of Russian troops that started 10 days ago is a horrific tragedy for the Ukrainian nation and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, especially women and children, who had to flee from their homeland to save their lives. Most of them are escaping to Poland as we are neighbor countries. From the beginning of the war until today, 800 thousand Ukrainian refugees have come to Poland. The response from the  Polish people to this incredible crisis was immediate and generous. Polish people opened their hearts wide for the needs of the war refugees from Ukraine.

Also, here in the Saint John Paul II Shrine in Kraków, we were ready to host Ukrainian refugees from the very beginning of the war. We have a pilgrim house for 50 people and a few apartments, and we decided to welcome the refugees there. The invasion started on Thursday, February 24, and already on Saturday night a week ago, the first families from Ukraine came to the Shrine. Since then, every day, we have had families that are coming. For the moment, most of them stay at the pilgrim house only 2-3 days to rest after an exhausting and stressful escape from Ukraine, and then they go further to their friends or families in Poland or abroad in Germany, Italy, USA. So there is a constant exchange of guests from Ukraine in the pilgrim house, families come and go. So far, we have been able to help almost 100 people by the Shrine.

Of course, the refugees stay in the pilgrim’s house free of charge. We provide them with food (breakfast, hot lunch, dinner), medicines, clothing if needed, cleaning products, toys for kids, transportation, clean bedsheets, etc. We want to upgrade the rooms, and we are planning to buy and put fridges and cordless kettles in all rooms. We want to install additional internet access points so the refugees have access to fast internet and can easily communicate with their families and friends that are still in Ukraine. We provide them also with SIM cards so they can have Polish mobile phone numbers and access to cellular data.

We have a group of 50 volunteers dedicated only to helping the refugees. They are doing an incredible job with enthusiasm and total commitment.

Bearing all that in mind, I am extremely grateful to you Father, and to your parishioners from the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville, Tennessee, for your generosity, wide-open hearts, and willingness to help the war refugees that we are welcoming here in the Saint John Paul II Shrine in Kraków.

I had the privilege of participating in the consecration of your new magnificent Cathedral exactly four years ago, on March 3, 2018, and I know how much His Excellency Bishop Richard Stika, you Father, and the Catholics of Knoxville venerate Saint John Paul II, Pope that changed the history of the world and through his teaching and proclamation of the Gospel had a great impact on the collapse of communism and the evil empire – Soviet Union. I’m sure that Saint John Paul II creates a special bond between your Cathedral and our Shrine, and He is blessing us in our efforts to help those in need, now especially the Ukrainian refugees – victims of the Russian invasion. I’m sure that this is also a special occasion for us Catholics to better live the mysteries of the time of Lent – to see suffering Christ in those suffering in times of war.

May God bless the free world! May God bless you and your Parishioners! May God bless America!

Fraternally in Christ,

Fr. Tomasz Szopa