Like so many others, Diane Cortazzo of Sacred Heart Parish, Bath, has been troubled by news footage of refugees fleeing Ukraine.
As coordinator of a recent Passion Play tour to Oberammergau, Germany, Cortazzo realized that she and her fellow travelers – people from several diocesan parishes – would be positioned to offer “on the ground” assistance to the refugees.
With the support of the group’s spiritual director, Father Patrick Lamb, pastor of Queenship of Mary Parish, Northampton, Cortazzo set about raising funds for the displaced Ukrainians. Facebook posts and emails to family and friends sparked interest in the venture, and soon donations were adding up.
“I had hoped to collect $1,000,” said Cortazzo, “and was thrilled when the contributions poured in.” Donations ultimately totaled $8,000.
When Father Lamb, Cortazzo and the rest of the group arrived in Budapest, Hungary enroute to Germany, they connected with Hotelhero, an association of local hoteliers who do charitable works in their communities.
“Hotelhero was making sandwiches to be taken to the main refugee center in Budapest,” said Cortazzo, who, with her fellow travelers, immediately volunteered to take part in Hotelhero’s venture. The group purchased ingredients for 200 sandwiches and secured a hotel room in which to assemble the sandwiches.
When the task was completed, said Cortazzo, “the hotel contacted the Hungarian Red Cross for us. They met us at the hotel and we presented them with the monetary contribution to be used for the refugees.”
Cortazzo then helped to deliver the sandwiches to the refugee center, where she was able to observe firsthand both the dire needs of the displaced people and the efforts that were being made to relieve the refugees’ suffering.
“The entire trip was life-changing for me,” said tour group member Stephanie Kobal. “I’m actually starting RCIA in September,” she said, “and this trip really confirmed my decision to join the Catholic faith.
“It was extraordinarily valuable to assist, in some small part, with the relief efforts,” she said. “Knowing that our work was going to make an immediate impact was rewarding.”
The group also visited monasteries and cathedrals during their 10-day tour this past May, which ended in Oberammergau with a performance of the historic Passion Play.
A tour to the Holy Land, led by Cortazzo and Father Lamb, is scheduled for September. Cortazzo has been arranging tours and pilgrimages for members of the Diocese since 2000.
In the photo above, travelers from Notre Dame Parish, Bethlehem, Sacred Heart Parish, Bath, and Queenship of Mary Parish, Northampton, have just finished making sandwiches for Ukrainian refugees in a Budapest hotel room.