Religion Unplugged

In rural Oklahoma, a Ukrainian priest prays for his mother — and his homeland

A woman and child kiss a cross held by the Rev. Stepan Bilogan, rector of St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Jones, Oklahoma. Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

JONES, Okla. — At a little country church 20 miles east of Oklahoma City, Ukrainian and U.S. flags fly outside.

Inside, the Rev. Stepan Bilogan preaches and prays in his native language as a choir member translates his Ukrainian words into English.

Immigrants founded St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church — the only Ukrainian Orthodox congregation for hundreds of miles — more than a century ago.

These days, believers from Belarus, the Republic of Georgia, Romania, Russia and Serbia as well as Ukraine make up the Orthodox body of roughly 35 members.

“We’re like a little United Nations,” said Robby Lee Wall, 52, a subdeacon who has attended St. Mary all his life.

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His mother, his brother and countless other loved ones remain in Ukraine.

“Every day I talk to them,” the priest said in an interview. “We are very worried about the news that is coming out of Ukraine.”

As Russian troops and tanks drove deeper into Bilogan’s homeland Sunday, he and his fellow Christians asked God to bring peace.

Bilogan characterizes prayer as the believers’ “greatest weapon.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged. It was republished by the Deseret News.

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