Speaking with Vatican Radio, Fr Shortall explained that the initiative came about after a friend of his, who had been involved in bringing aid to Haiti, contacted him to ask if he could use the church car park as a collection site for donated supplies, such as non-perishable foods and toiletries, to be transported to the people of Ukraine.
“The response was phenomenal,” he said. People were calling the parish office to know where they could leave donated items.
The Capuchin priest noted that the travelling community in particular were extremely generous, buying in bulk and bringing supplies to the collection point.
In another stroke of luck, Fr Shortall was contacted by a friend who imports trucks and coaches, who wanted to know how she could help.
With everyone now on board, five busloads of medical-grade supplies, as well as other aid, was ready to head off on its journey from Dublin port to Cherbourg in France and onwards towards Poland.
Labour of love
Before heading off on this mission, the buses were blessed on at the Harris Trucks depot on the Naas Road, Dublin by Fr Shortall, who called the initiative, “a labour of love.”
“In the midst of this darkness there’s light,” he said.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, thousands of refugees have made their way to Ireland, away from the shelling and bombardments they have witnessed in recent weeks.
In another sign of solidarity, these buses, on their homeward journey, will bring back two hundred and fifty refugees who have fled the war-torn country.
In his own parish of Priorswood, in North Dublin, Fr Shortall said the refugees that have arrived are being housed in hotels, and children have already started at local schools.
“It’s on our doorsteps; this war is so far away in one sense, but so close because people are coming here and families want to try and make a difference; families want to get involved.”
Asked about the solidarity and compassion that people in Ireland have shown Ukrainians, the parish priest said he was “blown away” by people’s generosity, adding that it was a reflection of the generosity of Christ.
He described how his parish team worked tirelessly to organise the supplies heading to Ukraine, and said that to see all this “amazing” goodwill was a real “injection of faith.”
Fr Shortall said watching the unfolding events in Ukraine both frightened him and angered him, but added that seeing all this benevolence, and the way in which so many Irish people, not just in Dublin but all over the country, are welcoming these people, helps in a way to dissipate the anger.