A Christmas story: Former Brighton convent to shelter Ukrainian refugees

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BRIGHTON, N.Y. – More than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine are in the United States and New York has the most of them.

One of the things they need right away is a place to stay.

Rev. Joe Hart is the pastor at two churches in Brighton, including Our Lady Queen of Peace. The Sisters of Mercy convent on the church property is empty. The sisters who lived here have either moved out or died.

A volunteer for Saint’s Place suggested turning the space into a temporary home for refugees – and that’s what they’re doing.

Rev. Hart thinks there are enough rooms for two families. Right now, they are being repainted, and the supplies to furnish them could come from Saint’s Place.

It has helped 450 families from Ukraine since the summer. Last June, News10NBC came along when it filled a home in Greece for a refugee family.

Volunteers do this five times a week, and they just handed out 50 Christmas boxes to families.

Now, they may be called upon to make the empty convent a home.

“Whatever is needed, we will meet the challenge and do it because we want to help the Ukrainian,” Executive Director Isabel Miller said.

Rev. Hart says this is a Christmas story. After all, when Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, it was a town filled with pilgrims: people who had left their homes, sometimes with no place to stay.

“A place like Bethlehem was a place where strangers often were welcomed,” he said. “That says to us that’s part of what we do.”

The convent would be a temporary home until the families have a permanent place to stay or decide to go back home.

The church is planning a meeting with Catholic Family Services, who help settle the refugees here.