22 November 2016
The Rev. Thomas Rosica has been a great partner in CNEWA’s mission. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Readers of CNEWA’s materials — magazine, blog, social media and appeals for help — are aware that this special agency of the Holy See depends on its partnerships with men and women in all walks of life to carry on its mission of service to the Eastern churches. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.
Without these relationships, Catholic Near East Welfare Association would be merely an idea, not even a vision.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is one of those partners, a companion committed to the mission of CNEWA who in a very real way works “to connect you to your brothers and sisters in need.”
Born, reared and educated in Rochester, New York, Father Tom entered the Congregation of St. Basil and was ordained to the priesthood in Rochester in 1986. It was during his years of advanced studies at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem that Father Tom became well acquainted with the work of CNEWA and the staff of our Jerusalem office, then led by Brother Donald Mansir, F.S.C., and (then) Father Denis J. Madden. These were hopeful and exciting years in Jerusalem, with peaceful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians making headway — invigorating CNEWA’s outreach to the poorest of the poor through the local churches — and dialogue among the Holy City’s church leaders, coordinated by CNEWA, that would eventually lead to the restoration of the great dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In a very real way, Father Tom began connecting the people served through CNEWA with hosts of concerned men and women after he founded in 2003 Salt+Light Television, Canada’s first national Catholic television network. A fruit of World Youth Day and the visit of St. John Paul II to Canada in 2002 (which Father Tom directed at the request of the Canadian Catholic bishops), Salt+Light has become a major resource for Catholics not just in Canada, but throughout the English- and French-speaking world.
Millions of homes have learned about the miracles of Bethlehem University, the hopes of Pope Benedict XVI’s special assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, the challenges of the churches in the lands made holy by the blood of martyrs, and the crises in Ukraine and the role of the churches there in healing a people scourged by war.
In televised features and interviews with CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar and staff members, such as Canada’s national director Carl Hétu, Father Tom has explored what makes CNEWA tick, revealing CNEWA’s love for the poor and passion for the truth.
In these times of fear, trouble and uncertainty, Father Tom has been a clear voice of reason, serving the Holy See as a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, media attaché for synods and papal transitions and as an English-language assistant for the Holy See’s press office. An engaging man with a lively wit and a clear understanding of the church’s role in engaging and transforming rather than condemning society, Father Tom is, nevertheless, critical of those instruments used to divide the people of God. The Internet, for example, “can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space,” he said upon accepting the St. Francis de Sales Award given by the Diocese of Brooklyn earlier this year, describing it as “an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties.”
“The church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who — even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation — often find themselves afraid and wounded by life,” he added.
“The light of Christ reflected in the church must not become the privilege of only a few elect who float enclosed within a safe harbor or ghetto network of communications for the elite, the clean, the perfect and the saved.”
CNEWA is grateful to Father Tom for his heroic work to help us reflect “the light of Christ” — and spread that light around the world, especially among those most in need.
22 November 2016
CNEWA visited two parishes in Groton, Connecticut, last weekend, including St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Catholic Church, where multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra preached at all the Masses. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)
Being at CNEWA for just over two years now, I often look back at my journey to working here as a development associate. You could say the journey began at any number of places — perhaps with my undergraduate degree in theology, or my year of service after college with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. But I’d say it truly began at my childhood parish of St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer in Groton, Connecticut, where I was fortunate to visit this past weekend with CNEWA multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra as part of our Parish Hope and Awareness Program.
The recent expansion of our Hope and Awareness program has literally taken us from coast-to-coast — as close as Long Island and as far away as California. But it was an honor to return home to the Connecticut coastline, where we were graciously welcomed by the Rev. Darius Dudzik, the pastor of St. Mary’s and its sister parish across town, Sacred Heart. Deacon Greg preached at all five weekend masses across both parishes, and I manned a table in the vestibules between Masses, offering more information about our work and some copies of ONE Magazine.
We set up a display table with information in the back of the church at St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer in Groton. (photo: Greg Kandra)
Parishioners were invited to sign up for CNEWA’s mailing list after Mass.
(photo: Catherine Hoffman)
Deacon Greg’s homily for the Feast of Christ the King began and ended with the plea of one of the men who was crucified next to Jesus, and who asked him, “Jesus, remember me.” This is the plea, Deacon Greg explained, of Christians across the Middle East who have fled violence and terror. Fortunately, their call for help is being answered by people like Sister Maria Hanna, mother superior of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. With CNEWA’s support, the Dominican Sisters have set up a primary school for displaced children in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, a health clinic serving remote villages, and an orphanage — and 400 young boys and girls recently received First Holy Communion under the sisters’ care.
Deacon Greg preached about remembering forgotten, suffering Christians at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Groton. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)
On a personal level, it was quite meaningful for me to be able to bring the good news of CNEWA’s work back home to Groton. A number of parishioners remembered me from my days as an altar boy and lector and occasional substitute organist, and were happy to see me again. Many had wondered what I had been up to since leaving home for college eight years ago. When they heard about CNEWA, they told me just how blessed I am to be working for such a worthy cause. I wholeheartedly agree.
If you’re interested in bringing CNEWA to your parish, please do let me know. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (212) 826-1480, ext. 504.
The Rev. Darius Dudzik, left, serves as pastor for two parishes in Groton, and hosted Deacon Greg Kandra and CNEWA development associate Christopher Kennedy on 19-20 November.
22 November 2016
A glimpse inside the wooden church in Ladomirova, Slovakia. To learn more about these remarkable churches, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 edition of ONE.
(photo: Andrej Bán )
22 November 2016
In this image from 18 November, a boy comforts a child waiting for medical treatment at a makeshift hospital in Douma, Syria. The U.N. reports health services in Syria have been devastated by the ongoing conflict in the country. (photo: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images)
UN: Syria health services ‘devastated’ by war (VOA) Top United Nations aid officials warned Monday that health care services in Syria have been devastated by bombings and the nearly six-year-old conflict. “Over half the country’s public hospitals and primary health care centers are either closed or only partially functioning,” the World Health Organization’s representative in Syria, Elizabeth Hoff, told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council via a video link from Damascus. “Almost two-thirds of all health professionals have left the country; domestic production of medicines has dropped by two-thirds and vaccination coverage rates have dropped by half,” she said...
U.S. strike destroys bridge, restricts ISIS (Reuters) U.S. forces backing Iraqi troops retaking Mosul from Islamic State carried out an air strike on a bridge spanning the Tigris river, restricting militant movements between western and eastern parts of the city, a U.S. official said on Tuesday...
In Jordan, a Syrian refugee camp withers (Reuters) Mohammad Othman’s bicycle route through the marketplace in the Syrian refugee camp of Zaatari was once a struggle against a tide of people. Now it’s an easy ride. So many residents have left for the West, or been forced back to Syria by Jordanian authorities, that Zaatari, once the fastest-growing refugee camp in the Middle East, has gone quiet...
Chaldean bishop: ‘Speak up about Middle Eastern Christians’ (CUA.edu) The perilous state of Christianity in the Middle East was the topic of discussion on 17 November as Chaldean Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat, eparch of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Detroit, addressed members of the Catholic University community. Speaking as part of a panel discussion organized by the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS), Bishop Kalabat explained the complexities of keeping Christianity alive in the Middle East, and the struggles of Christians who live there...
Coptic patriarch visits Kuwait (Herald Malaysia) The Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac, the spiritual leader of the Catholic Copts, the largest Egyptian Catholic community, made his first pastoral visit to Kuwait last week. Upon arriving at the airport, the patriarch said he was very happy to visit the country for the first time. “Thousands of different nationalities and faiths live in this state, known for its religious tolerance,” he said. “The Egyptian community is very well received in Kuwait. For many of them, it is a second home country...”
Awakening to the religious divide in Kerala (Asia Times) ”What was it like growing up? Did you ever sense a divide between the Muslims and Hindus?” My editorial assistant, a Kashmiri Pundit woman half my age, wanted to know. The truth is I had no sense of religion as I grew up. In Avadi, the ordnance factory township in southern India, religion took a backseat to national spirit. Every morning at school we took a pledge: “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters...”
21 November 2016
Children gather for religion class taught by the Rev. Androwas Bahus at St. Andrea the Apostle Melkite Catholic Church in Israel. To learn more, check out A Day in the Life of an Israeli Priest from the Winter 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
21 November 2016
An event organized by the University of Edinburgh asked people around the world to light candles as a show of solidarity with the war-torn city of Aleppo. Over the weekend, the city was pounded by what has been described as the “heaviest bombardment” since the war began.
(video: Rome Reports)
Aleppo pounded by ‘heaviest bombardment’ since war began (CNN) Syrian regime forces pounded eastern Aleppo with airstrikes for a sixth straight day Sunday, bringing the death toll to almost 300 in the most intense bombing since the war began five years ago, rescuers say. Among the latest reported violence: a suspected chemical attack that killed four children and their parents. Two activist groups — the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights and Aleppo Media Center — said a barrage of barrel bombs struck their neighborhood, al-Sakhour...
Civilian exodus slows Iraq’s push to take control of Mosul (AP) Iraqi troops on Sunday fortified their positions in Mosul neighborhoods retaken from ISIS as their advance toward the city center was slowed by sniper fire and suicide bombings, as well as concern over the safety of civilians. The troops laid siege Sunday to the Al-Zohour neighborhood, about 5 miles from the city center. The arrival of the troops at the neighborhood’s fringes prompted hundreds of civilians to emerge from their homes waving white flags. The special forces later drove ISIS from two other neighborhoods...
Salesians remain in Syria, promoting reconciliation and forgiveness (CNA) Father Alejandro León is a Salesian missionary who has lived more than 13 years in the Middle East, and in Syria since 2011 — precisely when its civil war began. He has said that being there during the war is “a sign of mercy and the love of God,” even though it involves risking his own life and often being close to death...
Patriarch Kirill: ‘Western laws clash with moral nature of man’ (RT) In an exclusive interview with RT, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, shared his ideas on the difficult situations of Christians in the Middle East, the US presidential election, and European multiculturalism...
Indian bishops express sorrow over victims of train crash (Vatican Radio) “We are very saddened by this tragic incident,” says Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCI) commenting on Sunday’s train disaster near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The Indore-Patna train early Sunday Morning, derailed, perhaps due to a crack in the rails, killing at least 143 and injuring around 180...
At close of Year of Mercy, Pope issues new Apostolic Letter on mercy (Vatican Radio) Although the Extraordinary Jubilee Year has concluded, we are still living in a “time of mercy.” That was the message of Pope Francis in a lengthy Apostolic Letter, entitled Misericordia et misera, (“Mercy and Misery”), issued on Monday following the close of the Year of Mercy...
Christian refugees: When success means just being seen and heard and remembered (Aleteia) In Amman, we met Christian refugees from Iraq, and among them were doctors, and lawyers, and highly-trained professionals who, afforded a safe place to live, had discovered that a refugee’s reality is one stripped of a sense of purpose. To be together with their families, away from the threats of the murderous Islamic State is a blessing, to be sure, but the days can hang heavy, and you can lose sight of yourself — and of hope — when you have no way to work at your life’s calling...
18 November 2016
Our CNEWA team hits the road again this weekend: I’ll be visiting Sacred Heart Catholic Church and St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Church in Groton, Connecticut, accompanied by our development associate, Christopher Kennedy. Check the websites for Mass times.
I’ll be preaching at all the Masses this weekend, sharing the latest news about CNEWA’s vitally important work among the suffering displaced people of Iraq and Syria. How can you help your persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East? Join us this weekend and find out.
Hope to see you there!
18 November 2016
Mothers in a remote village in India bring their children forward for a blessing from Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara and Msgr. John E. Kozar. Read more about Msgr. Kozar’s visit and see some of his stunning photographs in Reaching the Unreached in India in the Winter 2014 edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar)
18 November 2016
People inspect damage caused by an airstrike near Idlib, Syria, on 17 November.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Abdullah, Reuters)
U.N. says Aleppo faces ‘bleak moment’ (Reuters) The besieged population of eastern Aleppo faces a “very bleak moment” with no food or medical supplies, winter approaching, and an increasingly fierce attack by Syrian and allied forces, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said on Friday. Although Russia and rebel groups both sounded positive about a U.N. humanitarian plan to get supplies in and the sick and wounded out of eastern Aleppo, neither has yet given final approval, he said...
Satellite images reveal damage to Mosul (BBC) Satellite images of Mosul have revealed extensive damage to the city’s buildings, infrastructure and archaeological sites following more than two years of occupation by so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The imagery, released by US geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor, shows how the jihadists have destroyed mosques, government buildings and historical areas. It also reveals damage caused by coalition airstrikes...
Turkey removes only Christian co-mayor (Fides) Among the victims of the “purges” wanted by the Turkish government apparatus is Februniye Akyol, the first Assyrian Christian to be elected co-mayor in Turkey, in the city of Merdin. Both she and the other co-mayor, the Kurdish Ahmet Turk, were removed and replaced with a “Qayyum” appointed by the central government...
Pope prays for peace with leader of Assyrian Church of the East (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke on Thursday of the suffering of innocent victims caught up in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts, saying that nothing can justify such terrible violence. His words came as he met with the head of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Gewargis III, who was making his first visit to the Vatican since being elected as Catholicos-Patriarch in September last year...
U.N. joins efforts to help Ethiopian refugees (Andalou Agency) The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed an agreement in the capital Addis Ababa Friday to further strengthen their cooperation to meet the growing needs of refugees and their host communities in Ethiopia. UNHCR’s Clementine Nkweta-Salami and UNICEF’s Gillian Mellsop signed the agreement, which outlines key areas of collaboration in child protection, education, health and nutrition, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene. The agreement lasts until 2020...
17 November 2016
Kamil and Agnes Shehade created House of Grace in Haifa as a humble ministry to serve the poor, the disadvantaged and newly released prisoners. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
You would be hard-pressed to find a couple with a deeper commitment to the Gospel — and more zeal for caring for the less fortunate — than Kamil and Agnes Shehade, a heroic couple we profiled in 1998:
Where in the Israeli city of Haifa can the poor and disadvantaged go? To whom can newly released prisoners turn? How can drug addicts kick their habit? Many find help at the House of Grace, a unique community that gives hope and succor to those in despair.
Located on a busy road in central Haifa, the House of Grace is literally an oasis of calm in a sea of confusion. Building construction almost surrounds the compound. Trucks roll continually and workmen toil daily in the scorching sun.
The House of Grace was established by Kamil Shehade, an Israeli Arab and a member of the local Greek Melkite Catholic community. He and his Swiss-born wife, Agnes, are the pivot on which the House of Grace revolves, the core of stability that the large community of staff, residents and volunteers needs.
...Kamil firmly believes God prepared the ground for this apostolate. He had spent 10 years praying for guidance as to how to help his community. With the support of his bishop he had traveled to Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario, Canada, to learn more about the lay apostolate. He had already worked for many years as a volunteer social worker and was only too familiar with the severe social problems of Haifa’s impoverished Israeli Arab community. He was determined to do something and believed his own Greek Melkite Catholic community (which is the largest Christian community in Haifa) should be at the heart of it.
“Our idea was to help society to live the Gospel, through the church, from the church,” Kamil explains.
Kamil’s dream was to help local Arabs find solutions to their own problems.
“Why should the church abroad always do everything for us? Why not help ourselves?” he asked.
The House of Grace also reaches out to those beyond its little community:
In addition to its residents, the House of Grace helps literally thousands of poor families in the Haifa area, giving them food or Christmas parcels; perhaps helping them write letters, especially to government or municipal agencies.
“It is difficult for people in our community to ask for help,” says Elias. “We emphasize their dignity. We consider them part of a big family.”
...The House of Grace also helps finance the education of gifted pupils whose parents cannot afford the tuition fees of local church-run schools. In addition, about 230 college students both here and abroad receive some contribution, however small — on condition that they return to work in their home community.
Two years ago, Melodie Gabriel, from CNEWA’s Canadian office, wrote about a visit to the House of Grace:
Mr. and Mrs. Shehade had five children, who also lived with these former offenders. They grew up treating them as a part of their family — and, at times, even babysitters.
It is a difficult transition for those released from prison, as they are often ostracized by society and can easily fall back into negative behaviors. For many former prisoners at the House the Grace, it is the first time they are treated as human beings with dignity, rather than lowlifes or criminals. At the House of Grace, they are shown what a real “home” is like.
People of different faiths — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze — live together at the House of Grace. They celebrate each other’s feasts and learn one another’s traditions. Eventually, they begin to understand and respect each other, even if they don’t always agree — which is rare in a society where there exist many deeply held prejudices.
We heard from one House of Grace resident who says their ministry has given him a new lease on life. He is very thankful to the people who gave him support and helped him to look positively toward the future. He has since obtained employment in construction, and is now focused on building a better life for his family.
Kamil passed away from cancer in 2000, at the young age of 46. But his wife Agnes and his children have continued his work — as Melodie wrote, “living out the Gospel simply, with kindness and love, changing one life at a time.”
Kamil and Agnes Shehade remain heroes not only to us at CNEWA, but to so many others whose lives they have uplifted.