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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
20 June 2017
Bradley H. Kerr

Samir and Nevine Deshto, Iraqi refugees, stand with their newborn daughter in the Italian Hospital in Amman. Read more about how they and other refugees are Finding Sanctuary in Jordan in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)

Today is World Refugee Day, when the United Nations draws attention to those who, seeking safety from violence and persecution, are forced to flee their homes. To mark the occasion, the U.N.’s refugee agency released its annual Global Trends Report, and the picture it paints is grim. Last year, the number of forcibly displaced people around the globe topped 65.6 million. Some of the countries that Catholic Near East Welfare Association serves are among the biggest sources of refugees:

  • Iraq: 4.2 million people displaced
  • Syria: 12 million displaced
  • Ukraine: 2.1 million displaced

What can we do about the tragedy of forced migration? As Christians, we’re called by Scripture to welcome the strangers in our midst. In a time when our culture seems to be growing more suspicious and hostile, our challenge is to see Jesus in the refugee and to respond to His suffering with mercy and compassion. Here are four suggestions for this World Refugee Day:

Pray. You can use this prayer from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Teach us, Lord, the ways of hospitality. Give us the spirit of joyful welcome and the sensitivity to help people on the move feel they belong. Grant that our tables at home may draw our new neighbors from other lands into a loving community and that the Eucharistic tables in our parishes may prefigure the banquet in heaven where all are one with You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

Learn. Educate yourself about the issue of forced migration. Understand the magnitude of the problem by looking at the new U.N. report. Read what Pope Francis said to the World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants. Familiarize yourself with how CNEWA and our local partners are ministering to refugees’ humanitarian and spiritual needs.

Reach out. For refugees who’ve lost everything and who struggle to meet even the most basic needs, it can feel like the world has abandoned and forgotten them. Let them know they’re not alone. Share some of the resources that God has given you with your refugee sisters and brothers by making a gift to CNEWA.

Share. Once you’ve prayed, learned and reached out to refugees, invite your friends and family to join you. You can share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter and let everyone know what you’ve done. Maybe you’ll be an inspiration to others who are looking for an opportunity to do good.

Thank you for taking action on this World Refugee Day — and blessings and prayers of gratitude from all of us at CNEWA!

16 December 2016
Bradley H. Kerr

A creche titled “Jesus the Global Refugee” is seen outside Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, New York. The structure, designed as a refugee’s lean-to, was created to call public attention to the biblical mandate to welcome immigrants and give shelter to refugees.
(photo: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

This Sunday is International Migrants Day. Every year on 18 December, the United Nations honors the contributions and struggles of immigrants and refugees. International Migrants Day is a call to action to for us to welcome the migrants who live in our communities, and to work together as a global community to protect all migrants’ human rights.

There are 244 million migrants in the world today. This includes 20 million refugees who have fled their homelands in order to escape persecution, armed conflicts and natural disasters. Every day the news seems filled with heartbreaking stories of their plight. As Pope Francis has made vividly, unforgettably clear, at a moment when the broken bodies of drowned migrants are washing up on Italy’s shores, addressing their needs with mercy and compassion is one of the deepest moral challenges of our time.

But on this International Migrants Day it would be a mistake — a very regrettable mistake — to think of migration as something negative. Yes, sometimes the migrant’s story is a tragic one. Sometimes it can be difficult to welcome the stranger. Yet we must never forget the many wonderful gifts that generations of migrants have contributed to our society and to the Catholic Church. And migrants continue to make positive contributions today, as we explored in a Winter 2015 feature in ONE about refugees from war-torn Iraq who have found a new home in the United States:

Over the years, El Cajon, which lies east of San Diego, has taken on the shape of its growing community of Iraqi Christians. Signs in many of the city’s shops and restaurants are in Chaldean or Arabic, leading some to dub East Main Street, “Little Baghdad.” A stroll through the grounds of St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral is more reminiscent of the ancient city of Babylon, with sculptured lions of Ishtar guarding the entrance to the hall.

From this city, Bishop Sarhad Jammo, a native of Baghdad, leads the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, a jurisdiction spanning 19 states in the west of the country. Second only to Michigan — the cradle of the nation’s other Chaldean eparchy — California has grown into a major Chaldean hub, with ten parishes and two missions. El Cajon alone also boasts two convents, a monastery and a seminary alongside a catechetical program serving 1,000 children, who learn to pray and celebrate the Qurbana, the eucharistic liturgy of the Chaldean Church, in a modern form of the Aramaic language.

On a warm Friday morning in mid-August, a red-haired altar server sweeps the floor in the hall at St. Michael Chaldean Church, where some 70 or so parishioners had just finished a morning game of bingo. Born in Baghdad, Domunik Shamoun, 11, came to the United States in 2008 with his two older brothers and parents. He expresses pride in his heritage.

“I think it’s cool that Jesus spoke Chaldean when he was alive. I speak the same language,” he says during a pause from his work. At home he speaks Chaldean to his parents and English to his brothers.

You can read the rest here.

29 February 2016
Bradley H. Kerr

Spring has arrived early in New York City, and, during a much-needed spring-cleaning of my desk, I uncovered this memento from a trip to the Holy Land back in 2013.

I met the little artist who drew this card at the Infant Welfare Center, in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. He’s one of about 27,500 Palestinian Arabs who, since Israel seized the Old City in 1967, still live within its ancient stone walls.

Jerusalem is a prosperous place, but many of the Palestinian families are deeply poor. The children of the Old City suffer from overcrowded housing, a lack of access to health care and limited educational opportunities — as well as a permeating mood of frustration and hopelessness. At bottom, they’re victims of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

But behind the heavy metal door of the Infant Welfare Center, I didn’t see any suffering. The happy shouts of children filled the 700-year-old building with joy.

The center is a program of the Greek Catholic Annunciation Society and houses a kindergarten, a health clinic, tutoring for at-risk teens and other services that address genuine needs of the Palestinian children in the Old City. It’s a very impressive place. The youngsters I met there were just four or five years old, but the center was already teaching them English. We sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” together.

Now that the card has been rescued from the bottom of a drawer, it’s hanging on the wall above my desk. And I want to thank you for the wonderful memory. Because the Infant Welfare Center is supported by your generous donations to CNEWA.

Tags: Jerusalem Palestine Education

2 July 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

The Catholic Women’s League of Canada’s Brenda Killick, right, speaks with a midwife and a nurse from Shepherd’s Field Hospital in Beit Sahour, Palestine. (photo: CNEWA)

The Catholic Women’s League of Canada partnered with CNEWA Canada to support two projects in the Holy Land. Last week 12 members had the opportunity to see the fruits of their generous and hard work. A few sat down with Bradley H. Kerr to reflect on the experience.

What is the Catholic Women’s League of Canada?

Velma Harasen, former national president: It’s a national organization of Christian women from across Canada. We have just under 100,000 women. Our motto is “For God and Canada.” We do work in parishes, community service, leadership development, spiritual development and social justice.

The theme during my two years as national president was Faith and Justice, and we looked for an international project we could all rally around. We thought: “The Holy Land is the center of our faith. We see the injustice there. Why don’t we find a project that supports Holy Land Christians, particularly women?” That’s when we started working with CNEWA Canada.

Janet McLean, former provincial president for Quebec: Carl Hétu from CNEWA presented eight options to our national executive and provincial presidents. I was involved with that discussion. It’s funny how we all picked the Infant Welfare Center as our first choice. It was unanimous. We were all drawn to the idea of helping women and their children.

The Infant Welfare Center is a Christian daycare in the Old City of Jerusalem. What did you accomplish for them?

Velma: The center is primarily a daycare, but our particular project was to assist young women aged 12-15 who are on the verge of dropping out of school in order to work in restaurants and hotels during the tourist season. When the season is over, the girls lose their jobs but don’t go back to school. The project we supported was to prevent dropping out and to try to get those who do, back into school.

Once you picked a project, what did you do?

Barbara McDonald: We took it to the grassroots — the provinces, dioceses and parishes. We explained the initiative, and brought some visuals. Then the ladies had a lot of bake sales and other fundraisers. The donations were very, very generous.

Velma: During my time as president, I had the privilege of going to every province to speak about it. It was amazing how generous people were. This was my dream, and it came true.

Now you’ve seen the Center. What did you think?

Barb: I was impressed by the director. She thinks about today and tomorrow. She’s creative. … She’s got energy.

Janet: They coordinate with the girls’ families and their schools. They get the mothers of the girls involved. That’s encouraging. Teenagers are the same all over the world — if it’s easer to earn money than go to school, they’ll take the easy way out. But three girls have gone back to school and are doing really well. It’s nice to know we were able to help them.

Angela Pomeroy: What a loving group of staff. There’s a lot happening in the Holy Land that we have difficulty making sense of. What Christians have to deal with — it would crush many people. But through it all, the Infant Welfare Center maintains the Christian values of love, dignity and hope.

You quickly met your fundraising goal and picked a second project with the Shepherd’s Field Hospital in Beit Sahour, Palestine. Can you tell us about it?

Velma: The hospital looks after new mothers and babies. The staff explained that vitamin deficiency is a common problem they see. We raised money to provide vitamin supplements.

Barb: The program also involves education and prevention.

Janet: They showed us pamphlets they distribute to mothers about how to stay healthy. I thought, “This is good. It’s the little things like this that don’t get the funding. But sometimes they are more important than the big things.”

What did you think of the hospital?

Velma: I was quite overwhelmed with the things they are accomplishing in very sparse conditions.

Barb: By our norms, the building is small.

Velma: The labor and delivery room had two cots. I asked the nurses, “What do you do when you have two women in labor at the same time?” They said, “Oh, we can handle three! We manage!”

Angela: When you look at us as mothers and what we had in delivering our children, it’s luxurious compared to what people cope with in Palestine. But they make it beautiful and loving with such little resources.

Barb: What struck me is that as much as it is a Christian hospital, they accept anyone and everyone who needs services. And it you can’t pay, if you don’t have money, fine. The staff maneuvers the finances so they can cover many free deliveries.

I was impressed that the hospital is a cooperative.

Brenda Killick: The members work collaboratively as a community of like-minded citizens to improve the health of women and children.

Barb: They are doing things for themselves, for their community, for those in need. It’s not that the hospital asks for handouts — yes, they do need help and we provided it — but families pay money to be a part of the cooperative. By our standards it’s not a high amount. … And when they use the hospital, the members pay a lower fee than nonmembers.

How are you going to take this experience back to your parishes in Canada?

Barb: I think those of us who came on this pilgrimage will be messengers. We will try to enlighten, encourage, incite and educate.

Janet: I would like to see the Catholic Women’s League stay involved. This trip has reinforced for me how important it is to support the Christians of the Holy Land.

Angela: I’m an educated woman. I think I know a little bit about some things. But I knew nothing about the Christians in the Holy Land and how they are living. I can’t wait to develop a presentation for my parish. There are things we can all do to help Holy Land Christians, and the most important is prayer.

Former C.W.L. President Velma Harasen meets with Infant Welfare Center Director Tania Awwad in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)

Tags: Holy Land Catholic Canada CNEWA Canada Women

13 March 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

In this March 25, 2005 photo, Cardinal Camillo Ruini leads the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday. The prayers that year were composed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who weeks later became Pope Benedict XVI. (photo: CNS/Greg Tarcynski)

On Good Friday in 2005, a large crowd gathered at the Colosseum in Rome. They were there to pray a traditional devotion with special meditations composed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: the Way of the Cross, which follows Christ’s journey to Calvary. Weeks later, the cardinal would become Pope Benedict XVI.

Here is an excerpt of the prayers and meditations that were read that day:

Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbors in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the church.

Read the rest here.

Now, you can read and pray these special reflections in a beautiful booklet from CNEWA. Good Friday is less than three weeks away, but there is still time to get your copy of The Way of the Cross With Pope Benedict XVI. We’ll rush it to you today for a donation of only $10. Your gift will help the Eastern Catholic churches and the poor whom we prayerfully serve.

Visit this link to order your copy. We know you’ll treasure it for years to come — and your gift will help so many in need today!

Tags: CNEWA Pope Benedict XVI Prayers/Hymns/Saints

12 March 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

This image from last fall shows the burned interior of Kevork Church is seen after clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al Assad in Aleppo. (photo: CNS/George Ourfalian, Reuters)

Since Syria fell into civil war, more than 900,000 Syrians have fled their homeland and two million more are displaced inside Syria. Christians have been hit especially hard. Cities like Homs, once the heart of the Christian community, are now all but empty of the faithful. Moreover, Christian refugees in neighboring Lebanon are reluctant to reach out for aid from the United Nations and the Red Crescent, out of fear for their safety.

Recently, the New York Times took readers into the heart of the crisis:

Quietly but inexorably, a human tide has crept into Lebanon, Syria’s smallest and most vulnerable neighbor.

As Syrians fleeing civil war pour over the border, the village priest here, Elian Nasrallah, trudges through muddy fields to deliver blankets. His family runs a medical clinic for refugees. When Christian villagers fret about the flood of Sunni Muslims, he replies that welcoming them is “the real Christianity.”

But the priest and his parishioners cannot keep up. The United Nations counts more than 305,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but local officials and aid workers say the actual number is about 400,000, saturating this country of four million.

The Lebanese government — by design — has largely left them to fend for themselves. Deeply divided over Syria, haunted by memories of an explosive refugee crisis a generation ago, it has mostly ignored the problem, dumping it on overwhelmed communities like Qaa.

So far, Lebanon’s delicate balance has persevered, but there is a growing sense of emergency.

Read further for more details. The picture it paints is harrowing.

We at CNEWA are working with our partners in the Eastern Catholic churches to ensure Syria’s Christians do not fall through the cracks.

This is how:

Coordinating Church Aid

Churches in Syria and Lebanon are already ministering to the needs of displaced Christians. But the Christian community is fractured and does not have a history of working together. The only institution known and trusted by all sides is CNEWA. Perhaps our greatest contribution to the relief effort has been to coordinate the initiatives with our church partners. Working together works.

Feeding Displaced Families

Inside Syria, we are helping our partner churches to feed 3,000 of the most vulnerable Christian families who are in their care. Some of these families live in especially violent areas and are too frightened to leave home; others are simply too poor to afford the cost of food. The families are receiving emergency food packages with enough to feed five people for a month.

Medicine for Refugees

With our help, the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon are providing 800 Iraqi refugees with medicine for chronic health problems. They include families like Walid H., his wife and three children, all of whom have become asthmatic since moving into a moldy, one-room slum apartment. This family is receiving inhalers and other necessary medications, thanks to the sisters and CNEWA.

Helping Families Adjust

No one knows how long the refugees will be in Lebanon, but they are not going home any time soon. Working with Armenian Catholic and Armenian Orthodox church leaders, we are helping children from 450 families to adjust to Lebanon’s education system — a real challenge, as many schools only teach in French. We are also providing women with vocational training so they can find jobs.

Sheltering the Homeless

Lebanon has many parishes, congregations of religious and other Christian institutions. Right now, we are helping to survey church-owned real estate in order to identify vacancies where refugee families can live in stability and dignity.

You can be a part of our effort to bring help and hope to the suffering people of Syria. Visit our Syria emergency donor page to learn how your gift can make a difference!

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War Refugee Camps

27 February 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

This 13th-century icon of the Theotokos Orans is found in the Spasky Cathedral in Yaroslavi, Russia. (image: Wikipedia)

We’ve had a ton of positive feedback about the special Way of the Cross With Pope Benedict XVI booklet that we sent to our friends and benefactors for Lent. Many thanks to all who called and wrote. But I was struck by a note from Father J.S. Custer, pastor of Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church in Smithtown, N.Y. He writes:

The vast majority of your benefactors must be Roman Catholics who have already been exposed to the Way of the Cross in some form. What CNEWA might offer, consistent with your mission, is … what the Byzantine “lung” of the church experiences during Great Lent.

What a great idea! And so I tracked down one of Father Custer’s helpful suggestions to share with you today: the Akathist Hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The hymn is more than its name suggests. It is actually an entire service — and a very beautiful one, I might add — devoted to the Mother of God. Parts are used throughout the Lenten season, and the entire hymn is chanted on the fifth Friday of Lent.

Here is a taste:

By singing praise to your maternity, we all exalt you as a spiritual temple, Mother of God! For the One Who Dwelt Within Your Womb, the Lord Who Holds All Things in His Hands, sanctified you, glorified you, and taught all men to sing to you:

Hail, O tabernacle of God the Word!
Hail, O Holy One, more holy than the saints!
Hail, O ark that the spirit has gilded!
Hail, inexhaustible treasure of life!
Hail, precious crown of rightful authorities!
Hail, sacred glory of reverent priests!
Hail, unshakable tower of the church!
Hail, unbreachable wall of the kingdom!
Hail, O you, through whom the trophies are raised!
Hail, O you, through whom the enemies are routed!
Hail, O healing of my body!
Hail, O salvation of my soul!
Hail, O bride and maiden ever-pure!

To read and pray the entire Akathist Hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, you can find it here. Plus, check out this article from our magazine for more about this devotion. It just might enrich your Lenten journey and deepen your love of Christ.

In the meantime, you can also get a sense of this beautiful devotion in the video below:

20 February 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

In this image from last year, people participate in a traditional Lenten devotion, the outdoor Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Providence Church in Crestwood, Missouri.
(photo: CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

It’s one week after Ash Wednesday. How is your Lent going? When we asked our CNEWA family of supporters and donors to share what they are doing for this holy season, the responses started pouring in. Here are a few:

I am living on bread and water one day each week, and helping poor children go to Catholic school.
D.F. in Minnesota

I am fasting and using the money I save to protect Christians in Syria.
J.F. in Illinois

I am giving up nights and lunches out, so a young man can become a priest.
M.O. in California

I am giving up gossiping and criticizing, and giving a scholarship to Catholic school.
L.G. in New Jersey

I am giving up sweets for a day. (I need them, because I am hypoglycemic.) Plus, I am helping the church and its schools.
R.B. in Ohio

I am making sacrifices so that a young woman can become a sister.
J.C. in Pennsylvania

I am giving up thinking bad of others, and giving to the greatest needs in CNEWA’s world.
A.K. in Florida

I am giving up television to pray and read Scripture, and helping children go to Catholic school.
E.M. in New York

I am giving up TV shows and movies that are not Catholic, and helping wherever the need is greatest in CNEWA’s world.
G.I. in Michigan

I am giving up meat, not only on Fridays but every day, and using the money Isave to help a young man become a priest.
J.B. from Oregon

So...what are you doing for Lent? If you don’t have a plan yet, let CNEWA help. We have some wonderful and rewarding opportunities to enrich your spiritual life and, in the process, help others. Visit this page for details. And please share your story with us by writing to We always love to hear from you.

May Lent transform your life and spirit, and may all its blessings be yours!

Tags: CNEWA Sisters Seminarians

18 January 2013
Bradley H. Kerr

In this image from 2011, Italian Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, welcomes Christian prelates to an ecumenical evening prayer service with Pope Benedict XVI to mark the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

When you go to church this week, you might not see your pastor. He might be down the street at the Presbyterian church — and the Presbyterian minister might be delivering a sermon to you.

Such pulpit exchanges are common during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a 105-year-old effort of the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches to promote understanding and harmony among the followers of Jesus Christ. This year the Week of Prayer starts today.

Working toward Christian unity is a big part of CNEWA’s mission and ministry on behalf of the Holy Father. And so here are five quotes to get you thinking about and praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

  1. The first is from Vatican II and its Decree on Ecumenism (“Unitatis Redintegratio”): “The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principle concern of the Second Vatican Council.” This decree made ecumenism central to the work of the Catholic Church.

  2. Regarding other churches, the council stated:

    “Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church...” and “the separated churches and communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the church.”

  3. Blessed John Paul II, in his encyclical “Ut Unum Sint” (“That They May be One”), declared:

    “Thus it is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian Unity, is not just some sort of ‘appendix’ [the Holy Father’s emphasis] which is added to the church’s traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work, and consequently must pervade all she is and does...”

  4. Pope Benedict marked the Week of Prayer this year by inviting Christians “to pray, asking insistently to God, for the great gift of unity between all of the Lord’s disciples. May the Holy Spirit’s limitless strength arouse us to the sincere commitment to seek unity, so that we might all progress together that Jesus is the savior of the world.”

  5. The last is a prayer written for this year’s observance. Please join your voice with your brother and sister Christians in asking for God’s help in uniting the church:

    “Jesus Christ, we proclaim with joy our common identity in you, and we thank you for inviting us into a dialogue of love with you. Open our hearts to share more perfectly in your prayer to the Father that we may be one, so that as we journey together we may draw closer to each other. Give us the courage to bear witness to the truth together, and may our conversations embrace those who perpetuate disunity. Send your Spirit to empower us to challenge situations where dignity and compassion are lacking in our societies, nations, and the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.”

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Christianity Unity Ecumenism Christian Unity

5 December 2012
Bradley H. Kerr

Syrian children are seen at the Turkish border fence as members of the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party exchange gunfire in northern Syria. (photo: CNS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)

Vatican Radio today reported on the deepening crisis in Syria, with special attention devoted to the suffering children. The report noted that more than 200,000 children are at risk from cold and disease. Charities are calling for urgent funding — and that includes CNEWA.

We started sending aid to Syria when the crisis developed last spring. Our first focus was Christian children and families who were cast out of the city of Homs. But as more Christians flee from other cities, we are enlarging the scope of our concern. As of the last report I’ve seen, we’ve helped to provide emergency aid to 1,851 families and an additional 2,514 babies and children.

I’m especially pleased we’ve started to give away Winter Survival Kits — enough warm clothes and heating oil to protect a family from the winter cold. So far, 350 vulnerable Christian families have gratefully received these kits.

And that is only the start. We aim to help at least 2,000 families before the worst of winter is here. But we’ll need $210 to help each family before it’s too late. Please check out our special page devoted to the crisis in Syria to learn how you can help.

Tags: Syria Refugees Children Syrian Civil War Relief

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