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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
29 July 2013
Norma Intriago

In this image from 2012, Al Lagan greets a young friend in Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA)

Last week, we received some sad news: Longtime CNEWA friend and benefactor Alfred A. Lagan passed away on 23 July. He was 77. Norma Intriago, a major gifts officer in our development office, recalls Al’s life and legacy.

I remember the first time I met Al. I was giving him an update on the Paul VI Ephpheta Institute, which he had supported with a large gift. I knew he was a successful businessman in charge of managing investment portfolios, and I felt a little intimidated. I thought I had to put on my business hat and talk about budgets, return on investment and that kind of thing. But he stopped me and said: “Okay, thank you for that piece of information. But I just want to have a conversation.” More than anything he wanted to hear how the children were doing and what the sisters needed.

Al was very close to Ephpheta. It really struck a chord with him, and he gave significantly to support the education of hearing-impaired children in Bethlehem. He also supported the education of seminarians and novice sisters. Catholic education was important to him.

Catholic education, to him, was the best way to tackle the issue of poverty — to give someone the opportunity of education, to arm them with knowledge and good values so that they can build a better life. I think Al felt very blessed as someone who had gone to college, got a master’s degree and started his own investment firm. He felt like his success wasn’t his to keep. It didn’t belong to him — it was God’s blessing. So it was his turn to share that opportunity with others. He was a true altruist. He really, truly, selflessly rendered of himself to others in need.

I visited Ethiopia with Al to see Catholic institutions associated with CNEWA, especially child care institutions and schools. Al went because he had invested a lot in schools in Ethiopia, and had done so for more than 30 years. He also wanted to introduce one of his daughters to the work of CNEWA. He wanted to share that with his family.

Al Lagan chats with children during a visit to Ethiopia in 2009. (photo: CNEWA)

The trip was a rough one. At one point, we were staying in pretty poor accommodations. The electricity went out. We went a couple of days without showering. You can imagine how that affects your mood. But Al’s mood never changed! Whether he was starved, unwashed, whatever, he just shrugged his shoulders. Because he knew the trip wasn’t about his comfort. It was about something bigger than him. It was about the children and their eager faces. It was about the sisters who ran the institutions and their resourcefulness. That was what the trip was about. These kids had nothing, and it was about making sure they have a chance. I think Al taught me quite a lot about living the Gospel.

I believe that Al’s legacy will continue. When you have one of these really exceptional forces in your life, I don’t think that goes away. I see it in his daughters. They are also friends and supporters of CNEWA and other Catholic organizations. Al led by example. I see it in his children, and I’m sure in his grandchildren. His legacy will live on.

Tags: Ethiopia CNEWA Education Donors

30 March 2012
Norma Intriago

Children in Ethiopia work out at Sister Ayelech’s “gymnasium.” (photo: CNEWA)

Norma Intriago is a fundraiser in the development office of CNEWA in New York.

With so many war orphans in her care, Sister Maria worries how she can feed them all. But today, thanks to you, she has hope. Hope for the neediest children in Iraq — and all of her sisters serving the poor in CNEWA’s world.

May God bless every single one of you who made a generous gift to our Celebrating Women campaign. You may remember a special benefactor of CNEWA pledged to match you dollar-for-dollar. I’m writing to tell you the promise was kept. The power of your generosity has been doubled!

Sister Maria isn’t the only beneficiary of your gift. Another is Sister Ayelech. She runs a humble Catholic school in Ethiopia that I visited. Her school is a home-away-from-home for some very poor children. I witnessed how she stretches every dollar so it really counts.

It was summer when I visited. School was out and some of the children had no one to watch after them. With almost no money, Sister Ayelech created her own “summer school.” She turned simple mattresses into a fun gymnasium. Thread and needles became crafts class.

Sister Ayelech even rescued discarded sewing machines from a local dump. These were transformed into an opportunity for jobless mothers to earn money to care for their families — and earn another valuable currency: hope.

With you standing behind them, Sister Ayelech and Sister Maria can continue serving the poor and witnessing to the Gospel in some of the poorest places on earth.

On behalf of all the religious women with whom CNEWA partners, I thank you for your celebration gift. And remember: you didn’t give just one gift. With the dollar-for-dollar match, you gave two. Be sure the sisters will double their grateful prayers to God for you.

And if you haven’t had a chance to participate in our Celebrate Women campaign, don’t worry. You still have time. Click here by Saturday to double your gift to religious women and the poor whom they serve.

Oh, and one more piece of great news: You inspired yet another benefactor of CNEWA to offer an additional matching gift challenge — $50,000 for the formation of novice sisters. You’ll hear more about it soon. Until then, thanks again!

Tags: Iraq Ethiopia Sisters Africa