Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
12 September 2019
Melodie Gabriel

Marie Rackley (left) of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada presents a check to CNEWA Canada’s Development Officer Melodie Gabriel (right). (photo: CNEWA)

Thank you to the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) for giving CNEWA Canada the opportunity to speak at their recent National Convention in Calgary.

During the convention, the C.W.L. of Canada presented a check to CNEWA for $16,346.13.

I was pleased to accept the donation and thank the Catholic Women’s League for their ongoing support. I was also able to update attendees on conditions in the Middle East. Christians are few but mighty in these countries and play vital roles in interfaith dialogue, health services and aid to those in need. We thank the C.W.L. for the hope they bring to Holy Land Christians through their prayer and donations — and by spreading the word about CNEWA.

Earlier this summer, CNEWA Canada organized its 6th annual Pilgrimage to the Holy Land for C.W.L. members and CNEWA Canada donors. During the trip, they visited two projects that help women and families in the Holy Land: Shepherd’s Field Hospital and Infant Welfare Center.

These Christian institutions can to do the good work they do because of the ongoing generous support of donors such as the Catholic Women’s League. Thank you!

Tags: Canada CNEWA Canada

13 September 2016
Melodie Gabriel

Main speakers at “Baptism by Fire” fundraiser included the Rev. Henri Boulad, S.J. of Egypt, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, and Carl Hétu, national director of
CNEWA in Canada. (photo: CNEWA Canada)

On 10 September 2016, more than 260 people attended the “Baptism by Fire” fundraising dinner in Canada in at the Madison Convention Center near Toronto. People from different parishes and different backgrounds attended — including local bishops and clergy. We gathered together for a common cause — supporting Christians in the Middle East, mainly in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

The “Baptism by Fire” fundraising dinner drew more than 260 people at the Madison Convention Center in the Toronto area. (photo: CNEWA Canada)

Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Toronto and CNEWA Canada, the event raised funds that will support CNEWA’s work in Syria and Iraq, and projects in Egypt run by keynote speaker, the Rev. Henri Boulad, S.J.

Some memorable quotes of the night:

  • “The testimony of selfless love is the best gift you can give.” — Father Henri Boulad, S.J.
  • “We pray for the Lord to bless those who are giving their lives in the Middle East.” — Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
  • “We support people not because they are Christian, but because we are Christian.” — Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
  • “We need to make sure there’s a future of Christianity in the Middle East.” — Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director
  • Let’s be advocates for peace in the Middle East.” — Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, addresses the crowd. (photo: CNEWA Canada)

If you’d like to lend your support, visit this link. You can also read more about CNEWA’s work supporting Christians in the Middle East in recent editions of ONE magazine, including this in-depth look at displaced Iraqis and this report on Cardinal Dolan’s pastoral visit to Iraq last spring.

Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada national director (center) with two of the event organizers, Kris Dmytrenko (left) and Daniel Torchia (right). (photo: CNEWA Canada)

9 December 2015
Melodie Gabriel

University students camp outside at Ryerson University in Toronto to raise awareness about refugees. (photo: Nansy Khanano/KnanoArt)

We want to highlight the amazing efforts of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada. This group is making a difference to help Iraqi and Syrian refugees — and doing it in a very dramatic and thought-provoking way.

From 16-19 November, in an event dubbed “Life of a Mesopotamian Refugee,” students in the greater Toronto area camped in tents for three nights on different university campuses. These young people wanted to raise awareness and be in solidarity with refugees from their homelands. They also collected donations, which will go towards CNEWA Canada’s efforts to assist refugees.

This student initiative was featured in a video on CityNews television in Toronto. It was also in newspapers, including an article in the Catholic Register.

You can still give to this fundraiser. Learn more by visiting their webpage here. You can also give today to Syrian refugees through CNEWA.

17 December 2014
Melodie Gabriel

Salt + Light Catholic TV in Canada produced a documentary “The Francis Effect,” featuring CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar. Visit this link to learn how you can view the video or purchase a copy. (photo: Salt + Light)

A blessed Advent to you! I am happy to share with you about CNEWA’s recent collaboration with Salt + Light Catholic Television in Canada. CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, was interviewed and featured in “The Francis Effect,” Salt + Light’s latest documentary.

As Salt + Light described it: “‘The Francis Effect’ takes a critical and in-depth look at how an ancient institution (the Catholic Church) is rapidly changing under the leadership and vision of Pope Francis...exclusive interviews with prominent Catholics and non-Catholics reveal that Francis is having a profound effect on the world as well.”

You can learn more about CNEWA’s work with Pope Francis and how the Holy Father’s leadership has an effect on the Middle East and the whole world. I invite you to view this special clip of Msgr. Kozar from the documentary:

Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA (The Francis Effect) from saltandlighttv on Vimeo.

To watch the full documentary or to purchase a copy, visit “The Francis Effect” webpage. If you would like to support Christians in the Middle East through CNEWA, please give online.

And we invite you to remember, in a special way, our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq.

Thank you for the generosity and your prayers!

7 August 2014
Melodie Gabriel

During our journey to the Holy Land with Catholic Women’s League of Canada members in July, we visited some places that Pope Francis had visited during his pastoral visit to the Holy Land from 24-26 May 2014. It was special to follow in his footsteps, praying where he prayed and hearing the stories of people who had encountered him. I thought I’d give you a taste of it through pictures.

Jordan River: We visited the Baptism site on the Israeli side of the Jordan River, where Pope Francis prayed and met with refugees, the sick and disabled. At this place, we renewed our baptismal vows.

Bethlehem: His Holiness Francis stopped spontaneously at the wall separating Israel and Palestine and silently prayed. We also took a moment to pray at this spot.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Pope Francis met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, their predecessors.

Western Wall: Pope Francis prayerfully placed intentions in the wall and embraced his Argentinian friends, Jewish Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud. We also offered our prayer intentions here.

Yad Vashem: We visited the Hall of Remembrance where the pope gave an impassioned speech which began with “Adam, where are you?”

Upper Room: Before leaving the Holy Land, His Holiness celebrated Mass in the Upper Room. We prayed together in this room, where the Last Supper took place and where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Twelve Apostles at Pentecost.

Tags: Pope Francis CNEWA Holy Land Pilgrimage/pilgrims CNEWA Canada

31 July 2014
Melodie Gabriel

Picture Caption: Rev. Vincent Pereira of the Archdiocese of Ottawa joins Episcopal Vicar Rev. David Neuhaus and parish priest Rev. Piotr Zelasko at the Mass for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA Canada)

During our pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Catholic Women’s League members from Canada, we met a unique group of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. They make up a small but important community.

The leader of this community is Rev. David Neuhaus, the patriarchal vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics. Father Neuhaus has an interesting background. He grew up an Israeli Jew and was baptized Catholic at age 26. Four years later, he joined the Jesuits and became a priest.

Father Neuhaus spoke with us about the reality of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. After Israel became a state, people began to immigrate there in the 1950’s. You would assume that all these people were Jews. But the church in Israel began to notice that some of these people came to church on Sunday looking for a Mass!

Thousands of Catholics came to Israel with their Jewish spouses and families. They all spoke Hebrew. Father Neuhaus says this was something of an anomaly — Hebrew was the language always associated with the Jewish religion and Christians never used Hebrew.

The challenge at first was making Hebrew a Christian language — Mass, prayers, theology and catechism in Hebrew. Overall, that was quite successful.

The biggest difficulty has been transmitting the faith to Christian young people in a place where Jews are the majority. These children live fully immersed in secular Jewish society with no signs of Christianity anywhere. Many marry Jews and never come back to the church. So one of the church’s main focuses is children and youth ministry.

One of the aims of this church is to build unity among Arabic-speaking Christians and Hebrew-speaking Christians, and also to foster reconciliation among Christians and Jews. In its humble way, the vicariate is taking one step at a time to do just that.

This Hebrew-speaking vicariate also has a special outreach to the migrant population of Israel. Father Neuhaus is also the coordinator of the pastoral care for migrant workers and asylum seekers. This includes workers mostly from Asia, including Filipinos, Indians and people of other nationalities.

Many of these workers care for the children of the Jewish people, along with the elderly, the sick and the handicapped. The vicariate provides them with a space for community and Masses in their native languages. The children of these migrant workers end up going to school in Israel and learning Hebrew. These children also require support to nurture faith.

There are also asylum seekers who come from Africa — mainly Eritrea and Sudan. Unfortunately, Israel rarely grants refugee status to asylum seekers, so these people live in limbo. Good priests, nuns and pastoral workers do their best to care for this community’s needs.

During our visit, we joined the Hebrew-speaking community for Mass. For the Rev. Vincent Pereira, the chaplain of our pilgrimage, it was a unique experience to concelebrate Mass in Hebrew. There were three special things about the Mass:

  • During the sign of peace, it began with the presiding priest, since the priest represents Christ. He shook hands and it moved through the congregation from the front row to the back row. It was interesting symbolism — peace starts with Christ, and he spreads his peace to everyone.

  • Another detail was that they used matzo (traditional unleavened bread) instead of the regular white hosts that we use in North America for the Eucharist.

  • Finally, they gave us books and we sang with them and prayed the Mass parts in Hebrew. No, we didn’t learn Hebrew in a day — but we used books where Hebrew was transliterated into English to make it easier to follow. The music was beautifully performed by their seminarian Benny.

One thing that Father Neuhaus said stuck with me. I will try to take it to heart. He said that having a hard life doesn’t mean that you will not find someone who has an even harder life than you. So please reach out to them, open up and be generous towards those who have less than you.

Read more about the Hebrew-speaking vicariate in this article in ONE magazine.

Tags: Middle East Christians Israel Holy Land Catholic Holy Land Christians

23 July 2014
Melodie Gabriel

Our pilgrimage group poses with the staff and residents of the House of Grace in Haifa. (photo: CNEWA Canada)

Recently, CNEWA led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land along with members of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada. One of our aims was to encounter the local Christians. In Haifa, we had the privilege of hearing the story of the “House of Grace” from the founders’ son, Jamal Shehade. CNEWA has partnered with the House of Grace for many years, supporting their various initiatives.

The House of Grace began 32 years ago as a humble ministry of Kamil and Agnes Shehade. Shortly after they married in the early 1980’s, the Shehades began to take in ex-convicts, providing a home for them in their small two-bedroom apartment. Eventually, their ministry grew into an abandoned church that they renovated and named 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.

We also learned that the House of Grace has a Canadian connection. As a young person, Kamil Shehade spent a year and a half at the Madonna House apostolate, a house of hospitality in the small town of Combermere, Ontario. Archbishop Joseph Raya sent Mr. Shehade to Canada when he noticed that the young man was going down a dangerous path in life. This experience greatly influenced Mr. Shehade — in his faith and in his attitudes toward community and the people within who are marginalized or reviled.

A few years ago, I spent two weeks at Madonna House. So I understand the ministry of the House of Grace, because it has the same open-door warmth that I experienced at Madonna House.

Unfortunately, Kamil Shehade died of cancer in 2000. He was only 46 years old. But his wife Agnes and his children have continued the work of the House of Grace with the support of staff and volunteers. Together, they live out the Gospel simply — with kindness and love, changing one life at a time.

To read more about their inspiring work, see this article from ONE magazine.

Tags: Middle East Christians Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians Canada CNEWA Canada

21 July 2014
Melodie Gabriel

Velma Harasen, left, and Betty Anne Brown Davidson of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada meet with the mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. (photo: CNEWA Canada)

We had an amazing visit to the Holy Land recently, joined by members of the Catholic Women’s League. I’d like to share with you some stories of our visit.

On 3 July 2014, our group was privileged to visit and speak with current mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun. She is the first female mayor of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Our group was mainly composed of women leaders from the Catholic Women’s League in Canada, so it was a unique experience to visit the mayor, herself a Catholic woman and a leader.

Ms. Baboun is a passionate woman of faith. She shared with us a quote from a homily by the former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, James Beltritti, that touched her personally during a tough time in her life and resonated with all of us: “Blessings and grace only reside in the womb of suffering. Learn how to give it birth.”

As a widow and mother of five children, Ms. Baboun has experienced great hardship in her own life. But this perspective helped her to focus on the blessings that come from and with such difficulties.

She discussed with us Bethlehem’s unfortunate status as a gated city. As part of the West Bank, it is under occupation by Israel and surrounded by a separation wall. And, metaphorically speaking, she shared that the faith is now walled as well:

“The wall breaches the path of faith between the moment of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the moment of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. We have a young generation in Bethlehem now who do not know the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, [which is] ten minutes away by car. …

“It is not only Bethlehem that is walled, but the message of our faith, our Lord, and love and peace is walled as well. I’m terrified for this fact. It’s a walling of the message, not only the walling of a city.”

She also spoke about different injustices that the Palestinian people face due to the conflict with Israel — for example, water shortages, ongoing confiscation of property and limits on people’s movement. As a minority group, Palestinian Christians are also often caught in the middle of conflicts between Jewish and Muslim populations.

We can keep the Star of Bethlehem burning by sharing the story of the “living stones” — the Christians of the Holy Land. They keep the faith alive and bear their cross every day. She urged us to please carry the cross of Bethlehem with us wherever we go. We left inspired and touched by her words.

Tags: Bethlehem Holy Land Christians CNEWA Canada Women West Bank

27 June 2014
Melodie Gabriel

Last year’s participants in the pilgrimage to the Holy Land gather in the Shepherds’ Fields near Bethlehem. (photo: CNEWA Canada)

On 29 June 2014, I will be blessed to travel for the second time to the Holy Land with members of the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.). We are visiting Israel and Palestine for nine days on a spiritual pilgrimage and to learn about local Christians and Christian organizations.

The Catholic Women’s League of Canada has about 90,000 members in parishes all across Canada. Through the initiative called Velma’s Dream, they are currently supporting two projects in the Holy Land: the Infant Welfare Centre in Jerusalem and Shepherd’s Field Hospital near Bethlehem, both of which we will be visiting.

Velma Harasen, former national president of the C.W.L. and namesake of “Velma’s Dream,” will be accompanying us. Ms. Harasen also came with us last year. Her vision is to encourage the Catholic Women’s League to continue to support the poor in the Holy Land.

Our group also includes Betty Anne Brown Davidson, the current C.W.L. national president; Carl Hétu, CNEWA Canada’s national director; the Rev. Vincent Pereira of the Archdiocese of Ottawa; and participants from as far west as British Columbia and as far east as Quebec.

I look forward to this exciting trip, as we walk in the footsteps of Pope Francis, who made a recent pastoral visit to the Holy Land in May. The Holy Father encountered local Christians, prayed with them and lovingly listened to their stories.

Two of last year’s participants shared some reflections on the trip:

“I am so grateful for this trip on so many levels — to experience the land where Jesus chose to minister, to deepen my faith in God by reflecting on his presence in me … to see what life is like as a Christian in an area of struggle.” – Angela Pomeroy, Kelowna, BC

“Wherever we went, we were continually reminded of the life of Christ in the sacred stones of the buildings we entered, but also in the “living stones,” the Christians we were so fortunate to meet. These people, living in Israel and Palestine, are desperately trying to maintain and preserve the Christian presence in the Holy Land.” – Chantal Devine, Caronport, SK

We will post an update on the blog during our trip, so stay tuned!

Learn more about Velma’s Dream on our website.

Tags: Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians Canada CNEWA Canada Women

9 September 2013
Melodie Gabriel

The Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada is generously supporting projects to aid poor Christian families in the Holy Land through CNEWA Canada. Members of this fine organization — including Velma Harasen, C.W.L.’s former national president — were able to visit these projects during our Holy Land Pilgrimage.

The video above highlights the good work of two of CNEWA’s partners in the Holy Land:

  • The Infant Welfare Center in Jerusalem assists teenagers with learning disabilities and helps them to stay in school, as well as providing support for their families and teachers.

  • The Shepherd’s Field Hospital in Beit Sahour (near Bethlehem) provides much-needed health care to pregnant women, new mothers and their babies — including many of the poorest in the region.

Click here if you’d like to contribute to “Velma’s Dream.”

Next year, from 29 June – 9 July 2014, CNEWA Canada will again extend to C.W.L. members the opportunity to join us on a pilgrimage. We will visit the holy places of the Bible, meet Holy Land Christians and witness the good works of our many partners in the region. If you are interested, visit the trip page for more info. You can also watch our Holy Land pilgrimage promo video.

Tags: Holy Land Pilgrimage/pilgrims Donors Holy Land Christians CNEWA Canada

1 | 2 |