Current Issue
July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
28 September 2015
Barbara B. Daly

Visitors from Jordan see the sites in Philadelphia. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

Editor’s Note: Last week, Barbara B. Daly, the Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Parish in Ambler, Pennsylvania, shared the story of her parish’s extraordinary relationship with a parish in Jordan, a relationship brought about by CNEWA, and told how they were connecting for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Now, she has an update.

St. Anthony Parish in Ambler, Pennsylvania, is currently hosting eight Catholic families from Jordan for the events surrounding the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the visit of Pope Francis. For the past seven years, St. Anthony Parish and Immaculate Conception Parish, Huson, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem have been sister parishes, a relationship brokered by CNEWA.

St. Anthony parishioners have visited Huson on three occasions and now it was time for the parishioners from Immaculate Conception to return the favor. Six families from St. Anthony’s have opened their homes to the Jordanian families, whose members range in age from 7 months to 70. The St. Anthony community has opened wide their arms; parishioners have cooked and served, accompanied the Jordanians on day trips and made more than a few forays to the mall.

In hopes of making their visit to America memorable, visits were made to Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore. While in Washington, the Jordanian community and their friends from St. Anthony’s were welcomed by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The Archbishop greeted the community and gave his blessing. The rest of the day in D.C. was spent visiting the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the White House, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. A trip to New York included a visit to St. Patricks’ Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square, where the Jordanians were exposed to a variety of characters in costume: roaming Elmos, super heroes and, yes,even the “naked” guitar-playing cow girls. (I don’t think they have that back in the old country!)

In Washington, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, center, meets Jordanian visitors from Immaculate Conception Parish. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

St. Anthony Parish hosted a number of evening meals wherein the parishes could break bread together. A “pot luck” supper was an opportunity for a wide range of ethnic delicacies — from the Italians, the Irish, the Germans, as well as Arabic specialties provided by the Jordanians. The evening will be added to the annals of parish history: a hookah made an appearance, giving us a real taste (puff?) of the Middle East! St. Anthony’s has a vibrant and growing Mexican community, so of course there had to be a “Mexican-Jordanian Night” — a rare nexus. The event was strictly BYOS/K: bring your own sombrero or keffiyeh.

We were also blessed to have a visit to St. Anthony Parish by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal. His Beatitude said Mass, took questions and joined the community for an evening meal. He touched everyone’s heart with his humility, his gift of presence and his impassioned plea that the Christians of the Holy Land not be forgotten. He asked that Catholics visit the Holy Land, as well as offer their support to their fellow Christians. St. Anthony’s is firmly committed to this mission and undertakes a biennial pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan. Our next visit will take place in April 2016.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, second from right, visited St. Anthony Parish to celebrate Mass and join the community in an evening meal. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

St. Anthony’s and Immaculate Conception share a great honor as one of our Jordanian families addressed the Holy Father during the Festival of Families that closed the World Meeting of Families. Six families, one from each continent, were chosen to speak before Pope Francis about the joys and challenges of Catholic family life. The Sweidan family — Nidal, Nida, Faten and Dima — represented the Catholics of the Middle East. Immaculate Conception Parish is located in Huson, one of the ancient cities of the Decapolis. The Christian families there have been practicing their faith for 2,000 years and now witness it in an increasingly hostile culture. They understand that “Christian families currently living in the Middle East, our homeland, are called to be like candles, shining against the darkness of destruction, wars, killings, and persecution.” The Holy Father warmly greeted them after their talk and encouraged them to continue their good work. The family received an amazing outpouring of love and support from their fellow Christians back home in Jordan. The week’s events concluded with the Papal Mass celebrated by the Holy Father on Sunday 27 September.

The Sweidan family spoke before Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families and were privileged to meet the Holy Father. (photo: CNEWA)

These have been truly blessed days for both our parishes. The presence of the Holy Spirit has been felt blowing through every nook and cranny. So much has happened in the past week that it is hard to take it all in. We do feel that we have formed deep bonds over shared laughter, food and experiences, but particularly our shared faith. We are not sure where our relationship will take us but we trust in the Lord that it will be where He wants us to go.

22 September 2015
Barbara B. Daly

A young student at the Latin Patriarchate School in Huson, Jordan, takes a break from his schoolwork. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

Editor’s Note: Barbara B. Daly is the Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Parish in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where she has served for over 20 years. When we learned about her parish’s extraordinary relationship with a parish in Jordan — and their joint involvement in this week’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia — we asked her to share some of her story.

St. Anthony Parish, Ambler, Pa., made a commitment in 2009 to lead a biennial pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Israel and Jordan. This commitment grew from two realities: the incalculable impact of an experience of the Holy Land on the faith life of the pilgrims and the desire to express solidarity with the Christians in the Holy Land.

As preparation for their first trip, the parish sought a way to involve everyone in the experience. The ability to travel is limited to those who have the time, stamina and financial resources to do so; however all parishioners could come to know more about the Holy Land and the Christians there. The parish sought the aid of Catholic Near East Association (CNEWA) to help them find a project in the Holy Land that the parish could support. CNEWA brokered a relationship in the same way so many relationships are born today: online.

St. Anthony Parish was introduced to the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Huson, Jordan. Both parishes were founded about the same time, 1886 and 1885 respectively. Both are located in small suburban towns with working and middle class families. Both sought to find ways to keep their families close and to support them in trying to live the faith. What separated them was 5,755 miles.

An online correspondence began and soon after followed financial support from St. Anthony’s for various projects at the Immaculate Conception Parish and the Latin Patriarchate School in Huson — including technology upgrades, funding the summer camp for the children, purchasing school supplies, the purchase of a telescope. St. Anthony’s was able to help with the equipment for the Latin School’s Lego Robotics team which went on to win the Jordanian National Lego Mindstorms Championship, earning them a spot at the World Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

Members of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Huson offer their American guests some warm Bedouin hospitality during a recent visit. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

Since the initial visit and each visit thereafter, the Immaculate Conception Parish has offered warm hospitality, Bedouin style. The high school and college students of the youth group have been our hosts — feeding us, singing, dancing and playing the bag pipes. They have witnessed for us what faith lived in a hostile world looks like. They are truly an amazing group, organizing programs for Iraqi refugee children after their own school day is done. They support each other in remaining faithful to the Gospel with a depth that any parish in America would love to emulate.

The relationship between the two parishes has grown over the years by the grace of God, personal commitment and modern technology. Besides the biennial visits, the parishes stay in touch using Facebook, Instant Messenger, and email. There is a joint prayer service using Skype at the beginning of each Advent and Lent. True friendships have formed over the years — and it’s about to become even deeper.

St. Anthony’s will be hosting eight families from Jordan for the World Meeting of Families and the papal events which take place in Philadelphia 22-27 September The Sweidan family from Huson has been chosen to address the Holy Father, Pope Francis during the Festival of Families on 26 September — a tremendous honor for both parishes.

The situation for the Christians in the Middle East has deteriorated markedly since the beginning of the relationship between the two parishes. Huson is located only 25 miles from the Syrian border; they are on the front lines of the refugee crisis and the threats posed by ISIS. What began as a simple exchange of faith and culture now manifests a deeper reality. “For our parishioners, witness could mean the giving of their lives,” said Rev. Firas Nasrawin, pastor of Immaculate Conception. It’s quite a different reality from the witness taking place in St. Anthony’s or most American suburban parishes.

Members of St. Anthony’s Parish, from Pennsylvania, pose for a photo with parishioners from Immaculate Conception Parish in Jordan. (photo: Barbara B. Daly)

St. Anthony’s is eagerly awaiting the arrival of their visitors from the Jordan. Besides the papal events, there are many plans for their stay, visits to Washington, D.C., New York, even a day at the Jersey shore.

Most importantly, the bonds between the people of the parishes will grow even stronger as they have the opportunity to spend time, share stories, break bread and worship together.

Stay tuned. Barbara Daly will have an update for ONE-TO-ONE next week, after the World Meeting of Families.