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Current Issue
July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
  
9 March 2017
Debora Stonitsch




CNEWA donors — and newlyweds — Ralph and Dorothy met us for breakfast in Anaheim.
(photo: Greg Kandra)


A real highlight of traveling around the country and taking CNEWA’s message to the world is getting the chance to meet some of CNEWA’s friends and supporters. When I went to the L.A. Religious Education Congress in Anaheim a couple weeks ago with the Rev. Elias Mallon and Deacon Greg Kandra, I had just that opportunity. We got to break bread (or butter some pancakes) with a delightful pair of CNEWA donors, Ralph and Dorothy.

Deacon Greg and I met them over breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Anaheim (the sourdough pancakes are amazing!). Ralph and Dorothy, pictured above, were married just 20 months ago on the 4th of July. They are as happy and energetic as any newlyweds could be. Dorothy, a native Californian is a special education teacher with a M.A. in Theology — she started her teaching career at age 53. Ralph, a retired Aerospace Engineer, was born in the Bronx but moved to California after college.

Dorothy’s love for helping others was instilled by her grandmother, who would always take time to feed the hungry. Like her, Dorothy has an affinity to care for the less fortunate, and especially loves to help children and mothers in need. She joked that she has worn Ralph down to see things her way and together they have shared their love with suffering families in Iraq and Syria. For that kind of heartfelt generosity, CNEWA remains profoundly grateful.

Equally as heartwarming were their stories about their longtime friendship, recent marriage and their two beautiful families — 10 children in all, with a bevy of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

It was the perfect culmination to a weekend filled with energy, spirituality and friendship at the L.A. Religious Education Congress.

Some 40,000 people attended the L.A. Religious Education Congress, held last month in Anaheim. The Exhibit Hall, at times, was a mob scene. (photo: Greg Kandra)

CNEWA was invited to participate in the L.A. Religious Ed Congress for the first time this year. The theme of the congress was “Embrace Trust,” befitting for CNEWA, because embracing trust is the essence of our work. Each day we place our trust in the Lord to guide us on our mission — protecting our partners and the people we serve in the most troubled countries in the world. We excitedly accepted this invitation to share a celebration of God’s love and the lessons of the Catholic Church.

The Congress promised a weekend of new and renewed friendships and it did not disappoint. With an estimated 40,000 attendees, there was constant activity in the Exhibit Hall, where we enjoyed greeting participants and sharing our mission of mercy and hope with our friends on the West Coast. Youth groups, clergy, religious educators and laypersons all united by faith and kindness of heart.

Debora Stonitsch introduced attendees to the work CNEWA is doing around the world.
(photo: Greg Kandra)


One would think manning a booth for eight hours a day for three days would be tiresome. But with so much energy and personal encounters, Deacon Greg, Father Elias and I found it anything but. The time passed quickly as we connected with old CNEWA friends — like the Rev. Brian Escobedo representing the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Pheonix. Father Brian had graciously hosted us at his parish in San Diego last October to speak on the crisis in the Middle East. The Rev. James Babcock, representing the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, joined us at our booth, speaking with visitors about the Eastern Catholic Churches — he even took the survey we were conducting.

We were happy to meet up with an old friend, the Rev. Brian Escobedo from San Diego.
(photo: Debora Stonitsch)


It was an exciting and rewarding weekend, making new friends and re-connecting with old ones, and we hope to visit Anaheim again next year.

Meantime, if you would like more information about the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, or would like CNEWA to visit your group or parish to share our story, please contact our Development Director, Norma Intriago at nintriago@cnewa.org or me, Debora Stonitsch, Engagement and Partner Outreach at dstonitsch@cnewa.org.

Hope to see you in Anaheim next year! (photo: Greg Kandra)



4 November 2016
Debora Stonitsch




Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church in San Diego hosted a visit from CNEWA last weekend.
(photo: Greg Kandra)


Having reached my six-month mark working at CNEWA, these past months have been a whirlwind of learning, emotions and blessings. As I delve deeper into CNEWA’s work across the globe, I am grateful for this God-given opportunity to, in some small way, help aid the poor and persecuted.

This past weekend culminated my six months of experiences beyond expectations. Deacon Greg Kandra and I were graciously invited and hosted by Father Brian Escobedo of Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church in San Diego to reach out to his parishioners. The kindness in Father Brian’s heart and soul is evident the first time you meet him. So it is no wonder he offered his Church to CNEWA after learning about our Parish Outreach program — a series of talks to raise awareness here in North America for our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Northeast Africa and India.

A large group gathered to hear our presentation in the parish social hall.
(photo: Debora Stonitsch)


Father Brian and his parish family, joined by Melkite Greek Catholic Father James Babcock and his parish community, made us feel at home as we shared stories of the challenges impacting the church and the selfless work of CNEWA’s partners, especially the sisters and priests who do so much to bring physical and spiritual healing to all who need them. The concern and engagement of those in attendance was evident from the onset.

The church’s interior is adorned by icons depicting scenes from scripture.
(photo: Greg Kandra)


My weekend was further enlightened by Father Brian’s celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. Having never before attended a Byzantine liturgy, I did not know what to expect. But parishioners were so welcoming, such as Michael, who provided me with a prayer book and helped guide me through the liturgy. I found myself immersed in friendship, beauty and deep-rooted tradition.

The icons on the walls and ceiling painstakingly created by Mila Mina, intricately and brilliantly told the stories of the Christian faith.

The cantor, Rebecca, chanted in acapella harmony that brought tears to my eyes and captivated the attention of the adorable young children in attendance — even though they were anxiously waiting to tell Father Brian which saints they were dressed as in celebration of All Saints Day.

Father Brian Escobedo greeted children from the parish dressed as saints. (photo: Greg Kandra)

The sounds, scents and sights together invoked feelings of gratitude and peace.

I am thankful to Father Brian, all his parishioners, especially Bob and Janet who so kindly helped with the preparations and weekend events. It was a collaborative and meaningful gathering of Byzantines, Melkites, Ukrainians and Latins, Catholics all, standing in solidarity for those so less fortunate. These experiences, along with our new friends, prove that when Christians are united, we are not just strong but in our unity, beautiful.

CNEWA’s multimedia editor, Deacon Greg Kandra, left, preached the homily at the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Father Brian. (photo: Debora Stonitsch)

If you’re interested in having CNEWA come to your parish, please contact me, Debora Stonitsch: dstonitsch@cnewa.org or contact our Development Director Norma Intriago: nintriago@cnewa.org. We’d love to visit and together further our mission for Christian unity and peace.