3 July 2012
Following the footsteps of St. Thomas, Indian pilgrims climb Mount Malayattur. Visitors of all faiths believe the trip can cure them of physical and mental disease. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today marks the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle in the Latin Church (Eastern churches celebrate his feast day on 6 October). In Kerala, St. Thomas has had a major influence, and is known to have brought Christianity to the region:
“This main port opened to the seas well before the time of Christ, from 300 B.C. onward,” says Father Davis Chenginiyadan, executive director of the Kodungallur Research Academy for Mar Thoma Heritage.
The priest stands at the site of the ancient city of Muziris, located on a jetty at the mouth of the Periyar River, about 20 miles north of Cochin. This was once the main crossroads of India’s global spice trade and the landing spot of St. Thomas the Apostle, who brought Christianity to the region in the year 52.
To learn more about St. Thomas’s influence, take a look at Msgr. John Kozar’s blog series from his pastoral visit to India earlier this year, “In the Footsteps of St. Thomas.”
2 July 2012
Tags: India Kerala Thomas Christians Saints
Sister Lisi leads evening prayer in the chapel of Grace Home, with 2-year-old Chakara.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
Two years ago, we visited Grace Home in Kerala, where the Nirmala Dasi Sisters care for children with H.I.V./AIDS:
With the school-age children gone, a quiet falls upon the grounds of Grace Home — that is until a 2-year-old boy noisily pushes his pintsize tricycle across the facility’s marble floor. The tricycle plays an electronic version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Energetic and healthy — in fact, rather pudgy — the boy first came to Grace Home in 2009 covered in scabies and looking lean, says Sister Lisi, who calls him simply Chakara, or “sweetie” in the local Malayalam language.
“He would cry all day and all night,” she says. “Maybe he was thinking about his mother — she lost her mind and lived with Chakara in the Kuttippuram Railway Station, taking him here and there. Or maybe he feared he was going to be given away.
“He’s in good condition right now,” boasts Sister Lisi, adding that Chakara’s CD4 count is high, at more than 800. “He doesn’t need ARTs.”
Chakara’s attachment to Sister Lisi is unmistakable. He clutches her habit at the knees. She picks him up and puts him back down. He pushes the tricycle around some more and then into her feet. Sister Lisi ignores him. Chakara gets fussy and she picks him up again.
“At his age, he needs a mother’s concern and love,” says Sister Lisi. “I feel like I’ve been appointed his mother. Now he’s getting so much love. I don’t know how much love I have to give, but whatever I have I give.”
Read more about a home Full of Grace in the November 2010 issue of ONE.
29 June 2012
Tags: India Children Sisters HIV/AIDS
Parishioners pray during the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During Msgr. John Kozar’s first pastoral visit to the Ethiopia in April, he witnessed just how faithful the Ethiopian Catholic community is, despite being small in number:
My first exposure to the rich Ge’ez Rite would come at an early morning Divine Liturgy the following morning at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The bishop and most of the eparchy’s priests concelebrated the ancient liturgy. I was taken aback by the beauty of the liturgy, the amazing intricacy of the chanting, not just of the bishop and the priests, but all the many faithful who had assembled as well. The cathedral had a large of number of people for this ordinary weekday eucharistic liturgy, celebrated at 6:20 a.m. All of the faithful are farmers and some regularly walk great distances to attend.
Another impressive aspect of the cathedral is the outstanding paintings that adorn most of the walls. These are works of art in progress, as the bishop has commissioned an 80-year-old Orthodox priest-iconographer to paint the cathedral murals. After four years of labor, I would say this venerable priest is about 80 percent finished. He lives with the bishop and two other Catholic priests assigned there, together sharing their lives, meals and prayers. I had the honor to meet this outstanding artist and thanked him for his great gift.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s first blog post in his series from Ethiopia, A Warm Welcome.
28 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church Church
In this photo taken in 1992, a young man attends Divine Liturgy at a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow. (photo: Richard Lord)
In the November 1993 issue of the magazine, Michael J.L. La Civita, CNEWA’s Vice President for Communications, wrote about his first experience visiting Moscow and his impressions about a city confronting its troubled past and discovering its future:
As my departure for Moscow approached, I thought my visit would answer some questions and confirm a few opinions. I was certain I would have much to write about Moscow, and Russia by extension. I thought wrongly. Instead I am baffled by a city and a nation confused about its past, present and future.
In a land where great numbers of saints once walked on pilgrimage, where writers and philosophers discussed how to improve the peasants’ lot, where revolutionaries gathered to plan an earthly paradise, the victims of corruption, greed and fear now wander. Poverty, political instability and moral and spiritual apathy have generated a loss of self-knowledge. “Holy Russia has lost her soul,” lament her cultural, religious and social leaders.
References to the Russian “soul” abound in this nation’s history, literature and religious philosophy. Today, after more than 70 years of communism, the now-proverbial search for the Russian soul is nothing else than the search for what is authentically Russian.
For more, read This Year, Moscow.
27 June 2012
Tags: Russia Communism/Communist
A child undergoes physical therapy sessions at Pokrov’s day care center, which treats children with special needs. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the January 2007 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague reported on the efforts of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to restore its public presence following the fall of Bulgaria’s communist government:
Over the past 12 years, the Pokrov Foundation has launched an assortment of programs — philanthropic, educational and promotional — that have done much to help restore the role of the Orthodox Church in Bulgarian life. Many are run out of Mr. Sinov’s spiritual home since his baptism, the Church of the Pokrov, located on a quiet street hidden by Sofia’s Hotel Rodina.
In the church’s basement, the foundation operates a parish center that caters to about 4,000 people each year. Here, food, clothes, counseling, financial support and social space are offered to the needy. If the foundation lacks the resources to help someone, then it refers him or her to another nongovernmental organization that can.
“We are open daily, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.,“said Maria Spasova, the parish center director. “Ours is the first parish center in the country, and the idea has spread to about 10 other parishes already.”
For more, read Under Mary’s Mantle.
26 June 2012
Tags: Children Orthodox Church Bulgarian Orthodox Church Bulgaria
Israeli-Arab fourth-grade students pray in Aramaic during language class at Jish Elementary School in Jish, Israel, 20 June. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hil)
As reported by the Catholic News Service, a mostly Maronite Catholic community in Jish, Israel, is making an effort to revive the Aramaic language — the language spoken by Jesus. This revival has begun with language classes at the village’s elementary school:
Some 110 students are now studying the language at the elementary school as a result of years of effort by village resident Shadi Khalloul, 37, chairman of the Aramaic Christian nongovernmental organization in Israel.
“This is our Maronite Aramaic heritage,” he said on a recent visit to the school. “We are hoping to revive (Aramaic) as a spoken language. Hopefully the pupils will use it among themselves to communicate with each other. It is our forefather’s language. It is the language of Jesus, we should not forget that, especially the Aramaic Galilee dialect.”
Spoken Aramaic, the root language of all Semitic languages, is still preserved in parts of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon — and even by elderly Jews originating from a region of Kurdistan — but the spoken language has been virtually lost in Galilee, where about 10,000 Maronite Catholics use it solely for prayer. During their daily interactions, they speak Arabic.
For more, read Maronites in Israel Learn Aramaic.
25 June 2012
Tags: Children Israel Education Maronite Catholic Aramaic
A Syro-Malabar Catholic woman of the Wayanad district in Kerala shades herself from the sun. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Over the years we have published many stories in the magazine about the influence of St. Thomas on the Christian community in southern India. The saint who famously doubted the resurrection has inspired countless believers in that corner of CNEWA’s world. In the March 2010 issue of the magazine, journalist Sean Sprague captured how the influence of the saint still resonates with the Christians of the region:
“St. Thomas definitely landed on this very spot,” says Philomena Pappachan, caretaker of a chapel that marks where the doubting apostle arrived in southern India in the year A.D. 52. Located a few feet from the cemented banks of the Periyar River, the chapel is dwarfed by a grove of palm trees and a 30-foot cutout of the saint, who is depicted with a staff and an open book on which “my Lord and my God” is printed in English.
No archaeological evidence exists to substantiate or refute her claim. Yet for nearly two millennia, countless numbers of Christians and Hindus have believed “the holy man” journeyed through Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and finally India, where Thomas died a martyr’s death in the year 72.
For more, read In the Footsteps of St. Thomas. For more of Sprague’s accompanying photos, check out the image gallery, “St. Thomas’s Influence.”
22 June 2012
In this photo taken in 2005, two young orphans are cared for at the Kidane Mehret Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2009, thanks to generous CNEWA donors, the Kidane Mehret Catholic School in Ethiopia started offering students the opportunity to attend 11th and 12th grades. This means that young children, like those featured in the photo above, are promised a brighter future. In this month’s CNEWA Connections e-newsletter, we featured a letter from a recent graduate of the school:
We and our families are so grateful to the CNEWA family and Mr. Doty. If it were not for you, we could not have gotten a good education.
What I am trying to say is that regular schools do not have as many resources as we have. Regular schools may have a science lab, but not enough lab material for the students. Regular schools do not have a sufficient number of computers, but we have a computer for every student who needs one. Thanks to CNEWA, we have enough.
I always thank God because He is always with me. I also thank CNEWA because you are my source of success. God willing, I want to graduate from university and help my family, my school and my country.
For more read, “We Are So Grateful to You.”
21 June 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Orphans/Orphanages Catholic Schools
Campers have fun in the healing mineral waters of the Nunisi resort in central Georgia.
(photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
Yesterday marked the summer solstice. Temperatures are rising and summer camps are in session! Summer camp can be an enriching experience for children. When schools close their doors for summer break, summer camp provides an opportunity for fun and learning outside school. Over the years, CNEWA has sponsored many summer camps in the regions we serve, such as the camps in the Caucasus which provide much more than summer fun:
For all the campers, Samta Park represents a soothing escape from their hardscrabble lives in Tbilisi. Many have suffered severe psychological or physical traumas. Lela Mezrishvili, 13, has scars all over her body, but several sessions in the sanitarium’s waters have allowed her to extend her arm fully for the first time in years.
“Many of the children come from very troubled families — very poor,” said Zizi Inadze, a staff member who grew up on the streets and, like Mr. Biganashvili, received assistance from Caritas. “Some had never seen fish or butter before, and even others never had seen a toilet. I was so shocked to see kids using a bucket, I couldn’t believe it.”
The camps of Sister Arousiag Sajonian and Father Witold Szulczynski are different in structure, but their aim is the same. They offer disadvantaged children a quintessential childhood experience that is normally available only to the more privileged. And it is a testament to the camps’ success that so many former campers have returned, as adults, to help educate the next generation.
A mere two carefree weeks can have an outsized impact on the children’s lives, said Ms. Inadze, the former street child who now works for Caritas.
“Here at the camps, they learn to open up and share a sense of warmth. They receive love and attention.”
For more, read Kid’s Camps in the Caucasus in the November 2007 issue of ONE.
20 June 2012
Tags: CNEWA Caritas Caucasus
A man makes an icon at the Immaculate Conception Church in Jordan, which is undergoing major restoration sponsored by CNEWA. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Back in December, Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, made his first pastoral visit to the Holy Land. Along the way, he visited many people and projects vital to CNEWA’s mission, such as the Immaculate Conception Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Jordan:
From the hospital we went to visit the Melkite Greek Catholic pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, Abuna Boulos (or Father Paul), and were joined there by Archbishop Yasser Ayyash and some other priests. We had a delightful lunch, where I learned much about the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. When I entered the rectory, Father Boulos immediately introduced me to his wife, as it is the Melkite tradition for priests to marry before ordination. After a brief visit to the church, which is finishing up a major restoration project sponsored by CNEWA, we headed for the Bedouin village of Smakieh for the highlight of the day and the spiritual highlight of this pastoral visit thus far.
We were invited by the archbishop and Abuna Boulos to concelebrate at the ordination liturgy for a subdeacon and deacon. What an honor for Father Guido and myself. Not only did the archbishop make us feel welcome, he even vested us in the Melkite vestments used for their liturgy. It was a very proud moment for both of us.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s blog series “Journey to the Holy Land.”
Tags: Middle East Christians CNEWA Middle East Jordan Melkite Greek Catholic Church