23 July 2012
A woman in Aksum, Ethiopia, rests after a pilgrimage that celebrates one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion, or Mary of Zion. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague’s photographs of Ethiopians celebrating one of the holiest days on the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar — the feast of Mary of Zion — were used in a beautiful photo essay. The images helped to depict the importance and holiness of the day to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians:
Pilgrims to Aksum are not unlike the Christian pilgrims of the Middle Ages, who traveled to the Holy Land, or the Muslim pilgrims of today, who journey to Mecca. A pilgrim’s trek to Aksum is an outward expression of his or her faith, a quest for the sacred, an expedition that includes prayer, reflection, penance and almsgiving. And while this quest is not obligatory, it is a practice that has remained widespread among the region’s Orthodox Christians — clergy, religious and lay — despite coups, civil strife and famine.
Several days before the feast, thousands of pilgrims leave their homes and head north on foot (many take buses, few fly), carrying their bedding and food. Pilgrims must abstain from meat and dairy products as well as sexual intercourse for three days before the feast. Some practice acts of mortification — a rite of purification — as they process to Aksum. Others give alms to the beggars who line the paths leading to the object of the pilgrims’ devotion.
For more, read Ethiopia Celebrates Mary.
20 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Saints
A nun prays outside of St. Mary Monastery in Georgia. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the September 2007 issue of ONE, Paul Rimple wrote about women in Georgia who have chosen a life of service to God and humanity by entering religious life and joining one of various monasteries in Georgia, such as St. Mary Monastery:
The seven sisters of St. Mary Monastery in Bediani, a remote village in the southern mountains of Georgia, begin their day with communal prayer at 4 a.m. Three hours later, they are tending the gardens and the bees, milking cows, making cheese, embroidering vestments and cleaning the chapel.
Georgia’s religious houses are expected to be self-sufficient, which requires ingenuity on behalf of the sisters. But the sisters of Bediani also care for six single mothers and their children, who live near the convent and have little means of earning a living.
For more, read Alternative Lifestyles.
19 July 2012
Tags: Sisters Georgia Monastery Vocations (religious)
In this photo, captured in early 2006, a young boy watches the sunset in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In late 2004, a tsunami triggered by a 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean devastated thousands living in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, India. CNEWA was quick to respond and immediately began an emergency relief fund, which in a year’s time raised $965,555 for the victims affected by the disaster. In the March 2005 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux wrote about the tsunami relief efforts of the local church and international community:
The Diocese of Kottar became the command center for all nongovernmental, tsunami-related social service activities in the district of Kanyakumari. Father Jeremias, Information Director of the Kottar Social Service Society, assigned NGOs to villages along the coast. Caritas Switzerland took responsibility for the heavily damaged village of Mela Manakudy and four others; the Holy Cross Sisters were sent to Puthoor; social workers from the Syro-Malankara Catholic Eparchy of Marthandom took charge of three towns; and Social Change and Development (an Indian NGO) went to Kottilpadu.
Many more were involved. The Sisters of St. Ann of Luzern joined mobile medical camps sent to the coastal villages. The Syro- Malankara Catholic Bethany Sisters started rebuilding a neighborhood in Kanyakumari. Syro-Malabar Catholic Bishop George Alencherry from neighboring Thuckalay tended to the smaller settlements around Colachel.
In all, more than 60 local NGOs and 16 international relief agencies stepped forward to work with Bishop Tharmaraj.
“The response has been enormous. We have almost 100 percent coverage of the damaged areas,” Father Jeremias said. “This powerful wave of destruction from nature has been met by an even more powerful wave of generosity from mankind.”
The story remains a powerful reminder of how CNEWA, through local churches, has been able to respond to those in need. For more, read Waves of Destruction.
18 July 2012
Tags: India Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Water
Sister Piera Carpenedo, director of the Ephpheta Paul VI Institute for Audio-Phonetic Rehabilitation, tells a story using a drawing. (photo: Steve Sabella)
Today, the Latin church celebrates the feast day of St. Frederick of Utrecht, a patron saint for the deaf. For many years, CNEWA has supported the Ephpheta Institute, a center for the deaf in Palestine. Back in May, Ephpheta celebrated an expansion, which we shared on this blog:
A few days ago, the Ephpheta Institute in Bethlehem — a program CNEWA has supported since its inception 40 years ago — celebrated the inauguration of a new expansion. The new three-story annex will host the 11th and 12th grades, in addition to a library, a new indoor play/educational room and additional storage facilities. The physical expansion of the school premises was a historic day for many reasons. Most significantly, the students at Ephpheta will no longer finish their education at 10th grade, but will complete a full educational cycle through the 12th grade, after which they will receive a high school diploma. Thus, there will be no graduation at the school this year; the 10th graders will proceed to 11th grade and will eventually graduate in 2014, much better equipped to either move on to a university education or to some other career track of their choosing. They will certainly be better equipped to meet life’s challenges with a high school diploma in hand.
For more, read “Ephpheta Expands.” You can learn more about Ephpheta in Msgr. John Kozar’s blog series from his pastoral visit to the Holy Land back in December. If you would like to support the work of Ephpheta, please visit our website.
17 July 2012
Tags: Palestine Disabilities
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the Holy Land.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
In supporting Eastern churches, their leaders and their faithful, CNEWA’s network of friends and benefactors enables more good to be done. Today, we have in our thoughts and prayers The Syriac Orthodox Church, which has roots in Syria, a country still very much in turmoil.
Just today, one prominent Catholic leader in Damascus renewed his pleas for peace in the region:
“In Damascus, the last three days have been very difficult” as the fighting moved to the city, Archbishop Mario Zenari, the [Vatican] nuncio, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from the capital July 17.
“The situation compared to a month ago clearly is more tense,” he said.
“The situation of the Christian community is the same as the situation for all Syrians. The Christians are not targeted, but they are under the same bombing and shelling the others face,” the archbishop said.
An uprising against President Bashar Assad’s government began in March 2011. Thousands of civilians have died in the fighting since then, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. The U.N. refugee agency said July 17 that the number of Syrians seeking refuge outside the country has risen sharply in the past three months, with some 112,000 Syrian refugees now registered in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Archbishop Zenari said, “The international community must speak with one voice; otherwise the parties involved in the conflict won’t listen.” The nuncio said he was not lobbying for any specific international intervention, but “too much time has already passed. There are many ways to reach a consensus.”
Some Christian leaders in Syria have questioned the pro-democracy efforts to oust Assad, pointing out how religious liberty and the Christian communities have been protected under his leadership.
“The future is difficult to foresee,” the archbishop said. “Until now, there has been a good level of freedom of religion in Syria and good relations between Christians and Muslims. It could be difficult if that changed.”
We are still hard at work ensuring that Syrians who have fled the chaos are cared for. Learn more about our emergency Syria fund on our website.
16 July 2012
Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Syriac Orthodox Church Church
A young student takes notes at Bethlehem Day Care Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
In Ethiopia, CNEWA has long supported education at all levels. Seeing children, like the eager scholar pictured above, fully immersed in their education and keen to learn, helps us to know we are making a difference. Last fall, we shared a similar image out of Ethiopia: some very enthusiastic children outside of the Bethlehem Day Care Center, run by the Good Shepherd sisters.
13 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Children Sisters Education
A family stands outside their home, which the prison ministry helped build, in Paracode, a village near Ernakulum. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague wrote about a prison ministry in Ernakulum, Kerala. Led by a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest, the ministry helps rehabilitate ex-prisoners like Rajesh:
Once he got out of jail, Rajesh spent several months at the ministry’s center, Shanti Bhavan, which means Home for Peace, in the small town of Edappally. Here Rajesh received additional counseling and job training, turning farther away from his life of crime.
Finally, Rajesh and Father Joy visited Rajesh’s family. Father Joy spent two hours with his wife. He assured her that Rajesh had indeed changed. This was not just some act to get back into her good graces. Okay, she said, I’ll give him one more chance.
Today, Rajesh and his family live in a rented house. He does laundry for Indian Railways, a job the ministry arranged. They are poor but are saving to buy their own home. The ministry may help out. It has helped purchase about 50 modest homes for ex-convicts, who do not gain control of the title for 10 years to ensure they do not return to crime.
“We are poor, but I’m very happy,” Rajesh said. “Now, I have a life I never dreamed possible.”
For more, read Prison Ministry In Kerala.
12 July 2012
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Homes/housing
Bedouin men perform at a restaurant in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Greg Tarczynksi)
Yesterday, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra played a concert in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo to celebrate the feast of St. Benedict, patron of Europe. Pope Benedict XVI spoke afterward, thanking the performers and reflecting on the unifying effect of music:
“Music,”, the pontiff continued, “is the harmony of differences … from the multiplicity of tones of the various instruments a symphony can arise. However, this doesn’t happen magically or automatically. It comes only from … a patient and laborious commitment, which requires time and sacrifices in the effort to listen to one another, avoiding excessive egoism and privileging the best success of the whole.”
Continuing, the Pope emphasized that the symphonies that were performed, Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth, express two aspects of life: “drama and peace; humanity’s struggle against adversity and its enlightening immersion in a bucolic environment. The message I would like to draw from it for today is this: to achieve peace we must dedicate ourselves to dialogue with a personal and communal conversion, patiently seeking possible areas of understanding.”
For more, read Universal Language of Music, Hope for Peace from the Vatican News Service.
11 July 2012
Tags: Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Jordan Cultural Identity Amman
Capuchin Franciscans take a break from a continuing education and formation program for catechists in Bhurat, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Through this blog, Msgr. John Kozar has shared countless stories and photos that make the world seem a lot smaller and bring you closer to the people we serve. Back in April, Msgr. Kozar shared some inspiring stories from his first pastoral visit to Ethiopia:
Another very inspiring experience on this day was a brief visit to a class being given to catechists, as part of their continuing education and formation program. And to me an amazing part of their story is that each of them has been chosen for this most important role by their respective communities. They must be men and women of great faith, willing to share their faith with others as catechists.
The big campus at Bhurat also includes a health clinic. Two sisters from India run it and do a superb job in offering first-rate healthcare in an environment of loving kindness. We ended our visit with a marvelous meal, which included the ritual roasting of coffee beans and serving of rich Ethiopian coffee. With us for the entire visit to this site were the elders, almost serving as our security team and “honor guard.” In fact, the honor was all ours.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s detailed blog series from his time spent in Ethiopia, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
10 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Seminarians Ethiopian Catholic Church
Coach Gevorg Shushanian gives boxing lessons at an Armenian school.
(photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the March 2009 issue of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan wrote about some of the obstacles facing Armenia’s impoverished communities. In A Fragile Lifeline, we learned that children of these communities are often forgotten or left behind. That is where the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception step in and do their best to fulfill the basic needs of these forgotten children:
“I also miss my mother very much. We have not seen her for two months,” she said, shyly pulling the picture from her pocket.
“The only joy in these children’s life is the sisters’ center. They forget everything when they go there,” their grandmother said of the Our Lady of Armenia Center.
Run by the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, the day care center, with funding from CNEWA, has been providing a host of services to the region’s needy children since 1994. Currently, the day care center serves more than 2,000 children.
“Our children receive food, clothes and stationery. They teach them. They even give them lessons in music and take them to camp in the summer,” said Mrs. Movsesian. “I think sometimes that, were it not for the center, what would we do?”
For more, read A Fragile Lifeline.
Tags: Children Armenia Georgia