15 March 2012
Teacher Manna Gebreyons, interacts with her students at a Catholic school in the Tigrayan village of Sebia, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2009, we interviewed Sister Winifred Doherty, a member of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, about empowering women in Ethiopia. She stressed the importance of knowledge as a tool of empowerment. Having access to education provides the opportunity for success and prosperity. Though Catholics are a minority in Ethiopia, Catholic-run schools are making a difference. Take a look at our interview with Sister Winifred Doherty below:
14 March 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Catholic Schools
A woman stands in the window pane of her future home in the Eparchy of Trivandrum in Kerala, built with funds raised by CNEWA. (photo: John E. Kozar)
As a part of his pastoral visit to India, CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar visited with families who are benefitting from the support of CNEWA donors in the construction of new homes. These homes are more sound and spacious structures than their former cramped “shanty” houses. Msgr. Kozar described these visits as a high point of his trip because he was able to see the tangible results of CNEWA’s best efforts:
Only a few kilometers away, but on an unmarked road, we were led by one of the priests to a mountainous area that has no community name, no zip code and no street address. In fact, our vehicle could only go so far and then we had to walk the rest of the way. Our purpose in this visit was to offer our solidarity and support to the poorest of the poor for whom we are helping in the construction of homes. By the way, these people are of the Dalit group, which means they are the so-called “untouchables” in India’s illegal but powerful caste system.
The project of building these homes is a combined effort of CNEWA, the Indian government and the parish outreach; in some instances, a very modest share is borne by the poor themselves. To understand the contrasts between the hovels in which these dalits live to the beauty and dignity as witnessed in the homes under construction is impossible. One mother showed us her one-room shanty — that housed five people — that was about the size of a small bathroom in Canada or the states. Even though her new home is still under construction, and very rough in appearance, she beamed with pride as she took us through the modest dwelling.
We had the good fortune to visit with two other families whose new homes are under construction. We were accompanied visit by two priests, who related very comfortably and beautifully with these, the poorest of the poor. On your behalf, I accepted the heartfelt and emotional expressions of gratitude for the generosity of CNEWA in giving these supposed “untouchables” dignity of life for the first time in their lives.
These visits were perhaps the high point in my visit so far as they reflected so well the best efforts of CNEWA in reaching out to the poor in this part of the world.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s 2 March blog post from the field, In the Footsteps of St. Thomas: Reaching Out to the ”Untouchables.“ To read all of Msgr. Kozar’s blog posts from his visit to India click here.
13 March 2012
Tags: India Kerala Homes/housing Dalits
A photo of Sally, a young Iraqi woman in Jordan, taken in April 2010. (photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
In May of 2010 we were introduced to Sally, a lovely young Iraqi refugee in Jordan, by Sister Wardeh of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. Sister Wardeh, a good friend and warrior for CNEWA, has worked with displaced Iraqis since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. Sally’s story was especially poignant: this vibrant 19-year-old woman was battling cancer. Her chemotherapy was no longer working and she needed expensive surgery. CNEWA friends were able to rally behind Sally and her family. We raised $15,000 in one day to pay for her surgery. That gave Sally the precious gift of life, and the blessing of time.
Sadly, the time was short. We heard some sad news from Sister Wardeh recently: after a brave battle against the disease, Sally had “gone home to God.” We remember Sally and her family in our prayers, and we also remember those who cared for her so lovingly — people like Sister Wardeh. We are so thankful she introduced us to Sally — and thankful, too, that our CNEWA family was able to pull together and help her when she needed it most.
Join us this month as we celebrate the work of sisters like Sister Wardeh in the lives of women like Sally.
12 March 2012
Tags: Refugees CNEWA Iraqi Christians Jordan Amman
A parishioner leaves St. Elijah Church in Ain Kawa, a mostly Christian neighborhood outside Erbil, Kurdistan’s capital and largest city. (photo: Safin Hamed)
In the November 2011 issue of ONE, we reported that much of Iraq’s Christian population had found a haven in the Kurdish controlled north. Many had fled hostile cities like Mosul and Baghdad and were ready to start a new life in the Kurdish north. Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that Christians are now abandoning the area — due, in part, to lack of employment opportunities and security concerns:
“The consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in its most recent annual report, summarizing the concerns of church leaders.
In January, the International Organization for Migration found that 850 of 1,350 displaced Christian families it was tracking in northern Iraq had left in the past year. Many cited fears about security as well as the strains of finding work, housing and schools in an unfamiliar place where they had few connections and spoke only Arabic, and not Kurdish.
“No one has done anything for us,” said Salim Yono Auffee, a member of the Chaldean/Assyrian Popular Council, a Christian group in northern Iraq. “These people are trying to figure out how to build their futures, to find homes, to get married. And they are leaving Iraq.”
Even in the relative safety of Kurdistan, some Christians say they still live in apprehension. A kidnapping of a Christian businessman in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and a recent outbreak of riots and arson attacks against Christian-owned liquor stores in Dohuk Province — the northernmost in Iraq, along the Turkish border — have deeply unsettled Christian migrants to the area.
For more, read the Times’ article Exodus From North Signals Iraqi Christians’ Slow Decline.
9 March 2012
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians War
A sister treats a patient at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
Today is day two of our “Celebrating Women” campaign. In honor of the courageous women in our region, today’s picture comes from the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. This clinic is run and staffed by the Iraqi Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. Last year 3,600 children received immunizations from the clinic. In December, Msgr. Kozar blogged about his visit to the clinic and the great work and beautiful spirit of the sisters who run this clinic:
We left Amman for densely crowded Zerqa, where we had an appointment to visit the Mother of Mercy Clinic. Perhaps the word “clinic” is a misnomer; this facility teems with activity and offers a multitude of services to a huge number of poor, almost all of whom are Muslim.
I have to tell you, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who run the clinic, are dynamos and command tremendous respect by the hundreds who come each day. Though the facilities are old, humble and crowded, the service provided is exceptional. On a typical day, the dispensary or emergency room might see between 100-140 patients. Additionally, there may be hundred mothers with their infants lined up for vaccinations. There are only two full-time doctors on staff, but they are complimented very well by a trained group of nurses, technicians, midwives, assistants and other helpers who make the delivery of services something to behold. I think our huge mega-hospitals in North America could learn a thing or two with the efficient management style seen here.
But most of all, there is a loving spirit demonstrated by the four sisters who work here and the dedicated staff that collaborates with them. Ra’ed mentioned that most of the staff have been employed at Mother of Mercy for many years, and while they could make greater sums elsewhere, they have made a commitment to stay and serve the poor.
Mother of Mercy is located right beside a huge Palestinian refugee camp, which houses about 80,000 inhabitants. You can imagine the volume of traffic to the clinic on some days, which lies within a compound that includes a parish church, dedicated to St. Pius X, and the parish school.
Another indicator of how beloved the sisters are is the fact that in every instance, save one, all the Muslim women with their children and infants felt very comfortable in allowing me to photograph them. Being cautious, I let one of the sisters accompanying me to ask their permission to take their photograph. I must tell you, the faces of both mother and child were prize-winning smiles, thanks to the sisters.
To learn more about the Mother of Mercy Clinic and the work of the Dominican Sisters, read Mothering Mercies from the May 2009 issue of ONE. To learn how you can help support the work of sisters like the Dominican Sisters, join our Causes page or give on our website.
8 March 2012
Tags: Middle East Jordan Health Care Dominican Sisters
Sister Bincy Joseph assists girls with their homework at Mother Mary Home for Girls in Kerala. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today through 31 March, CNEWA celebrates women. Throughout the month we will share stories about the women who are vital to the work of CNEWA. You can find items here on the blog, through our Facebook page, Twitter, and our newly-minted Causes page. On the Causes page, you can stop by to give toward our $20K matching campaign, share a story, or just show your support and spread the word.
Today’s story comes from the March 2008 edition of ONE. In A Place to Call Home, Sean Sprague reported on the work of a group of sisters at an orphanage for girls in Kerala:
Sister Jean Mary emphasized that Kerala, while largely rural, is densely populated, as much as three times the rest of India. And up to a third of the state’s population live below the poverty level.
Most of the parents of the girls at Mother Mary Home work as day laborers at local quarries, brick factories or large rubber estates. Wages are abysmally low, the work, seasonal and hunger, common. Parents often find it necessary, Sister Jean Mary said, to send their children out to work to supplement their meager incomes. The parents of these girls are so socially and economically marginalized that they never bothered to obtain birth certificates for their children.
As its stated mission, the orphanage offers the children the chance to lead a “fulfilling and self-reliant life in close relation with other people.” To this end, the sisters do their best to create a homey atmosphere, prepare healthy meals, nurture the girls’ spiritual growth and faith in God and encourage them in their academic work so they may find gainful employment as adults.
The girls attend local Catholic elementary schools, which are within walking distance from the orphanage. Classes for kindergartners and students through fourth grade are held at a school half a mile away. Junior high school classes are conducted at a Catholic school two miles away.
For more, read A Place to Call Home. Don't forget to join us on Causes and follow along with our updates throughout the month!
7 March 2012
Tags: India Sisters Orphans/Orphanages
In this photo taken in 2000, Armenian Catholics celebrate Divine Liturgy in a village near Gyumri, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Today, Pope Benedict XVI addressed Middle East Christians in his general audience, encouraging church leaders and faithful in the region to remain hopeful in these arduous times:
“I extend my prayerful thoughts to the regions in the Middle East, encouraging all the priests and faithful to persevere with hope through the serious suffering that afflicts these beloved people,” he said.
The pope made his remarks when he greeted Armenian Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni of Beirut and Armenian bishops from around the world attending their synod in Rome.
At the end of the general audience March 7 in St. Peter’s Square, the pope expressed his “sincere gratitude” for Armenian Catholics’ fidelity to their heritage and traditions, and to the successor of St. Peter.
Such fidelity has always sustained the faithful throughout “the innumerable trials in history,” he said.
The majority of Catholics in the Middle East belong to Eastern Catholic churches — the Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite or Melkite churches.
For more check out the full CNS story in the ‘News’ section of our website. To learn how you can support Middle East Christians, visit our website.
6 March 2012
Tags: Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Armenia Armenian Catholic Church
Deacon Kassahun Teka, age 27, studies for the priesthood in his one-room, windowless dwelling in Meki, a rural town in southern Ethiopia. He belongs to St. Michael’s Church in Meki.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported on the evolution of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s role in encouraging those infected with H.I.V. to take their prescribed drugs while continuing to practice their faith rituals. Similarly, in the September 2009 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on how Ethiopian Orthodox clergy were adjusting to the many social and economical changes in Ethiopia. Among these changes being the general increase in public awareness of public health issues, including H.I.V./AIDS. These changes fueled adjustments to curriculum used in clergy training centers:
“When you see the potential that the members of the clergy have in such development activities, we have to get them engaged. We need to train them. The need is growing for our clergy to be more aware of what’s going on around the world rather than just limited to the Ethiopian situation.”
The program’s current curriculum already reflects this thinking.
“I’d say the curriculum is 60 percent development, 40 percent spiritual,” Dr. Legesse adds.
Participants learn about a number of issues, including alleviating poverty, gender equality, public health and environmental conservation. They also gain practical training in the latest agricultural techniques for the small-scale cultivation of fruits, vegetables, teff and beans. And they learn of the crucial importance of speaking openly with parishioners about traditionally taboo subjects, such as sexual behavior and H.I.V./ AIDS, as well as how to deal appropriately with individuals infected with the virus.
“In earlier times, a young girl went to a priest and told him she had H.I.V.,” recalls Abba Welde Gabriel of St. Michael’s Church in Meki, 12 miles from Ziway. “She asked for a blessing, and the priest said, ‘You’re too young for H.I.V. Go away.’ Now they’ve been trained to address that situation.”
The curriculum also aims to develop and strengthen the clergy’s interpersonal and communication skills. Traditional priestly formation emphasizes memorization, celebrating the liturgy, administering the sacraments, preaching and chanting. In general, this formation does not provide young clergy with the people skills required to lead a parish community in today’s fast-changing world.
“Some priests are born religious people and receive due respect, but others aren’t and don’t. They lack self-confidence,” says Abune Gregorius of Ziway. “You have to consider their position as role models for society. Priests have to live up to that requirement. The clergy training centers help them do that.”
Deacon Kassahun Teka, who serves St. Michael’s Church in Meki, recently completed the clergy training program. The 27-year-old credits it with having made him a more effective minister.
For more, read As It Was, So Shall It Remain?.
5 March 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Ethiopian Orthodox Church HIV/AIDS
In this image from 2006, a sister and children play at Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Complex in Gyumri. (photo: by Armineh Johannes.)
In a country ravaged by wars and earthquakes, the nuns at the Our Lady of Armenia Boghossian Educational Complex have learned to keep their eyes on the ball — and even have some fun. One of those is Sister Arousiag Sajonian, who has done some remarkable work in a troubled corner of Armenia. She spoke with us about it during a recent visit to New York City. You can read part of that conversation in the January 2012 issue of ONE. (You can learn more about the work of the sisters here and here.)
Meantime, you can see more of the interview with Sister Arousiag in the video below.
2 March 2012
A man prays in a Coptic shrine behind the Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
Last month, CNEWA’s Vice President for Development Gabriel Delmonaco, accompanied by our Vice President for the Middle East and Europe Father Guido Gockel, toured the Holy Land with a group of CNEWA benefactors. During their Jerusalem visit, they not only saw first-hand some important CNEWA projects, but they also were able to celebrate Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Here is an excerpt from Gabriel’s final blog post from the field:
When the alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m., I was already awake. The steady sound of the rain hitting the windows and the roofs of the cars woke me up. We all had to be ready by 6:30 to take advantage of the great opportunity to celebrate Mass at the Altar of the Crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Most of us could not believe that, this place that had been so crowded with pilgrims yesterday, would belong entirely to us for 30 minutes today.
As we walked through the wet roads of the Old City, some of the shops opened their doors. The strong smell of Arabic coffee permeated the alleys. Jerusalem was slowly waking up to a new day that for us would bring many unexpected surprises.
We waited for Father Guido at the Altar of the Crucifixion and at 7 a.m. sharp he arrived, escorted by a Franciscan priest. This altar is cared for by the Franciscans. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and other Eastern churches care for other sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. During Mass, we remembered one of our faithful donors from Arizona who will undergo a complicated operation to remove a tumor. This is CNEWA — a family of concerned Christians who care for each other.
For more stories and notes from this trip, check out Gabriel’s blog posts from the field.
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre Coptic Church