19 September 2017
Sister Anahid, a Dominican sister of St. Catherine of Siena, administers a primary school in Dohuk. Read more about efforts to keep hope alive in Iraq in ‘God Wants Me Here,’ a web exclusive story from our March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Paul Jeffrey)
18 September 2017
U.S. Army veteran Rocio Villanueva, 31, from Escondido, California, prays on the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem while touring the Holy Land with the Heroes to Heroes program on 11 September. The program brings wounded veterans to the Holy Land to tour with wounded Israeli veterans. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, U.S. Army veteran Rocio Villanueva fell onto the stone of the unction where tradition holds that Jesus was laid out after his crucifixion and touched her head to the smoothed surface.
Injured during a tour of duty in Iraq and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the 31-year-old engineering specialist and mother of four was raised in a Catholic home but had slowly lost touch with her faith. After almost a week in the Holy Land as part of the second group of women veterans participating in the Heroes to Heroes program, Villanueva felt a spiritual renewal.
“Since the third day I got here I felt a healing in my heart. At the Church of the Annunciation (in Nazareth), I felt so good and able to speak to God,” said Villanueva, a member of St. Mary Catholic Church in Escondido, California.
“My family has been able help me physically, but with the part I have inside of me, it has been really hard to open up. I had so much anger in my heart and was so sad, I could cry about anything. Here I felt my heart open up. I went to confession and I felt that God was talking to me through the priest,” she said.
Since its founding six years ago by Judy Isaacson Schaffer, a Teaneck, New Jersey, marketing and sales professional whose father and grandfather served in the military, Heroes to Heroes has taken 14 groups of U.S. veterans — including those who served in Vietnam — to meet with their Israeli counterparts and visit holy sites. It is a peer-support program with the goal of helping achieve spiritual healing and preventing suicide.
Villanueva’s group was in the Holy Land 5-12 September. Participants visited Bethlehem, were baptized in the Jordan River and joined in the Israeli memorial ceremony commemorating the 9/11 attacks in New York and elsewhere.
With 22 U.S. veterans committing suicide every day, Schaffer said she recognized the need to reach out to those veterans suffering the most from PTSD, just as her father had volunteered with veterans from earlier wars. Because less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces — a small fraction of whom are women — many veterans feel isolated when they return, she said.
The peer-to-peer encounter with Israeli veterans, some of whom have also experienced traumatic injuries, as well as discussions within their own group allow the U.S. veterans to see that it is possible to move forward from their challenging experiences, Schaffer explained.
Participants are asked to stay in contact with members of their group for a year after the visit.
Most of the veteran services available in the U.S. are geared towards male veterans, and perhaps because of this lack of institutional and communal support, more women veterans commit suicide than men, Schaffer said.
In addition to combat trauma, some women have also been victims of military sexual trauma, she said.
“I will never get over (the trauma), but I can get past it,” said U.S. Army veteran Rory Shaffer, 42. A mother of three, Shaffer served twice in Iraq and was severely injured in a blast which killed three of her friends. She also witnessed the suicide of another friend while on combat duty.
“Within my household, I have support but the rest of my family just thinks I should get over it,” Shaffer said. “I have been suffering. I was not expecting that one-third of the group would say this group saved their lives.”
15 September 2017
Syrian refugee families receive Eucharist at the Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Zahleh, a large Christian town in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. To learn more about how Syrian refugees live alongside Lebanese citizens, read Hardship and Hospitality, from the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
14 September 2017
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees
Sister Aurelia, 86-years-old, shares a comforting moment with Mother Superior, Sister Bonifatia.
CNEWA’s president Msgr. John Kozar and CNEWA Canada’s national director Carl Hétu are on a pastoral visit to Ukraine. Among the places they visited: a crumbling house where elderly religious sisters are living. Mr. Hétu sent us this image and wrote:
We visited three elderly sisters living in awful conditions. No running water, small shack, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Terrible. Here you are with sisters that lived underground [during the Soviet era] and risked their lives to preserve Christ’s teaching and they live like this. The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate understand this and are trying to renovate an old building. But there is a long way to go and it is very expensive, and most likely not equipped for people with no or little mobility.
To read more about the church in Ukraine, and the challenges Catholics are facing there, check out these stories from our magazine:
Out From Underground
13 September 2017
Immediately after Wednesday’s general audience, Pope Francis met the Rev.Thomas Uzhunnalil, freed yesterday after 18 months in captivity in Yemen. Before offering him a blessing, the pope kissed his hand. (photo: ANS/Salesian News Agency)
12 September 2017
Fadia Shamieh, from the Palestinian Christian town of Beit Jala, plays with children inside the St. Rachel Center in Jerusalem. To learn more about this institution founded by the St. James Vicariate of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to care for the children of migrant workers, read Found in Translation, in the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Ilene Perlman)
11 September 2017
Tags: Children Israel Jerusalem Migrants
Mekhitarist Father Hovsep spends a moment with a camper after liturgy. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Several years ago, we paid a visit to summer camps for kids in Armenia and Georgia — camps that are offering young people fresh air and fresh hope:
Religious devotions and catechism constitute a significant portion of the day at Diramayr. Days begin and end with prayer, while catechism class is a daily feature. Sunday mornings are reserved for the celebration of the Soorp Badarak, the Divine Liturgy.
Because few Armenians belong to the Armenian Catholic Church (just 220,000 of its 2.9 million citizens), most of those who attend the camp nominally belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the historic faith community of the Armenian people. The two churches share the same culture, liturgy and traditions (only full communion with the Church of Rome distinguishes Catholic from Armenian Apostolic Christians), thus sparing the camp from religious discord.
Summer camp would not be summer camp if the campers had their heads stuck in their Bibles or catechisms all day. Children study languages (French or English), art and computers and also have plenty of time for sports and outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing. They also take day trips to nearby Lake Sevan and visit the ancient historical monuments that dot Armenia’s countryside.
While most of the day is scheduled, the campers also have free time to horse around in the playground or chat with their friends.
Read more about Kids’ Camps in the Caucasus in the November 2007 edition of ONE.
8 September 2017
The haunting melodies of the Armenian liturgy are chanted by a choir in the Beirut suburb of Bourj Hammoud. Learn more about life in Lebanon’s Little Armenia in the July 2002 edition of our magazine. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
7 September 2017
Brooklyn’s Coptic Catholic community includes parishioners from New York and New Jersey — but it traces its history to first century Egypt and the apostle Mark. Learn more about the Coptic Catholic Church in this profile from 2007. (photo: Maria Bastone)
6 September 2017
Children gather for prayer at the start of morning assembly at St. Antony's English Medium School in Karottukara, India. Many around the world are now returning to school after summer break. To learn how this school in India is changing lives, and giving villagers their first taste of a secondary education, check out Education as a Common Goal in the September-October 2003 edition of our magazine. (photo: Sean Sprague)