7 October 2014
Father Kevin O’Connell baptizes a child at Sacred Heart Church in Amman.
(photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
In 2011, we took a closer look at the lives of Filipino migrants working in Jordan, and discovered they were finding sustenance in their faith while far from home:
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem established Sacred Heart parish in 1996 to serve Amman’s swelling Catholic migrant community. Among the families are a scattering of Europeans and North Americans, most of whom work in the foreign embassies of the posh Jabal Al Weibdeh neighborhood that surrounds the church. A few wear bright salwar kameez, the traditional pajama-like trousers worn by men and women from the Indian subcontinent. The vast majority, however, are Filipino women.
“It was a little strange for me in church at first,” says Father Kevin O’Connell, who has led the parish since its inception 15 years ago. “You’d look out to an entire congregation of women.”
A congenial 67-year-old Jesuit priest from Boston, who wears slacks and sandals under his vestments, Father O’Connell, looks and acts the part of a wise, friendly grandfather.
He helps the choir and he holds the lease on a house where the choir rehearses and other church groups gather. Father O’Connell also oversees the Sacred Heart youth basketball team and helped a group of youngsters from the church secure a space in the Jesuit Fathers’ center where they can breakdance.
Most important, Father O’Connell spends much of his energy responding to the spiritual, emotional and material needs of his predominantly Filipino congregation and other Filipino migrants in the country.
“I understood that the first task was to give people a place where they could be at home,” says Father O’Connell. “For these people, just the ongoing, regular liturgy — with Filipino music, with people reading, with them being able to participate in whatever way they want — gives a strand of consistency and continuity. It’s their home. It’s their place. In most cases, there’s no place else they can gather.”
Though some have jobs at the Philippine Embassy or in international organizations, most are domestic workers. They live in their employers’ homes and work long hours. Many experience intense feelings of loneliness and homesickness. They often have families back home whom they miss desperately.
Read more about Filipinos Far From Home in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
6 October 2014
Men gather for class in Navachaithanya, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center established in 1991 by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Irinjalakuda, in Kerala. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
Al Jazeera recently published this video, calling attention to Kerala’s high rates of alcohol abuse:
In the July 2005 issue of ONE, we shined a spotlight on this issue, and on one institution the Syro-Malabar Church created to help address this problem:
Kerala has the highest consumption of alcohol per capita in the country (about 20 percent of Indians drink alcohol, and of that number 5 percent are alcoholics, reported The Hindustan Times last year). Each year, the state consumes 2.2 gallons of liquor per capita, about three times the national rate, according to India’s Outlook magazine.
“In Kerala, people tend to start drinking once they are 18 years old, which is the legal age for being able to purchase liquor,” said Father Titus Kattuparambil, a Syro-Malabar priest of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda and assistant director of Navachaithanya.
“Among the bad cases, you’ll see people who earn about three dollars a day, and they’ll blow two dollars of that on alcohol.”
Both national and local governments have acknowledged the problem of alcoholism, and alcohol advertising is illegal. Kerala’s state government also funds several detoxification centers at public hospitals. But at the same time, Father Titus pointed out, the government in Kerala — as in other Indian states — draws revenue from liquor taxes and therefore has a fiscal disincentive to curb alcohol consumption.
Nonetheless, in 1996 the state government banned the consumption of arrack, a potent liquor made from fermented palm sap (and not to be confused with the arak liquor of the Arab world). The government thought the ban on arrack, which is much stronger than toddy, would help curb alcoholism. The prohibition, however, only encouraged illegal traffic and production. Hundreds of Keralites have been killed or blinded from drinking bad batches of home-brewed arrack. And alcohol consumption continues to rise.
It has largely been left to religious organizations and NGOs to treat Kerala’s alcoholics.
“Alcohol has always been a problem here, it’s not just recently,” said Syro-Malabar Bishop James Pazhayattil of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda. “Several years ago, people approached me about the problem in our community and we started Navachaithanya.” Since then, the center has treated more than 8,000 men for alcoholism or drug addiction, though alcohol is by far the area’s larger problem.
Read the rest here.
3 October 2014
Tags: India Kerala Health Care Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Alcoholism
In Gangapar, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a brick house protects the children of Jasvir Singh from floods. The children attend a school run by the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Bijnor and funded by CNEWA. To read more about life in Gangapar, read Caste Aside, published in the Summer 2014 issue of ONE. (photo: John Mathew)
2 October 2014
Tags: India Children Indian Christians Indian Catholics Catholic education
Displaced people fleeing violence in Iraq walk toward the Syrian border town of Elierbeh. Pope Francis opened a three-day summit on 2 October on the violence and persecution underway in the Middle East, saying arms trafficking was the root cause of many problems in the region. To help those Iraqis who have been displaced, please visit this page. (photo: CNS/Rodi Said, Reuters)
1 October 2014
Local residents stand next to the debris of a house hit by a mortar shell from the Syrian side of the border in Alanyurt village near the Turkish-Syrian border on 29 September. A Syrian priest on a U.S. mission trip says amid ongoing death and destruction in the Middle East, the Catholic Church continues to provide spiritual and material support for those in need.
(photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
The military attacks on Syria are having a powerful impact on the lives of ordinary families:
After telling parishioners and students in the religious education program at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Parish about what is happening in Syria, Father Rodrigo Miranda was impressed that a 13-year-old girl was one of the first to respond.
“She came up to me and immediately asked: ‘What can we do to help?’” said Father Miranda, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
As the current pastor at the cathedral in Aleppo, Syria, Father Miranda is hoping that all Catholics would be just as quick to generously respond to the needs of fellow Christians in the Middle East.
For the past three years, he said, Aleppo has been embroiled in a violent civil war that has destroyed the once-thriving Syrian city that is home to about 2.5 million people. While the vast majority of inhabitants are Muslim, Father Miranda said there is a small contingent of Christians living in Aleppo. “A few years ago, I’d say maybe 15 percent of the population was Christian,” Father Miranda told The Anchor, newspaper of the Fall River diocese. “Now, I think it’s closer to 10 percent, if not less. We are clearly the minority within the community.”
He said that not only are Christians in the minority, they often find themselves caught in the middle of the warring factions on either side of the conflict. More than 70,000 people — mostly civilians — have been killed and more than 3 million Syrians have been displaced since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. In addition, some 1.1 million people have taken refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
“The problem is you have Palestinians on one side, Arabs on the other, and the Christians are stuck in the middle,” Father Miranda said. “Both sides have preconceptions about the other,” he added.
“People have their own beliefs and they don’t understand or appreciate the other’s style of life.” While “everyone receives some form of help from the United Nations,” Father Miranda said Christians must rely solely on the Catholic Church for support. “Our mission (in Syria) is to evangelize the culture,” Father Miranda said. “We are trying to bring Christ to the people. We go to the places where the church can’t go due to circumstances.”
Read more about what CNEWA is doing to help the men, women and children of Syria here. And to offer your support, visit this page.
30 September 2014
The tide of refugees fleeing air strikes in Syria is growing. In the image above, Syrian Kurdish refugees walk with their belongings on 29 September after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc. (photo: CNS/Murad Sezer, Reuters)
29 September 2014
Pope Francis greets emeritus Pope Benedict XVI during an encounter for the elderly in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 28 September. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the elderly in St. Peter’s Square — one that brought together again the pontiff and his predecessor. During the Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the plight facing many older men and women:
The wisdom and love of older people are instrumental for building the future, and they can even cheer up grumpy teenagers, the pope said.
“It’s very good for you to go visit an older person. Look at our kids. Sometimes we see them being listless and sad; (if) they go visit an older person, they become happy,” he said.
“Older people, grandparents have an ability to understand very difficult situations, a great talent. And when they pray about these situations, their prayers are strong and powerful.”
But there are many who instead prey on their fragilities, and the pope warned against the “inhuman” violence being waged against the elderly and children in areas of conflict.
Harm can also be waged quietly, he said, through many forms of neglect and abandonment, which “are a real and true hidden euthanasia.”
People need to fight against “this poisonous throwaway culture,” which targets children, young people and the elderly, on “the pretext of keeping the economic system ‘balanced,’ where the focus is not on the human being but on the god of money.”
While residential care facilities are important for those who don’t have a family who can care for them, it’s important these institutes be “truly like homes, not prisons,” the pope said, and that their placement there is in the best interest of the older person, “not someone else.”
The summer edition of ONE looked closely at this issue, with a poignant glimpse into the lives of the “new orphans” of Armenia and Georgia:
For Georgia, a society with a long, cherished tradition of multigenerational households that take care of their own from cradle to grave, the idea of a senior citizen with no money and no family used to be unthinkable. As part of the Soviet Union, Georgians were insulated by a state-run system of health care: doctors were plentiful and medicine was cheap. The question of who would take care of grandma or grandpa in their old age was never an issue.
Today, however, with widespread poverty pushing families apart — many emigrate to Russia, or abroad — it is becoming more common.
Tsiala Gogodze, 74, used to arrange tours and official visits for dignitaries when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. With a smattering of English to flavor her fluent Russian and Georgian, Ms. Gogodze laments the loneliness that gnawed at the seniors before they found the center and each other.
“You know what is horrible? No one needs people like us, not our relations, not anyone,” she says. “That is horrible.”
Family is a crucial part of Georgian culture, and the expectation that one’s family will always be there runs deep in the national psyche. Without family to look after them, or visit with them, many of the seniors who now visit the center had no one to talk with them or even care about them.
26 September 2014
Tags: Armenia Georgia Pope
With their country undergoing continuing air strikes targeting ISIS, some Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries. Here, a number of refugees wait at the Turkish border near Sanliurfa,
on 24 September. (photo: CNS/Sedat Suna, EPA)
25 September 2014
An Iraqi family that fled ISIS gathers at a table in one of the refugee centers in Jordan. To read a full report on the flood of refugees pouring into Jordan, visit this link. (photo: CNEWA)
24 September 2014
A cross atop a temporary building in downtown Erbil, Iraq, marks the office of Syriac Catholic Archbishop Boutros Moshe of Mosul — one of more than 130,000 Christians displaced by ISIS who are now seeking refuge in Erbil. To learn more, read the latest report on the refugee situation.