13 October 2017
The Rev. Wladyslaw Brzezinski blesses tourists outside the Church of the Visitation on 5 October in Jerusalem. Franciscan Father Brzezinski has been superior at the church for the past 10 years.
(photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
On his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land just at the outbreak of the intifada, the Rev. Wladyslaw Brzezinski was awed by the quiet contemplation with which a fellow friar was able to pray under a sprawling sabra cactus in the courtyard of the Church of the Visitation.
Little did he know that his life’s path would eventually lead him back to this Franciscan shrine which, according to Christian tradition, marks the home of Elizabeth and Zachariah and commemorates the meeting between Mary her cousin, Elizabeth, when Mary recited the Magnificat as Elizabeth announced she was pregnant.
Franciscan Father Brzezinski, who wanted to be sent as a missionary to Africa, followed his vow of obedience and remained in Poland. In 2003, his superiors sent him to the Holy Land, where the Franciscan custos and his staff serve as guardians of the Catholic holy places and welcome pilgrims.
Upon his arrival, Father Brzezinski, now 53, spent seven months serving at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and four years at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, three of them as the superior. But for the past 10 years, he has been superior at the Church of the Visitation.
Nestled at the top of a steep stairway in the sleepy Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Karem, on the outskirt of the southern part of the city, the shrine where he and one other Franciscan live is far from the local Christian community.
“The Church of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre are very important for Christians,” said Father Brzezinski. “In the Holy Sepulcher, (religious) life is 24 hours a day ... it is very special for this, but it is also a very difficult life.”
Working as superior at the Holy Sepulchre, with its rigorous prayer schedule and hundreds of daily visitors, can be very trying, he said, noting that while other friars have a week off every five weeks, the superior does not.
Coming to serve at this smaller shrine was like coming to a “sanatorium,” he said, where he now has time for his own prayers and to pray for others who have asked for his prayers. He also has time to spend a few moments with some of the pilgrims who visit the shrine.
“When I am looking at people, 70 years old, going up those stairs slowly — those are holy people, they want to touch these stones, the story of the New Testament,” he said.
As the Franciscans celebrate the 800th year anniversary of their presence in the Holy Land, the sacred role the 300 friars from 34 countries continue to play is a blessing, he said.
“We are continuing our mission until now. We have never followed the politics (of the time) but we have always been here for the holy sites and the pilgrims and (local Christians) who need us. It is a very important mission,” he said.
The Church of the Visitation is one of 29 shrines in the care of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. On a busy day, the church receives up to 20 pilgrimage groups, he said, though some days there are none. Father Brzezinski and the other friar have begun to work on the garden to make it more inviting for pilgrims and visitors, so they will stay for a bit longer than the average half-hour visit and contemplate the miracle of the place, he said. Many of the Jewish neighbors also come to visit and, often on Saturdays, Jewish Israelis from around the country are among the visitors.
“They are very kind people, very gentle people,” he said. “We have the occasion to have a meeting here, like Mary and Elizabeth. It is a very good occasion to be together.”
In this way, he said, the shrine seems to still reflect the meeting between Mary, representing the New Testament, and Elizabeth, representing the Old Testament.
In a crypt below the modern day church, the “rock of concealment” marks the spot where tradition holds St. John and Elizabeth were hidden from Herod’s soldiers. The compound also consists of Byzantine-era ruins and a well-preserved Crusader hall.
Following the Muslim defeat of the Crusaders, the church fell into disrepair, though it was under the care of Armenian monks for a time. The Franciscans, who returned to the Holy Land in 1217, purchased the property from an Arab family in the mid-16th century.
Recently, a group of Polish-American pilgrims admired the mosaic verses from the Magnificat on a wall of the courtyard. One woman from the group spied Father Brzezinski and asked him for his blessing, and others in her group quickly formed a line behind her.
The priest said it is these moments that are most precious to him.
“I want to understand their life, why they are asking for a blessing. Sometimes they tell me, sometimes it is between them and God,” he said.
12 October 2017
Ethiopian young people celebrate the conclusion of a summer religious festival in Adigrat, supported in part by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Several days ago, we received an inspiring report from our regional office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, describing the success of a summer feeding project, which included a large festival bringing together hundreds of young people.
Tarekegn Umoro, the programs officer in Addis Ababa, writes:
Pointing his finger towards all the youth, who were singing outside the hall in the evening, holding lit candles and waving their hands on the air, [youth minister] Eyob Hailesilassie said, “Look how they are praising the Lord! Do you think that they forget this moments in their lives? They never forget! We are very much satisfied, thanks to CNEWA and to all who supported this summer program.”
You can read the full account here.
11 October 2017
A priest presides at the liturgy at the Church of the Blessed Nicholas Charnetskoho in Liviv, Ukraine. To learn about some of the millions of Ukrainians who are working to rebuild their lives after a three-year war, read The Displaced in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Ivan Chernichkin)
10 October 2017
Churches work to meet the needs of displaced families in Ain Kawa, near Erbil.
(photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
In the current edition of ONE, CNEWA’s president Msgr. John E. Kozar reflects on the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East right now, and the extraordinary work CNEWA is able to do, thanks to the generosity of our donors. He writes:
What a humbling experience for me during my many pastoral visits in the Middle East, when I see firsthand the courageous acts of love and mercy carried out by a dwindling family of Christians — those who are victimized, those who are hungry, those who suffer — for all, Christian or not. Their faith in our Lord is overpowering. Whatever we can do to assist them pales in comparison to their sacrifices. We are honored to accompany them.
Do the good works of the church make a difference and bring us closer to peace in the Middle East? Absolutely and positively. It does not matter how many Christians remain, because Christ is present in each one of them. They share Christ with all, including those of different faith traditions and even with the oppressor and the persecutor.
Read more and see more of his images here. And watch the video below, where he talks at length about the faith and fervor of the people we are privileged to serve.
6 October 2017
A Franciscan sister of the Cross guides a patient through Our Lady’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill in Lebanon. Read more about how the church is Reaching the Margins in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
5 October 2017
For residents of Smakieh, Jordan — both young and old — their parish lies at the center of social life. Read how CNEWA is trying to preserve an ancient way of life among Jordan’s Christian Shepherds in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
4 October 2017
Clergy, religious and laypeople of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia pose for a photo with newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception 24 September in Philadelphia.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia)
The newly ordained auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia said on 24 September that he was so “full of joy” about his new role serving the faithful that it was hard to put it into words.
“Today I am full of joy. This is how I feel right now,” Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy said in his homily during the hierarchical Divine Liturgy. “My joy is hard to express. My heart is overflowing. I am so happy to be with you.”
Clergy, religious and laypeople welcomed Bishop Rabiy to the archeparchy with the liturgy celebrated by the bishop at the golden-domed Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Archbishop Stefan Soroka, head of the archeparchy and metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, was the presider and offered words of welcome.
“Our archeparchy is blessed with many priests who are dedicated and capable to exercise leadership within our church,” the archbishop said. “From amidst this talented family of priests, God has called our young Bishop Andriy Rabiy to provide spiritual leadership as our auxiliary bishop.”
Bishop Rabiy, vicar general and a pastor, was consecrated a bishop 3 September in St. George’s Cathedral in his native Lviv, Ukraine. The co-consecrators were Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Soroka and Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton, Alberta.
He was named a bishop 8 August by Pope Francis, who confirmed his election by the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. At 41, he is the youngest Catholic bishop in the United States.
During the Divine Liturgy in Philadelphia, Msgr. Dennis Kuruppassry, a representative of Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, offered greetings from the nuncio and presented the papal bull on the new bishop’s appointment. It was read in Ukrainian by Father Roman Pitula, the cathedral rector, and in English by Archpriest Michael Hutsko, dean of the South Anthracite deanery.
Bishop Rabiy presented the bull to the congregation, who responded with the traditional acclamation “Axios!” (“He Is Worthy!”)
Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy displays the official apostolic letter from Pope Francis appointing him as an auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. He held up the letter during a 24 September hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.
(photo: CNS/courtesy Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia)
In his homily, Bishop Rabiy recalled the verses from Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, my soul; and do not forget all his gifts.”
“Truly the joy is overwhelming,” he told the congregation about serving them as a bishop. “It is such a beautiful feeling.”
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, Auxiliary Bishop John Bura, of the Philadelphia archeparchy, welcomed his brother bishop on behalf of the clergy, religious and laity.
Bishop Bura recalled the life experiences of both Bishop Rabiy and the situation of the persecuted Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ukraine in the 20th century. The underground church, the church of the catacombs, was the church Bishop Rabiy experienced in his home country.
“Bishop Andriy grew up in two worlds, two realities, in Ukraine and in America,” Bishop Bura said. “As a 17-year-old youth, he responded to Christ’s call. He entered the seminary in Ivano-Frankivsk and eventually St. Josaphat Seminary in Washington, D.C. He’s lived in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“As a bishop, he will reveal the faith and beauty of our church to all believers,” he added.
After Bishop Bura’s remarks, Bishop Rabiy went up and down the aisles of the spacious cathedral blessing the congregation with holy water.
Bishop Rabiy will continue as pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Reading and administrator of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Lancaster, a newly formed mission parish which he founded in February 2013.
Bishops who concelebrated the Divine Liturgy of welcome included Bishop Bura; Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; Archbishop William C. Skurla of the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh; Bishop Kurt R. Burnette of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic, New Jersey; Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Deliman of the Latin Archdiocese of Philadelphia; retired Bishop Basil H. Losten of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Stamford; and retired Bishop James C. Timlin of the Latin Diocese of Scranton. Several priests also concelebrated and Deacons Michael Waak and Paul M. Spotts assisted.
Seminarians from St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Seminary Washington were the altar servers. Liturgical responses were sung by the choir of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington.
3 October 2017
Slewa Shamoon Aba displays a broken crucifix in the garden of his home. With the exit of ISIS, many Iraqi Christians are returning to their homes and villages and trying to rebuild.
(photo: Raed Rafei)
In the September 2017 edition of ONE, photojournalist Raed Rafei visits once-displaced Iraq Christians who are returning to home and having to make some Hard Choices:
Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qaraqosh served as a commercial hub for the entire region of the Nineveh Plain. Since the landmines were cleared and the area was declared safe in April, some 500 families have returned — a fraction of the pre-war population of 50,000.
Yet the simple fact that they are here tells a story of resilience, determination and faith.
In a once-bustling commercial neighborhood known simply as Al Souk (Arabic for “market”), locals have begun the mammoth task of clearing away rubble. With a shovel in hand and a black hat, Bahnam Matti, 72, removes detritus from what had been a clothes shop, now desolate with large holes in the ceiling. Every now and then, he pauses to wipe the sweat off his face with a pink towel placed on his shoulder.
Across the street, a woman in a bright red and blue dress sprays water from a hose on the entrance of her scorched restaurant. Others paint walls or cut wood panels, undaunted by the scale of destruction — scores of collapsed rooftops, smashed storefronts and hills of accumulated debris.
...Despite some shy rebuilding efforts by churches and homeowners, the estimated $70 million needed for the overall reconstruction of Qaraqosh still looms large. Several organizations have pledged to help with large finances, but substantial aid has not materialized yet.
The condition of Qaraqosh is not very different from that of most Christian towns in the Nineveh Plain, which typically report damage to 30 to 40 percent of structures — houses, schools, public institutions, churches, monasteries and hospitals alike.
But some towns, such as Batnaya, have been rendered completely uninhabitable, reporting 85 percent of buildings demolished under heavy aerial bombardment
Read more — and check out the video below.
2 October 2017
Students at the Father Roberts Institute in Lebanon study ecology in a greenhouse area. Learn how the church is serving these young people and others by Reaching the Margins in the
September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
29 September 2017
Sisters Luma and Montaha, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, visit Qaraqosh’s Church of Sts. Behnam and Sarah, damaged by ISIS. The church was built in 2008. Read more about Iraqi Christians returning to their homes in the Nineveh Plain in Hard Choices, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
Tags: Iraq Violence against Christians Iraqi Christians