Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
11 May 2012
Annie Grunow

One of the leather-bound volumes of meeting minutes housed in our extensive archive.
(photo: Erin Edwards )

Annie Grunow is CNEWA's archivist.

Wait a second… what exactly is an archive, anyway? The Society of American Archivists defines an archive as “the non-current records of individuals, groups, institutions and governments that contain information of enduring value.” The CNEWA archive contains correspondence between offices and with partner organizations, along with financial records, meeting minutes, photographs and more.

As CNEWA’s archivist, I have the responsibility to care for the records generated by our organization over the course of its 86-year history. So... here are five quick highlights that I thought you might find interesting. (Well, I found these interesting, anyway… )

  1. Our earliest record on file dates back to the inception of the agency.
    With a history stretching back to 1924, CNEWA has acquired quite a collection of material documenting its history. Our earliest record is the application for a charter submitted on 30 September 1924. So it really does go back all the way to the very beginning!

  2. We have almost 60 years worth of meeting minutes from the early days of the agency.
    If anyone ever wants to know every tiny detail, it’s all there. We have two leather-bound volumes of meeting minutes that cover the years 1924 to 1979. The minutes are still in good condition and tell us a lot about the agency’s early years.

  3. What did CNEWA publish before ONE? Glad you asked. We have the first publication on file, too.
    In the early days of the agency, CNEWA published a periodical called The Papal Annual. The Annual began publication in 1928. Staying true to the agency’s mandate to educate, it featured articles and illustrations publicizing the achievements of the church in international affairs not covered by the Propagation of the Faith. The Annual never really got off the ground, however, and the 1928 edition was the only one ever published. Today we have ONE, our bimonthly magazine, which you can check out on our website.

  4. At times, it seems like we have more letters than the post office. We even have some letters from sponsored children to donors.
    You might have read Beth Clausnitzer’s blog entry about the letters from children to their sponsors that were recently sent to CNEWA anonymously. The letters are now safely stored in the CNEWA archive. They serve as an example of our donors’ generosity and the good works that CNEWA has performed with the support of our donors.

  5. Someone who had early ties to CNEWA was a future saint.
    Blessed Mother Teresa had a strong connection to CNEWA. We have letters written between Mother Teresa and late Bishop John G. Nolan, former Secretary General of CNEWA (a post in which he served for 21 years), about the collaboration of the Missionaries of Charity with CNEWA. Mother Teresa even visited our New York headquarters back in October of 1970!

Here at CNEWA, we celebrate our long history and wish to share it with our friends and donors as we continue to work together to serve those in need. If you have any questions about the CNEWA archives, feel free to leave a comment below and I'll respond as soon as I can! For detailed inquiries, please call our New York office.


10 May 2012
Erin Edwards

At the Galilee Retreat Center outside Addis Ababa, a sister enjoys a traditional Ethiopian meal with the country’s staple starch, injera bread. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Last month, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar visited Ethiopia. While there, he had the opportunity to meet with many local church leaders and religious, like the sisters he encountered at the Galilee Retreat Center:

Today, we headed about one hour out of Addis Ababa to the Galilee Retreat Center located on a cliff overlooking a beautiful crater lake. The setting is idyllic and filled with peace. I was privileged to concelebrate Mass with the Jesuit who directs this center, Father Joseph Pollicino, S.J., a Maltese national who has worked here and in Sudan for many years. A special treat was to be in the presence of about 20 sisters who were finishing their weekend retreat. Mass was particularly stimulating with the devotion of the sisters, their lovely singing and the peaceful manner of Father Joe. Coupled with this ambience was the captivating rhythm of the drumbeats of the young sister who put her whole heart into her percussion instrument, a beautifully decorated native drum. People come from all over to seek the tranquility of this retreat center. Many different types of spiritual programs are offered for youth, for religious men and women, for priests, for bishops and lay groups and interreligious groups.

After Mass, we enjoyed a wonderful meal with Father Joe and all the sisters.

Read more about Msgr. Kozar’s visit to Ethiopia in his blog series, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”

Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Africa Cuisine

9 May 2012
Erin Edwards

A Syrian family arrives at an army checkpoint in northern Lebanon on 27 March.
(photo: CNS/Afif Diab, Reuters)

Over the last several weeks, we’ve brought you stories about the struggles of Syria’s Christians and the ongoing efforts to help them.

We’ve been gratified and moved by the amazing show of support from our readers and donors. Thank you! You can learn more about what CNEWA is doing in partnership with local churches in this recent update from Issam Bishara, our regional director in Lebanon.

But the need is still great. This report from the BBC shows what some people are facing — and why so many are fleeing:

Homs, a lively Syrian city once regarded as a place of peaceful co-existence, has borne the brunt of violence in Syria’s 14-month long uprising.

The neighbourhood of Baba Amr was its biggest target in a city activists now call the “capital of the revolution”.

Not a single building seems to have escaped the government’s ferocious assault. Structures still standing are peppered with shrapnel, blackened by fire, fingers of concrete.

Indiscriminate bombing ripped away entire floors of large residential blocks.

“No government likes to shell its own people,” says Homs Governor Ghassan Abdulal. “We had no choice. The armed groups were firing from civilian areas.”

Visit our website to learn how you can help provide lifesaving aid such as food and medicine to Syrian refugees.

Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA Middle East Christians Relief

8 May 2012
Erin Edwards

At Mar Bishoi Church in Port Said, Egypt, a parishioner touches the patronal icon. (photo: Sean Sprague)

It was recently announced that the Coptic Orthodox Church will begin the process for electing a new pope. This comes after a 40-day mourning period for Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, Egypt, who served as pope for 41 years. Pope Shenouda III died on 17 March. The process for selecting his successor may be foreign to many:

His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom has issued a detailed explanation of the papal selection process, along with a timeline which identifies key stages of the process, saying the following:

“This is an experience with which many will not have been involved in their lifetime, so it was important to provide a simplified explanation, allowing engagement at every level. Within these steps we find a robust process that includes: nominations from peers within the Holy Synod, nominations from laity through the General Lay Council, systematic scrutiny with a process of challenges and appeals, representative democratic election, and above all, the Altar Ballot that encompasses this whole process with a spirit of prayer and trustful submission to the will of God.”

You can read more about the process and the timeline here. CNEWA President, Msgr. John Kozar, wrote about a memorial service for Pope Shenouda III he attended back in March.

Tags: Egypt Africa Pope Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria

8 May 2012
Sami El-Yousef

The Holy Family School celebrates its 12th commencement ceremony. (photo: Sami El-Yousef)

In many reports and blogs on Gaza, the tone is often negative, reflecting the very difficult circumstances in Gaza — for instance, the gas shortage or the usual challenges associated with the blockade. But this time, I want to write about a very joyous celebration: the 12th commencement ceremony at the Holy Family School in Gaza. I was privileged to attend this along with his Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal.

This was no ordinary ceremony, as the 17 graduates — including three Christians — started their schooling in 2000, just as the second intifada was beginning. There has not been a stretch of quiet since they started their studies; they’ve had to contend with closures, travel restrictions, a blockade, a full-fledged war, violence and counter-violence, and swift and forceful Israeli air strikes. In short, these young men and women have not had a normal childhood or education. Yet, sitting there for the celebration, I couldn’t help but marvel: it was a grand, festive event with speeches full of hope and big dreams, just like any other commencement ceremony anywhere else in the world. Despite the bleak political situation, the valedictorian was full of energy and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Between each speech, there was a performance by the school’s Dabkeh team, featuring traditional Palestinian dance. It was the largest I have ever seen, with some 50 members of all ages. The team was fully synchronized and disciplined. It was a great joy to watch. These students were proud to be performing for us all — as if they were passing on a message that, despite all the difficulties of these past 12 years, they learned how to have fun and how to keep the culture alive.

Congratulations to the class of 2012! May the future be kinder to you than the past.

The school's Dabkeh team honors the graduates with a performance. (photo: Sami El-Yousef)

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Education

7 May 2012
Erin Edwards

An artist works on a painting of the Kremlin of Rostov Veliky, Russia. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Today, Vladimir Putin was sworn in for a third term as Russia’s president. The controversy surrounding his return to leadership has erupted in mass protests throughout the country.

The images of Putin being sworn in at the Kremlin in Moscow reminded us of our September 2008 story about Russia’s kremlins, Russia’s Fortified Tabernacles:

For many Westerners, the Kremlin calls to mind aggression, conspiracy, deception, espionage, oppression and imminent nuclear holocaust — haunting fears that remain indelibly marked on the consciences of those who came of age from the late 1940’s to the late 1980’s.

Yet kremlin — from the Russian kreml, meaning castle or fortress — refers to any fortified citadel in historic Russia, not just the seat of government in the Russian capital of Moscow. These fortifications, most of which date from the 11th to the 17th centuries, protected not just princes, palaces and treasuries, but monastic communities, cathedrals and shrines. In effect, Russia’s kremlins functioned as fortified tabernacles, sheltering the most sacred relics of the Russian people from their very real enemies.

Read more about Russia’s kremlins on our website. Take a look at the multimedia feature that accompanied the story, “Journey through Russia’s Kremlins”.

Tags: Russia Russian Orthodox Church Eastern Europe

4 May 2012
Issam Bishara

A damaged church is seen in Homs, Syria, 30 March.
(photo: CNS/Shaam News Network, handout via Reuters)

After more than one year of unrest, the ongoing political crisis in Syria has caused tens of thousands to be caught in the crossfire between government and opposition forces. As a result, thousands of Syrians have fled their homes choosing to escape the violence. Many have migrated to neighboring countries, while others moved to safer and more stable areas in Syria.

The deteriorating economic conditions led by the conflict and the sanctions imposed on Syria have created high levels of unemployment and inflation. Since March 2011, the Syrian pound has depreciated against the U.S. dollar by nearly 65 percent. This has significantly affected Syrian families, who now find it difficult to pay for food, rent and fuel. The rise in prices is driving low-income Syrians deep into poverty.

Working in close collaboration with the local churches, CNEWA has been able to identify by name more than 1,770 displaced families living in dire economic situations, jeopardizing child nutrition and health:

  • 400 families remain in Homs (despite the military actions), according to the Good Shepherd Sisters.
  • 450 families left Homs and found refuge in Damascus, according to the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and the Good Shepherd Sisters.
  • 920 families left Homs and found shelter in the cluster called the “Valley of Christians,” according to by the social service office of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.

In response to this urgent humanitarian need, CNEWA’s regional office in Lebanon launched an emergency program for the aid of Syrian families. CNEWA is working through existing structures of the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Latin churches to reach the most needy.

The first phase of the program includes distribution of emergency kits containing food, hygiene items and baby milk. CNEWA and other donor agencies have pooled resources to reach around 1000 needy Christian families in the Syrian cities of Homs, Valley of Christians, Tartous, Damascus and other locations on the Syrian/Lebanese border.

So far CNEWA received positive responses from:

  • The Raskob Foundation (US)
  • The Holy Childhood (Germany)
  • Missio (Germany)
  • The Archdiocese of Cologne (Germany)

To find out how you can help, visit this link.

And to read more about the unfolding crisis, check out these blog posts: The Faithful Who Are Fleeing the Holy Land and The Struggles of Syria’s Christians.

Tags: Syria Middle East Violence against Christians CNEWA Pontifical Mission

4 May 2012
Erin Edwards

Many orphaned children, like the one shown above, are cared for at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA’s president, recently returned from a pastoral visit to Ethiopia. As usual, he returned with many beautiful images of the people and places he visited. One of those places is the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa:

The director is Sister Lutgarda Camilleri of the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, a Maltese national who has worked either at the orphanage or at the school next door for more than forty years. She is a dynamo: a combination of a grandmother that everyone would cherish and a religious sister who commands tremendous respect and can bring anyone to attention with a glance or a word of admonition. She also strikes me as a person with great savvy with the government authorities. You know the type: Give them a little grandmotherly charm and, if that does not work, look right into their eyes and tell them they are wrong. Case closed.

Sister Lutgarda and her crew of two other sisters, dedicated staff members and a rotating crew of volunteers provide amazing loving care to children as young as a few months and up to the age of 16. Many of those in her charge are street children brought here by police or child welfare officials. Sometimes, the officials show up at her doorstep with more than 20 at one time. Exasperated a little, but never overwhelmed, Sister Lutgarda welcomes them into the family.

For a closer look at Msgr. Kozar’s experience in Ethiopia, check out his series of blog posts from his trip, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”

Tags: Ethiopia Children Africa Orphans/Orphanages

3 May 2012
Erin Edwards

Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Lebanon pick fruit. (photo: Marilyn Raschcka)

The Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Lebanon care selflessly for the sick, disabled and orphaned individuals in Lebanon. Last December, during his pastoral visit to the region, CNEWA president Msgr. Kozar witnessed the work the sisters do first hand.

Marilyn Raschka wrote one of our first stories profiling the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in the Jan/Feb 1999 issue of the magazine:

“Love — thats what they need,” my guide asserted as we walked into a room flooded with sunshine and colorful quilts. What looked like four- and five-year-old children in this room were actually teen-agers whose bodies were robbed of growth and whose minds had failed to develop. The room provided a safe, secure playing area for these residents. Toys were often used to stimulate those who could respond. But nothing worked better than a smile and a hug from nuns and staff.

The energy required of this community is replenished by young novices, three of whom I met during my visit. All three young women have sponsors from the United States who, through CNEWAs sponsorship program, contribute to their education and living expenses. Studies are strenuous, separation from family is painful and a future of difficult work could take its toll. But these challenges have created a bond that helps the women persevere. And youth, with its built-in buoyancy, provides extra time for some basic “nunsense.”

For more read, Bearing the Cross in Lebanon.

Tags: Lebanon Sisters Beirut Franciscan Sisters of the Cross

3 May 2012
Antin Sloboda

Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, center, leads the burial prayers for the repose of Archbishop Michael Bzdel at Holy Family Cemetery in Winnipeg. Joining him are Archbishop Stefan Soroka and Bishop John S. Pazak. (photo: Carl Hétu)

A month ago today, Archbishop Michael Bzdel, the retired metropolitan archeparch of Winnipeg, died. His Grace was one of the founding directors of CNEWA Canada and he played an instrumental role in establishing our organizational structures. Three weeks ago, Carl Hétu, CNEWA’s national director in Canada, traveled to Winnipeg to pay his respects to the late metropolitan, who headed Canada’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

He was born in Wishart, Saskatchewan, on 21 July 1930, and was the 11th of 14 children. After completing primary schooling in Wishart, he attended St. Vladimir’s College in Roblin. This is where Michael Bzdel discovered his vocation to the religious life. In 1947, he entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). He completed his priestly formation at St. Mary’s Seminary in Waterford-Meadowvale, and later received a graduate degree in Pastoral Counseling from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1954. After years of pastoral ministry in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in 1993 Father Michael was ordained as archbishop of Winnipeg and metropolitan for Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Canada, a position he held until his retirement in 2006. The metropolitan was a member of the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and had various responsibilities within the Catholic Church in Canada and Ukraine.

Numerous bishops, clergy, religious and lay people from all over North America and Europe participated in the funeral ceremonies of the archeparch, which took place on 11 and 12 April. The funeral was led by Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M., successor of the beloved departed pastor.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

Tags: Ecumenism Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada CNEWA Canada

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