19 April 2018
CNEWA’s chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrapped up his trip to Lebanon Wednesday and sent along this heartfelt tribute to the country and its people — describing how Lebanon represents both Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
“There’s a lot of suffering here, the tears of refugees and the memories of war,” he says, “but there’s also hope, confidence, joy, and life! God bless Lebanon, God bless America, and God bless the Catholic Near East Welfare Association!”
We are humbled and privileged to have been able to share a few days with the cardinal — and to share with him, as well, some of the great work our donors are making possible.
Take a look.
18 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians CNEWA
In the video above, Cardinal Timothy Dolan meets with refugee families, many from Iraq, in Lebanon. (video: Archdiocese of New York/CNEWA)
The remarkable video above comes to us from the CNEWA team traveling to Lebanon with our chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and offers a powerful look at what so many in that corner of the world are living with — and how CNEWA is seeking to lift them up from despair to hope.
CNEWA’s Michael J.L. LaCivita passed along more pictures and this brief dispatch:
Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver meets with refugees. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Imagine one night, at dinner, you receive a phone call that you have five minutes to take your family and gather some clothes and flee. For thousands of families in northern Iraq, this is precisely what happened on 6 August 2014.
The next day, their villages fell to ISIS. And while this band of nihilists and criminals has been defeated since, the nightmare for these families remains reality.
Many now live in exile and poverty — in Beirut and Amman and further afield. In some cases, the only help they receive is from the church and organizations such as CNEWA.
Today, our delegation encountered the fear and the desperation these parents feel, as they desperately want to come to America and Canada.
Pictured are some of the children Cardinal Dolan met during a visit to a school in Lebanon. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
They do not understand why we have closed our arms to them.
“We try to prevent them from falling into despair,” said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III, “but we must rely on the generosity of others.”
Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III struggles to keep up the spirits of his people during this difficult period. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who received us this morning thanked the cardinal, the delegation and CNEWA for our many years in Lebanon, and our work here, “especially during the darkest years,” during the last years of the civil war.
Pray for the Middle East. Pray for Lebanon. Resources are low. And time is running out.
Late yesterday, we also received this video, which shows the exceptional faith and charity of the Melkite Catholics in Zahleh, Lebanon. Check it out.
17 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA
Cardinal Timothy Dolan shares a joyful moment with displaced Syrian children in Lebanon. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
CNEWA’s Michael J.L. LaCivita, traveling with our contingent in Lebanon, filed these wonderful images today. He wrote:
Cardinal Dolan greets young children in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Retired Bishop William Murphy meets young people in Lebanon. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
Today, in the city of Zahle in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley — the Jerusalem of the Greek Melkite Catholic world — members of CNEWA’s board of trustees visited more Syrian families displaced by war.
Archbishop Issam Darwich mingles with his flock. (photo: Michael J.L. LaCivita)
The bishops also met with members of the local community, whose lives have been upended by the arrival of “cheap unskilled labor,” who have taken their jobs.
But Zahle’s “pope,” Greek Melkite Archbishop Issam Darwhich, leads by example, and has reached out to Christian and Muslim refugees alike, bringing with him hundreds of volunteers to help feed, clothe and house these innocents.
The proof is in the pudding — as these pictures illustrate. Devout Muslim families have opened their hearts and homes to the cries of “Abuna!” (Father!) and “Sayydna! (Excellency!), Regardless of the crosses around their necks.
You can follow more of the cardinal’s trip here and here.
17 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA
Continuing his pastoral visit to Lebanon, CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, visited St. Joseph Seminary and filed this inspiring look at the next generation of priests:
17 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA
A mother and her children wait to see a doctor at the St. Anthony Dispensary north of Beirut. (photo: Michael J.L. La Civita)
A North American delegation negotiated the steep incline to a clinic draped over the roadway, like an olive tree from a limestone bluff.
“Yesterday we prayed,” said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who the day before attended a Mass with refugees. “Now we work.”
Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the board of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, led a delegation from CNEWA, including Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, and retired Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York. The group who visited health care facilities across the Lebanese capital on 16 April.
Arriving by bus and after a brief climb, the prelates reached St. Anthony Dispensary, north of Beirut. The clinic offers medical services to locals and refugees in the Lebanese capital.
Speaking with Lebanese Christians and displaced Syrian and Iraqi refugees at the dispensary, Cardinal Dolan held several children aloft as the delegation traversed a tight corridor, lined with white plastic chairs in which sat dozens of patients.
The clinic, which is open less than four hours each morning, treats 80 people each day.
Sevan Aziz, originally from Baghdad, visits the clinic regularly for her 82-year-old mother, who has high blood pressure.
“Here it’s better [than other regional clinics] because I know everyone,” Aziz said. “It’s far from home, but my mothers needs someone who understands our needs, and I get that here.”
The dispensary, now in Beirut’s Roueisset neighborhood, was initially founded in 1987 in the Jdeideh el-Metn municipality to serve Lebanese Christians and Shiite Muslims who lived in the area but could not afford medical consultations or the cost of recurring prescriptions. In 2003, more than 400 Iraqi families settled in nearby Roueisset, overwhelming the dispensary with the community’s growing needs. The dispensary received additional support from the Good Shepherd Sisters, who had been working with area children since 1998.
Today the 35 doctors employed by the dispensary work annually with more than 20,000 refugees, many of whom have fled the seven-year civil war in Syria and the recent occupation of the Islamic State in Iraq.
“It’s a very poor community,” said Rita Bishara, program director. “It’s their only hope for primary health support.”
CNEWA funds clinic projects, including the disbursement of chronic medications to more than 600 individuals who require prescriptions that treat Alzheimer’s, asthma, diabetes, hepatitis, epilepsy, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. Clinic officials say without CNEWA support, many patients needing medical services could not otherwise afford the $12 co-pay set by the Ministry of Health.
The dispensary and its tertiary programs take a holistic, human approach to health care, said Sister Antoinette Assad, director of Good Shepherd Sisters.
“Our motto is that religion is for God, the dispensary is for all,” she said.
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan embraces Good Shepherd Sister Souhaila Bou Samra outside the St. Anthony Dispensary in Beirut. (photo: CNS/Alexandra Talty)
Sarouat Mourtada of Baalbek, Lebanon, sat in a chair cradling her 15-month-old daughter, who was there for a routine medical exam.
“I asked around and they told me it [the clinic] was good, and they offer pediatrics,” Mourtada said. “This is the only clinic” nearby.
Her husband, who did not give his name, said he seeks pediatric care here for his two young children who live in Lebanon. “When I came from Syria, I came directly here.”
The clinic serves a diverse population from more than 10 countries.
“We hear so much about animosity between different faiths, but at these centers, we’ve heard people come together,” Archbishop Miller said. “The aspect of generosity and ability to receive others maybe makes us ashamed of how little we do” in North America.
Retired Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., speaks with Dr. Stephanie Antoun on 16 April outside the Karagheusian Center in Beirut. (photo: CNS/Alexandra Talty)
A side street conceals the Karagheusian Center, off a main thoroughfare in one of the capital’s most densely populated and industrial districts. A waiting room filled with patients momentarily paused as the delegation passed, before the room buzzed again with the action of care.
The center in Bourj Hammoud, a predominantly Armenian neighborhood, is likewise supported by CNEWA and three Armenian churches. The center provides care for more than 3,500 patients each month.
Serop Ohanian, the Lebanon field director of the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corp., said the government cannot provide many services, “so it has empowered organizations to do its job.
“I’m grateful that we have the blessings of the church and the neighborhood churches,” he added.
Mouhammad Hamid, 33, lost his vaccination card when he and his family fled Aleppo, Syria. A nurse helped him fill out a new card, with the help of a picture he’d taken of his card and provided to the nurse through WhatsApp.
A short distant from the center, an Armenian church hosted the CNEWA delegation and more than 50 residents from the community, many of them refugees from the ongoing civil war in Syria, less than a two-hour drive.
“When we came to Lebanon we had so many fears ... our fears were associated with also how to educate our children and how they become appropriate citizens in a different country,” said Zarmine Panoghlian. “Karagheusian offered lessons and teachings on how to get adapted to this new environment.”
She said she hoped the church leaders would visit more often and praised them for their continued support.
“We didn’t know when we came to Lebanon there would be people who welcomed us so openly,” Panoghlian said.
Related: Journey to Lebanon: Cardinal Dolan Arrives in Beirut
16 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Health Care
Cardinal Timothy Dolan visits a clinic run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon. (photo: Archdiocese of New York via Vimeo)
This week, CNEWA’s chair Cardinal Timothy Dolan is making a pastoral visit to Lebanon, accompanied by other bishops and CNEWA staffers from the United States, Canada and the Middle East. He described his upcoming trip last week in his newspaper column:
Remember me, please, as this week I visit Lebanon, a country beautiful naturally and spiritually, a country unique in the tortured Middle East for its religious pluralism, peace — fragile though it may be — and amity among creeds.
We know of their deep spiritual roots because we cherish our Maronite, Melkite, Armenian and Syrian Catholics who live as neighbors with us, and who call Lebanon their country of origin.
As Archbishop of New York, I chair a superb organization called the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which, for 90 years has generously assisted the ancient Christian minorities, especially in the Middle East.
Lebanon has heroically welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from the horrors in neighboring Syria, and my brother bishops there have invited me to come. I do so gratefully and willingly, to bring your encouragement and assistance as well. I’ll let you know how it went next week when I get back.
Last October, we placed in our cathedral, thanks to a benefactor of Lebanese origin, a chapel to the renowned Maronite Catholic holy man and miracle worker of Lebanon, St. Charbel. Would you ask his intercession for his beloved Lebanon … and whisper to him that I could use his guidance and wisdom while in his home country?
Shortly after he arrived in Lebanon, he celebrated Mass at St. Joseph Church in Beirut. Here is part of that liturgy and his homily:
Late Sunday, he posted the two videos below on his blog, chronicling some of the first day of his trip, including a visit to the shrine of St. Charbel and a chance to see the good work being done by our longtime collaborators in the country, the Good Shepherd Sisters. We hope to keep you updated in a days ahead with what promises to be an inspiring trip!
30 March 2017
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Sisters
A boy rolls clay in an art class at Father Robert’s Institute in Roumieh, Lebanon. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
Our ears pop as we climb up the mountain in the car on our way to another site visit — this one near Roumieh, Lebanon. Out the window are herders and their sheep, olive and pine trees, and a view worth writing home about. From this height, we see that there are even higher mountains due East, and the next range over is topped with snow. A light sea breeze on this sunny day guides us along. On a day like this, you could enjoy swimming in the Mediterranean and then drive an hour to ski — a testament to the geography’s diversity. Everything here is diverse: the land, the food, the people, the church.
While much of CNEWA’s work in Lebanon and beyond is centered around some very basic humanitarian needs — schools, hospitals and refugee camps, for example — our specific mandate from the Holy Father to accompany the Eastern churches means that all our humanitarian work carries with it a crucial spiritual component. That is, the work that we do is an extension of the hands of Christ, and while we offer support to all — regardless of creed or background — our love for all comes from our pastoral roots.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter meets with Msgr. John E. Kozar, CNEWA’s president, left; Michel Constantin, CNEWA regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, center right; and Chris Kennedy, development associate, right. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
That has been especially evident in today’s pastoral visit as we continue to accompany Msgr. Kozar in meeting the papal nuncio, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia; Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Antioch, the head of the largest church in Lebanon; and finally Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III. Not only was it an honor to meet them, but it was also touching to hear of their genuine, profound concern for Christians and all people throughout the Middle East.
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III chats with Msgr. Kozar outside of Roumieh. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
Their pastoral perspective was enlightening, as were the views of the Basilian Chouerite Sisters, a Melkite order, who kindly fed us a traditional Lebanese lunch. These sisters run Father Robert’s Institute, which serves over 100 students with hearing impairment, autism, cerebral palsy or other special needs, offering each an education and vocational training in a way that equips these students to confront a world that may not understand the challenges they face.
Father Robert’s has seen students go on to university and gainful employment. One recent graduate is, in fact, currently tutoring students at his university. We observed several classes: an auditory training where students were practicing on percussion instruments, a physical therapy class where students no older than 7 made their way through an obstacle course, and one-on-one special education for a young girl with autism. In each class, the enthusiasm and care of the instructors was palpable and contagious.
A girl attends an auditory training session at Father Robert’s Institute. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
Our final visit of the day was to St. Ann’s Greek Catholic Seminary where 17 young men from Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria are preparing to serve the church as priests. It’s one of hundreds of seminaries CNEWA supports throughout the areas we serve. We asked how their vocation applied especially to caring for people who are suffering, and their answers were deeply moving. They explained that, on a practical level, the focus of their dioceses was to continue to provide educational programs — but above and beyond that, the seminarians all desired to ensure that the faith of their ancestors was passed down to youth in their community, even amidst ongoing turmoil.
One seminarian spoke of returning to his hometown of 500 people — a town that once held 65,000. Another seminarian, a deacon, acknowledged the real and present danger that his community might resort to violence as an answer to violence. For him, his hope was to offer a third way: that, through education and example, they can instead build a culture of forgiveness, understanding and, someday, peace. At the end of our meeting, they sang an ancient Melkite chant in Arabic, “God Is With Us.” We could hear the faith and resilience as their voices filled the hall, and it moved us to tears.
Seminarians from Jordan and Syria chat with visitors at St. Ann’s Greek Catholic Seminary. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
Back down the mountain, we prepare for our final day in Lebanon — a trip to the Bekaa Valley. We’ll be carrying some of the courage and hope the resilient people we’ve met have shared with us.
29 March 2017
Tags: Lebanon Children Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter Seminarians Melkite Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch
The view from atop the Shrine of Our Lady of Mantara presents a stunning vista of the cathedral, village and surrounding countryside. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
Something about being in a place so different from the one you call home can, at first, overwhelm your senses. It’s the smells of the manakeesh, a Lebanese pizza of sorts. It’s the church bells mingled with the call to prayer. It’s the green mountains against the calm sea — a much different sight than the stone-cold steel and concrete of New York City. And of course, it’s the laughter and joy of refugee children — smiles born out of hope they found as they were accompanied by the love and support of CNEWA.
All of it can be a lot to take in, so on our third day of reviewing CNEWA-sponsored programs, we sat over a simple but delicious meal of Lebanese mezze (various small snack dishes) in Beirut to jot out a few thoughts and process a little more of our trip together. We’ve visited four institutions thus far: Monday brought us to the St. Antoine Dispensary run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Angels of Peace School run by the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate. Tuesday’s visits included the Fratelli School for Syrian refugees run by the Marist and Lasallian Brothers, as well as a visit to the Joint Christian Committee School for Syrian refugees of Palestinian origin.
A student enjoys a snack at the Fratelli School. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
We both agreed, immediately, that the programs exude overwhelmingly beautiful warmth of spirit. Despite each person we met having endured unimaginable suffering in his or her own way, their joy was contagious.
At the St. Antoine Dispensary, judiciously overseen by Sister Antoinette Assaf, Iraqi refugees who have settled in the neighborhood, along with poor Lebanese, receive much more than medical care. There is a strong focus on education and awareness, especially because many of the refugees were unaware of the hygienic challenges of living in a dense urban setting. New waves of refugees, from different parts of the country, have brought new challenges, and Sister Antoinette, with help from CNEWA, has responded quickly. Currently, the clinic offers services in ophthalmology, dermatology, dental services and gynecology, which, thanks to our support, are available for just $12 for each patient — a cost the clinic sometimes covers when the poorest of the poor cannot.
The Angels of Peace School, which Chris wrote about yesterday, hosts almost 500 Iraqi Christian refugees. With the support of our Beirut office, the Rev. Youssef Yaacoub has rented out a private school that his students and teachers can use each afternoon. Every student had a smile for us.
And, of course, visiting the Fratelli School, near Saida, was a real treat. Run jointly by the Marist and Lasallian Brothers at the request of Pope Francis for congregations to join together to tackle the challenges facing refugees, this institution hosts 270 Syrian students, both Muslim and Christian. We met the dynamic Brother Andres Gutierrez, who oversees the school along with Brother Miquel Cubeles, a Marist from Barcelona. When we arrived, the students were at lunch and recess, and eagerly approached us on the colorful playground. Many even offered us their food, an act of charity that moved us deeply.
The spirit of generosity is evident in the Fratelli School. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
Brother Andre explained that he had rebuilt the school when he arrived, as the structure had sat abandoned for over 25 years prior to his arrival. The school has been open for just a year, and in that time they’ve completed several classrooms, a kitchen, a residence for the brothers and a computer lab. As it focuses on acclimating refugee students to the Lebanese curriculum, which is taught in French and English as opposed to the Arabic Syrian students are used to, the school will function as a remedial program of sorts, easing students into the Lebanese school system to improve their likelihood of success.
A Fratelli School student greets visitors. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
We also visited a nearby high school in Saida for 213 Syrian students of mostly Palestinian origin. It focuses on training students who aim to take the Syrian national examinations, which are recognized worldwide and required for students before they can go to college. We dropped by a few classes, where young men and women were busy studying and taking practice tests. Someday, we pray, they will return to Syria to help rebuild their country.
A view from the entrance of Our Lady of Mantara Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral. (photo: Philip W. Eubanks)
On the way back to Beirut after a full day, we stopped at the impressive Shrine of Our Lady of Mantara in the Melkite village of Maghdouche. According to tradition, Mary waited in a cave here while Jesus was preaching in Tyre and Sidon, known today as Saida. The spot is marked by an ornate Melkite Greek Catholic church and a tower offering beautiful views of Saida and the Mediterranean. We were struck by how many refugees have been “waiting,” perhaps wondering where their lives might lead. So many are in limbo, but with CNEWA’s support, there is a path forward. As Msgr. Kozar told students we visited, “There is a bright future” awaiting these students who prepare now for the hard road ahead. It won’t be easy, but hope is always a light in the dark.
Msgr. Kozar addresses a classroom in the Joint Christian Committee School. (photo: Chris Kennedy)
As we cross the halfway point in our journey, we’re constantly reminded of the light CNEWA brings to many. Hope is in the face of everyone we’ve met. The mission is alive — we’ve seen it!
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA Catholic Reflections/Inspirational