13 February 2018
Capuchin friars enter Gulele St. Francis Parish Church on 10 February to celebrate their vice-province becoming a province in Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: Our regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu shared with us some joyful news about the Capuchin Friars in Ethiopia, whose vice-province last week was raised to the status of province:
The presence of Capuchin Franciscan missionaries in Ethiopia goes back to 17th century, when the first two French Capuchin missionaries, Father Agathange and Father Cassien, planted the seed of faith, and nourished it by shedding their blood and giving their lives within two days of arrival in Gondar from Egypt in 1638.
Later, the legendary Italian Capuchin, Cardinal Guglielmo Massaja (1846-1880), helped create the Oromo Vicariate in the western part of Ethiopia and expanded Catholicism in the country. In the later days, a group of French Capuchin Missionaries followed. The growth of the Catholic church and Catholic faithful is due to the presence of these missionaries who devotedly paid with their lives. These true evangelizers reached out to the remotest corners of the country — erecting churches, establishing schools, providing health services and witnessing to the faith with their simple way of life.
After decades of devoted work and growth, on 10 February the Capuchin Friars Minor Vice-Province of Mary Kidane Meheret in Ethiopia was raised to the status of Province.
The celebration took place at Gulele St. Francis Parish Church, with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Sourapheal, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, attended by Msgr. Luigi Bianco, Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia and Djibouti, the entire local Capuchin Franciscan friars, along with other invited religious congregations.
At this stage the new Capuchin province is blessed to have 101 local ordained friars serving in the country. The order, despite some challenges, is blessed by increasing vocations. Currently, there are 21 candidates attending Philosophy and Theology at the St. Francis Institute, which is fully administered and run by same order. There are also seven postulants and 10 pre-postulants in Nazareth/Adama. The last Custos, Rev. Br. Yohannes Wossen put it well: “Simplicity and brotherhood attracts many to join us.”
Related: Head of the Class
In Ethiopia, the Capuchin Franciscans serve in eight church jurisdictions (three Eastern rite Eparchies and five Latin Rite dioceses) in 20 community houses. Besides the focus on evangelization, the Capuchins run five highly respected Catholic secondary schools in Baher Dar-Dessie Eparchy and in Soddo vicariate, along with the Abune Andreas Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa. They also run many junior and primary schools; a boarding facility for boys in Dessie; and they also support a university chaplaincy programs. One of the secondary schools — Abba Pascal Catholic Girls’ School (named after Father Pascal, a French Capuchin missionary) in southern Ethiopia in Soddo vicariate — was established for educating rural girls. Most of these services were initially located in the most remote parts of the country.
CNEWA partners with Capuchins in Ethiopia, supporting five of these remotely located schools and the Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa, thanks to our generous donors who sincerely value the services of these missionaries, who continue to witness to the faith through simple lives of evangelization.
The Capuchins continue to be moved by the charism of St. Francis, eager to share their “joy, humility and simplicity.” We’re also reminded of the words of Msgr. Angelo Pagano, Vicar Apostolic of Harar and Capuchin who said at this celebration: “Wonderful pages were written by our predecessors in evangelizing the faith in Ethiopia. They left their foot prints. But now is the time for us to write new pages for the journey before us.”
By supporting these zealous missionaries for the good of the local church in Ethiopia, let us be part of that journey before them — accompanying the local church through the efforts of the Capuchins!
Below, you can see a brief video of some of the friars joyfully singing a hymn of thanksgiving during the Mass.
31 January 2018
The sisters, staff and a number of volunteers prepare a meal for the 29 residents and the 50 members of the day care center at the Antonian Charitable Society in Bethlehem. CNEWA provided a grant for improvements to the society’s building that helped save money and provide water to the residents. The kitchen equipment was also donated by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: We were delighted to receive this note from Joseph Hazboun, regional director for Palestine and Israel, describing how a grant from CNEWA is helping a group of religious sisters care for the elderly in Bethlehem.
At the Antonian Charitable Society, Sister Caterina, responsible for the kitchen and Sister Lizy, Mother Superior, were overwhelmed with joy when the society’s large old rainwater cistern was repaired and cleaned, and made ready for the winter rainy season.
The cistern stood neglected for years and the society relied solely on Bethlehem’s water network. That could be problematic. Piped water was often shut off (due to water shortages) or made prohibitively expensive, due to price increases because of a longstanding drought. Rainwater cisterns are common in Bethlehem and other urban areas and are in fact, an ancient method developed and perfected by the Nabataeans. They began to appear in Palestinian cities during the Assyrian period. Since then, the rainwater cistern was always a practical way for locals to have access to potable water, especially in the summer months. As technology advancement and urban growth became apparent in the past half century, many Bethlehem residents and institutions moved away from these ancient practices of channeling and collecting rainwater and utilized the water system as the main source of potable water.
In recent years however, a severe drought has decreased water reserves throughout Bethlehem. Last summer, Bethlehem had a water shortage that lasted more than a month, as reserves reached all-time lows and water tanker trucks became the only method of distributing potable water.
For the Sisters at the Antonian Charitable Society, that meant their water bills were soaring last summer — far higher than what they had budgeted for. As part of CNEWA’s efforts to care for the marginalized, a grant was provided to the Sisters of the Antonian Charitable Society in 2017 to provide photovoltaic solar panels. These could generate free solar electricity to operate medical equipment, lights and kitchen appliances at the society. That grant also eliminated the society’s reliance on piped water and water supplied by trucks through the rehabilitation of the society’s old rainwater cistern. The grant also enabled the installation of hydroponic units for the kitchen to grow organic vegetables. This is an alternative method that feeds 50 elderly members and 29 women residents daily, saving much money on groceries. There is also enough water left in the cistern for household cleaning and bathing.
The sisters have expressed their gratitude to CNEWA for helping to make these practical solutions a reality — and they are especially grateful that they can continue to provide services for the elderly in Bethlehem.
30 January 2018
Thanks to a project supported by CNEWA, Wagdi Attalah is healthier and working to get his high school diploma. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: CNEWA is privileged to support numerous initiatives and institutions that serve marginalized, poor and vulnerable populations in Egypt. One such establishment, called Good Samaritan, comprises two facilities that provide care for children in need. CNEWA helps Good Samaritan centers to shelter, feed and clothe children whose parents have died or are too poor to afford these necessities. We also help share the gift of education with underserved children in areas where schools are scarce or unaffordable. Michel Constantin — our regional director in Beirut, who oversees our work in Egypt — recently shared this story of one family benefiting from these on-the-ground services.
Wagdi Attallah is 17-years-old and suffers from asthma and lung problems. His family consists of his mother and himself. Before Magdi was born, while she was pregnant, she had health complications which affected Wagdi’s present condition and requires chronic medications. His mother now suffers from many problems with her eyesight.
Their main source of income was from selling buffalo milk, but after the buffalo died, they lost that revenue and became poorer and poorer. Their house was in extremely poor condition, with just two small rooms. There was no toilet or kitchen.
Related: Egypt’s Good Samaritans
Through a project supported by CNEWA, and in collaboration with the Good Samaritan Center, we were able to improve conditions for Wagdi and his sick mother. The house was rehabilitated. A bathroom and kitchen were built, along with concrete and tiling to repair the house. We installed doors and windows and painted the walls, and also did some electrical work on the building.
Wagdi’s condition has improved dramatically. He is now studying for his diploma. We are still there to help him as needed — supporting him with assistance in his health care and education.
Thanks to the generosity of CNEWA’s donors, his future now looks much brighter.
26 January 2018
Children at St. Rita School in Zahleh, Lebanon, gather for class. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: we’re pleased to share with you this update from Michel Constantin, our regional director in Beirut, describing how CNEWA’s support for a school in Lebanon is helping young refugee children from Syria recover from the trauma of war and look forward to a better future.
Being close to the Syrian border, Zahleh and the region were a safe destination for around 2,650 Syrian refugee families. Some 2,000 Syrian Muslim refugee families found shelter in tents and 650 Christian families rented small apartments. Out of the total number, around 500 were children — the main victims of the war in Syria.
Dozens of Syrian children were screened by the Greek Catholic Archbishopric Social Center to be out of schools in Zahle; they were at risk of becoming a lost generation, along with nearly 80 vulnerable Lebanese host community children. They had been enrolled in school but had learning weaknesses that made them at risk of dropping out of school.
For this reason, the Greek Catholic Archbishopric of Zahleh approached CNEWA for help. We were able to provide assistance during the academic year in remedial classes (Arabic, French, English and mathematics lessons), psychosocial support and summer school. Children were taken out on trips to discover new places in Lebanon, enjoying a more carefree time, with the hope of releasing the stress of their daily lives.
Initially, St. Rita School provided regular classes to Lebanese children in the morning shift. As the needs rose, it was decided to use the location to provide remedial classes in the afternoon shifts for the Syrians, along with tutorial classes to some Lebanese who were at risk of dropping out of school.
A student at St. Rita works on his classwork. (photo: CNEWA)
Below is the account of one student who benefited from this arrangement, sent to us by the school’s director, Zeina Aamoury:
Lea, a 10-year-old Syrian girl in the 5th grade, has been enrolled in Saint Rita School since 2016.
Ever since Lea was four-years-old, and still living in Syria, she would wake her mother up early in the mornings, wanting to go to school. Lea would literally cry when told by her mother to go back to sleep. The family circumstances were difficult; along with her mother, Lea lived with her father, who worked as a laborer in wall painting, and her brother Elias, who is three years younger, all sharing a tiny house with two rooms in Syria. Unfortunately her father spent his money on drinking and gambling.
Lea’s mother tried her best to ensure that her children lived peacefully. She wanted to create a nice family atmosphere for her husband and children, and never stopped praying to God to give her strength to endure this hardship. But it took a toll on her. Eventually, she became weary and got very sick. To add to her misery, in 2011 when the war broke out in Syria, the family had to flee the country seeking refuge in Lebanon.
But in Lebanon, life was still difficult. The father continued drinking and gambling.
Since the family became refugees in Zahleh, they received assistance from different social charity organizations. They lived in one room which was furnished by the mother’s relatives.
During the last academic year (2016-2017) when St. Rita School offered afternoon remedial classes for the Syrian children, Lea was the first student to register.
At the beginning, it was very difficult for her to adjust and to adapt to new methods of learning; in Syria all materials were taught in Arabic, while in Lebanon our core education is based on foreign languages. As school staff and teachers, we try our best to overcome all these obstacles to ensure that the refugee students attending the remedial classes are supported on both levels educationally and socially. We are fully aware of their hardships: losing all their belongings, having their houses completely demolished, living in a strange country and wondering all the time whether they will ever return to Syria.
But for Lea, the classes and supportive environment made a world of difference. Her life took a new turn. She amazed her teachers with her dedication and good work. She showed huge interest in her education and astonished all her teachers and administrators when she asked them to cover a two-year program in one year — and she completed her year successfully!
Lea is determined to study hard — to be part of the generation who will restore her beautiful homeland, Syria. She strongly believes that if it weren’t for the efforts exerted by all those who are helping her and hundreds other refugee children to study and follow their education in Lebanon, she would have lost her future for sure. Instead, she now has the chance to dream and hope.
For more on life among the refugees in Zahleh, read Hardship and Hospitality in the June 2017 edition of ONE.
23 January 2018
Children prepare for the Christmas celebration at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: Argaw Fantu, our regional director in Ethiopia, passed along this note and some pictures from Sister Lutgarda Camilleri, coordinator of the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa. CNEWA helped provide funds for the children’s annual Christmas party this year.
Dear Friends and Benefactors:
Peaceful greetings to you all from Kidane Mehret Children’s Home!
How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it! These are the words with which I would like to thank each one of you who have fundraised for our dear children’s Christmas party.
Decorations brightened the hall for the party. (photo: CNEWA)
The photos, I think, will explain the joy, happiness and festivities that the children felt and how they shared this feast with other children who left this home some years ago, who came to enjoy this Christmas party with us.
The children had a joyous time. (photo: CNEWA)
We have no words to thank you for your great generosity. Things like these will surely improve the lives of the children that, although they have no family, they are not forgotten, as the good Lord always remembers and cares for them.
Sister Lutgarda shared in the celebration with the kids. (photo: CNEWA)
Dears, be sure that we will include you in our daily prayers and we ask the good Lord to continue to shower his choicest blessings upon each one of you and on your families.
God bless you all!
Sister Lutgarda Camilleri
22 January 2018
Andru and his mother visited the CNEWA office in Amman recently. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: Last week, we received this touching note from our office in Amman, Jordan — a reminder of the tremendous difference CNEWA is making in the lives of so many, in ways large and small.
Andru’s family faced the same horrible situation of so many other Iraqi families: they were were forced to flee their cities and villages in Nineveh Plain and were displaced to Kurdistan for a couple years. Finally, they decided to try their luck and come to Jordan.
Andru is six years-old. He has one brother and two sisters who are in good health. But since he was born, he could not walk, due to looseness in the muscles of his feet and a small amount of brain damage. The doctor says it is something you can barely notice, and that he will grow up as a normal child. Indeed, he started to talk at the age of 10 months — but something happened in Erbil that silenced him.
Andru has difficulty standing, but it is hoped that with therapy he may be able to walk.
According to his mother, who recently visited our CNEWA office in Amman: “While staying in Erbil, Andru was with us outside the house and he was on a baby walker to strengthen his muscles. All of a sudden, a low-flying airplane passed overhead. Hearing the loud noise, Andru screamed and cried, because he was afraid. After this incident, we noticed that Andru could not hear voices or sounds. The doctor told us that Andru lost his hearing in both ears. While in Iraq, we installed two hearing aids, but there was no progress or improvement.”
This family arrived in Jordan one month ago, and they are staying with a brother-in-law, who is married with two children. Ten people are living in one apartment at the Al-Hashimi area in Amman, with two rooms only. Both families share the rent of US $211. In addition to the electricity and water bills, they also share the food.
The family heard about CNEWA from other Iraqis, and came to register with us and benefit from the multiple programs we offer: food tickets, a health program, kerosene and blankets, in addition to summer Bible camp. They received a kerosene heater, and were referred to the Italian Hospital to receive the necessary health services for Andru. They were also provided with the contact numbers for the deaf school in Salt and Our Lady of Peace Center for Physiotherapy — and left our office full of hope, confident that Andru will receive the care he needs from those Christian institutions.
When he saw this icon in our office, Andru wanted to kiss the image of the Virgin Mary.
17 January 2018
Sister Nigisti Desta. (photo: CNEWA)
Editor’s note: Today we begin a periodic series, “Stories from the Field,” first-person accounts of the impact CNEWA’s work is having around the world. Today we hear from Sister Nigisti Desta, who grew up in a CNEWA-supported orphanage in Ethiopia. Our regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu, spoke with her recently and she shared with him this moving account of her life.
I was born in Mekele town, in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, in 1984. My mother is Aregash Kahesay. I was the third child born in my family, with four brothers. My father died when I was an infant, so I didn’t know him. Raising five children with no father was the biggest burden for my mother. Thus my mother sent my oldest brother and me to boarding school. My brother went to the boys’ boarding school in Dessie run by the Capuchin Brothers, while I went to the Kobo Orphanage run by Ursuline Sisters.
From grades 1-4, I attended Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Mekele. From 1996 to 2002, being at the orphanage with the sisters, I attended grades 5-12 in Kobo. While at the orphanage, I took not only academic classes, but also religious classes from the sisters. These became the cornerstones of my life. I learned how to do household chores and how to live in a community. What the sisters were doing for us — motherly care, showing love, fulfilling our needs — was very touching. I remember all these things. Sometimes, donations would arrive, and the sisters would use the money to buy shoes and clothes for us. They told us that there are supporters behind the scenes, especially CNEWA.
Over time I had a lot of positive observations on the services delivered by the sisters and the generosity of their hearts. I started pondering in my mind, thinking that “if the sisters dedicate their life and time to serve us orphaned and semi-orphaned children like this, why not me!? Why couldn’t I serve others in the future and be one of the sisters?” This thought grew within me. After completing my secondary education, I discerned my vocation and joined the same congregation.
When I asked the sisters to join their congregation, they accepted me immediately. In 2003, they sent me to Addis Ababa to begin my postulancy studies. I did my postulancy for two years and then spent two years in the novitiate. In 2006, I made my first vows and then was sent to Wolisso St. Luke Hospital and Nursing College to pursue my studies in nursing. I did that for three years. Upon graduating from Nursing College, I was assigned to serve in the clinic of Ursuline Sisters in Addis Ababa at a place called Gurd Shola. I served in this clinic for three years, from 2009 to 2012. While serving at the clinic, I got the opportunity to attend Health Officer Courses at Rift Valley College for four years and I earned my degree. Going forward, currently I am doing my second year medical studies at Hayat Medical College in Addis Ababa. It is a six-year course and, God willing, I will graduate in 2022.
Sister Nigisti Desta is shown receiving her degree from Rift Valley College in 2016. (photo: CNEWA)
With God’s will and guidance, together with the support of generous donors like CNEWA and the maternal care and love of the Ursuline sisters, upon completing my medical studies I would like to serve my congregation — and, in particular, the people of Kobo in the neighborhood where I grew up.
I know there are some girls who didn’t get the kinds of opportunities I have now. They need moral support and, if possible, material assistance to make their dreams real.
I am so grateful to CNEWA and its donors. Without their support, my life today as a religious sister working in health care would not have been possible.
For all your good deeds, may the good Lord reward you! I confidently say that I am the product of CNEWA’s support. Thank you so much. May God bless all of you. I keep you in my prayers.