5 April 2016
Al Lagan speaks with a Capuchin priest during his visit to Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)
Some of CNEWA’s biggest heroes are our donors, and one of the most devoted was Alfred A. Lagan — known to everyone as just “Al” — who supported our work for decades and even went overseas, to see for himself the work his generosity made possible. He died in 2013, at the age of 77.
Al came from humble roots, as his obituary noted:
The son of an Irish immigrant who owned a tavern in the Bronx, NY, Al’s career began by cleaning the tavern and saving pennies left on the floor. At the age of 16, his own father’s untimely death meant an early end to childhood years. Al graduated from Iona College in 1956 at the age of 20, and joined the Navy, where he was part of the Explosive Underwater Ordinance Disposal team, or also known as a “frogman.”
He went on to become a philanthropist and business leader in Boston. But throughout his life, education remained a top priority.
Norma Intriago, now CNEWA’s development director, remembered:
Catholic education, to him, was the best way to tackle the issue of poverty — to give someone the opportunity of education, to arm them with knowledge and good values so that they can build a better life. I think Al felt very blessed as someone who had gone to college, got a master’s degree and started his own investment firm. He felt like his success wasn’t his to keep. It didn’t belong to him — it was God’s blessing. So it was his turn to share that opportunity with others. He was a true altruist. He really, truly, selflessly rendered of himself to others in need.
Following a trip to Ethiopia, Al wrote about his impressions of that country:
Poverty is visible everywhere in Ethiopia. Children often approached us and asked for money. One night, I saw a woman and her baby sleeping against a wall near our hotel. She wasn’t resting for a moment. She and her child were living on the street — they had nowhere else to go.
But what Norma Intriago recalled most was Al Lagan’s spirit:
The trip was a rough one. At one point, we were staying in pretty poor accommodations. The electricity went out. We went a couple of days without showering. You can imagine how that affects your mood. But Al’s mood never changed! Whether he was starved, unwashed, whatever, he just shrugged his shoulders. Because he knew the trip wasn’t about his comfort. It was about something bigger than him. It was about the children and their eager faces. It was about the sisters who ran the institutions and their resourcefulness. That was what the trip was about. These kids had nothing, and it was about making sure they have a chance. I think Al taught me quite a lot about living the Gospel.
CNEWA is able to do its work because of countless heroes like Al Lagan, whose spirit continues to inspire us.
5 April 2016
Volunteer Jancy Kuthoor greets (from left to right) Sister Leema Rose, Sister Sigi Kavalamackal and Sister Jolly Moolakodan outside their home in Dharavi, India. The Nirmala Dasi Sisters operate homes, clinics and centers serving in the poorest slums of India. Read more about them in ‘Slumdog’ Sisters in the July 2011 edition of ONE. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
5 April 2016
In the video above, Pope Francis offers his prayer intention for April, asking for prayers for small farmers around the world. (video: Rome Reports)
Orthodox Church says it would welcome papal visit to Lesbos (Vatican Radio) A statement from the Holy Synod, or ruling body of the Orthodox Church in Athens, said the Pope had expressed a desire to visit one of the islands in order to draw attention to the humanitarian problems of the migrants, as well as the need for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in the wider Mediterranean region...”
Pope’s prayer intentions focus on small farmers (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ video for April’s prayer intentions focuses on the plight of the small farmer. The Pope Video is a global initiative developed by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) to assist in the dissemination of the Holy Father’s monthly intentions related to the challenges the humanity faces...
Life for Turkey’s Syrian refugees (The Independent) As the first wave of refugees is deported from Greece to Turkey, human rights advocates have raised concerns about the country’s suitability as a destination for asylum-seekers. Turkey is home to over 2.5 million Syrian refugees, but its refugee camps can only house around 200,000. Images of the shelter provided to refugees upon their immediate return from Greece appear to show hundreds of people sleeping under one roof in cramped conditions...
Iraq’s food business booming, despite war (AP) Iraqi businessman Zaid Nazo has always been sure of his nation’s deep passion for food and wasn’t afraid to dream big when he transformed his small Baghdad coffee shop in 1999 into a casual dining and takeaway restaurant. Today, the 41-year-old father of two has opened four branches and his chain is one of the most popular in Iraq. The food business is booming. There are 40 percent more restaurants in Baghdad today than there were in 2013 — when security and economic conditions in the country were much better — according to Shakir al-Zamili, the chairman of Baghdad Investment Commission...
Ukraine conflict sparks hunger crisis (The New York Times) The two-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine has left about 1.5 million people hungry, including nearly 300,000 in need of immediate help, the World Food Program, the main anti-hunger humanitarian agency of the United Nations, said on Monday...
Connecticut governor to receive “Profile in Courage” award for welcoming Syrian refugees (The Wall Street Journal) The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced Monday it had awarded Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy the 2016 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his stance on accepting Syrian refugees in the state. “I’m deeply honored and moved by this experience to join other public servants who have been so recognized over the years,” Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday...
A jewel in Syria where “ruins have been ruined” by ISIS (The New York Times) Where Palmyra’s impressive Temple of Bel once stood, only a single stone archway was left to frame a rectangle of blue sky above the arid desert about 160 miles northeast of Damascus, the capital. I traveled to Palmyra on Saturday with members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia allied with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, to see what remained of the archaeological treasures of Palmyra...
Vatican creates new internet communications office (Vatican Radio) At the invitation of the Secretariat, of State of the Holy See, the Secretariat for Communications has established a Bureau called “DotCatholic” with the purpose of utilizing a generic Internet domain name (.catholic) of the first level, in order to share the teachings, the message and the values of the Catholic Church with the broader global community in Cyberspace...
Sprawling mural pays tribute to Cairo’s garbage collectors (The New York Times) The intricate mural took shape over the past few weeks, little noticed at first, spreading across a harried quarter of Cairo where Egypt’s garbage collectors live, amid overflowing bundles of this overcrowded city’s trash. By the time the painting was finished two weeks ago, it stretched across more than 50 buildings, making it the largest public work of art here anyone can recall. The mural, a circle of orange, white and blue in Arabic calligraphy, quotes a third-century Coptic Christian bishop who said, “If one wants to see the light of the sun, he must wipe his eyes...”
4 April 2016
Shepherds in the Afar region hike along a road. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
In the Spring edition of ONE, writer James Jeffrey reports on Ethiopia battling its worst drought in decades. Here, he offers his own reflections on hunger — and gets a small taste of what countless Ethiopians confront every day:
Perhaps it was all the talk about food — or lack of it — but after an early start (and an early breakfast) on the first day of visiting schools and clinics, by midday I was feeling distinctly peckish.
And there was another problem. We were rapidly falling behind schedule, with me asking never-ending questions, Petterik the photographer trying to fulfil his mission, and it being slow going over the rugged Tigray landscape. Lunchtime came and went — with nothing eaten.
By mid-afternoon, I began to feel somewhat fractious. After leaving the home of 13-year-old student Rahel Zewde — who certainly hadn’t eaten lunch either — we bumped into 80-year-old Berhe Kahsay. With a USAID baseball cap on his head, a white shawl around his shoulders, and a walking stick in a hand, he invited us to his home — for coffee, crucially.
Now I’ve learned how quality Ethiopian coffee is close to as good as a meal in itself. And after the raw green beans were roasted over a charcoal brazier, ground in a mortar and pestle, and brewed, I saw out of the corner of my eye a young girl bringing a tray of freshly made bread. My heart rate increased notably.
I just managed to restrain myself from taking the largest chunk. What resulted might as well have been a banquet — coffee and bread never tasted so good or nourishing.
Eventually I managed to remember why I was there, and, turning to the drought, asked whether it had knocked the faith of this Christian people.
“Always we believe in God, we may even get rain today, we expect from Him good things for the future,” Mr. Berhe said. “This kind of drought is due to the climate, and it’s becoming worse due to climate change. We hope God will bless us instead with positive change.”
The following day’s trip to the neighboring eastern province of Afar resulted in the same routine: an early start and breakfast, a long bumpy drive, visits and interviews as the clock raced on — and lunchtime come and gone, accompanied by my unsated belly.
Added to which, I noticed with gnawing anxiety that not even a tin shack of a café appeared to exist in the surrounding barren environment. Then, it seemed an angel spoke.
“Time for lunch.”
The words, though, came from our more earthbound guide, Daniel Zigta, with the Ethiopian Catholic Church Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat. In one hand, he carried a bag of bread rolls, while one of the group of locals also accompanying us clasped a metal pot, the size of a large bowl.
As we set down on the rocky ground, squatting on haunches, the lid was removed to reveal locally made dark, yellow-brown viscous honey. Next Daniel and his fellow Ethiopians tore off chunks of bread to scoop up dollops of honey, motioning for Petterik and me to do the same; it didn’t take long for us to respond.
That sort of meal doesn’t take long to pack away, and soon we were soon back in the truck heading to our next appointment.
Re-energised after my Afar-style lunch, I was more than ready to get back to my notetaking, and once the sun started to lower, bathing the landscape in a mellowing golden hue, my increased spirits were sustained all the way back into Tigray and to the hotel.
It’s remarkable what a simple full stomach does for morale — and frightening how quickly an empty one takes effect.
To learn more about how drought and hunger are affecting the people of Ethiopia, read When Rain Fails in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE.
4 April 2016
Greek Catholic women say a prayer in the Hungarian village of Nyírascád. To learn how Greek Catholics are maintaining the traditions, read Holding on in Hungary in the May 2006
edition of ONE. (photo: Balazs Gardi)
4 April 2016
Tags: Eastern Europe Hungary Greek Catholic Church
In this image from February, employees prepare a convoy of four trucks transporting warm clothes and shoes to Ukraine, at the initiative of the French Red Cross in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, eastern France. Pope Francis over the weekend appealed for more aid for the people of Ukraine.
(photo: AFP/Jean-Philippe Ksiaek/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope appeals for peace, aid to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for peace in Ukraine and highlighted the tragedy of “all those who thirst for reconciliation and peace.” Speaking on Sunday during the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square the Pope said he is thinking in particular of the many who are suffering the effects of violence here in Europe...
Cor Unum to distribute funds to Ukraine (Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the papal charitable office, will be organizing the distribution of funds raised in response to Pope Francis” appeal for aid to the people of Ukraine...
In Istanbul, bookstore helps anchor Syrian refugees (AP) A rustic, three story-Arabic bookstore in old Istanbul has become an anchor for many Syrians who have stayed put in Turkey but crave a taste of home. The founder and owner of Pages, Samer al-Kadri, a refugee himself, says the store strives to be a bridge between Syrians, Turks and the myriad of foreigners who visit the city...
At least 29 killed in wave of suicide bombings in Iraq (The New York Times) Militants unleashed a wave of suicide attacks across Iraq on Monday, killing at least 29 people and wounding dozens, officials said...
Drought in Ethiopia could mean record food imports (The Weekly Times) A devastating drought in Ethiopia triggered by the El Nino weather pattern could double the nation’s wheat imports, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The African nation is in the middle of its worst drought in 50 years, which has left almost 400,000 people facing severe malnutrition...
Temporary freedom for Christian in India seeds hope (Crux) One of seven Christians convicted in 2008 for allegedly killing a Hindu holy man in the Indian state of Odisha, a charge that triggered a bout of anti-Christian violence that left 100 dead and 50,000 homeless, walked out of prison on March 31 accompanied by family members. It’s widely believed among India’s Christian community that the 2008 convictions were unjust, a way of distracting attention away from the failure of Odisha authorities in tandem with militant Hindu movements to protect the Christian minority...
1 April 2016
A Coptic villager in Upper Egypt checks his cellphone while transporting crops across town.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
CNEWA’s President, Msgr. John E. Kozar, made a memorable pastoral visit to Egypt earlier this year, and captured the deep faith of the country’s Christians in the Spring edition of ONE:
Egypt is often left out of discussions about the “Holy Land,” yet it is the land where St. Joseph took Mary and Jesus for safe haven. Sometimes the ancient history of the Pharaohs, the pyramids and the many archaeological treasures diminish the biblical importance of this land.
But Christians in Egypt, unlike in most of the Middle East, are truly at the bottom of society. Generally, they are the least educated, own very few businesses and are considered “second class,” or the outcasts of society. Many live in sprawling urban ghettoes, where many make a living picking and sorting garbage. Others live in very poor rural villages where they till the soil as indentured servants to wealthy landowners. One sister said, “They don’t dare take one head of grain to eat.” In either setting, however, their faith is alive.
Despite being extremely poor and living in horrible conditions, such as sleeping on a mud floor with their oxen and pigs, they relate to their local parish as an extended family and do everything needed to sustain each other, even to the point of taking in orphans or those children or elderly who have no one to care for them.
Read more and see his gallery of photographs here. And take a moment to hear him describe his visit in the video below.
1 April 2016
In this image from 25 March, Syrian refugee children play in front of a makeshift tent
in Izmir, Turkey. (photo: Evren Atalay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Amnesty International says Turkey forcing refugees back to Syria (South Africa Times) Amnesty International accused Turkey on Friday of illegally forcing groups of Syrians to return to their conflict-torn country, saying the alleged expulsions showed the “fatal flaws” in a migrant deal agreed with the EU...
Meet Iraqi refugees going back to Iraq (Time) A small but growing number of refugees are going back to their home countries in the Middle East — after life in Germany doesn’t work out...
Genocide call tangled up in politics in Canada (Catholic Register) Widespread slaughter, expulsion, kidnapping and rape of Christians, Yezidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in territory controlled by the Islamic State may well constitute a genocide, but the Canadian government will not join a growing international movement and formally call it a genocide before there is a proper, third party investigation...
Gaza child labor doubled in five years (Newsweek) Child labor has doubled in the Gaza Strip in the last five years as unemployment continues to rise and economic conditions continue to worsen in the coastal enclave, according to Palestinian government statistics. The number of children between the ages of 10 and 17 in the enclave currently working in Gaza now stands at 9,700, Reuters reported, citing figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics...
Egypt preparing document on protection of churches in Islam (Fides) The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, a body linked to the Egyptian Ministry for Religious facilities, will publish a vademecum within a month on the subject of “protection of the churches in Islam.” This was reported in recent days by Minister Mohamed Mokhtar, head of the department. The book in preparation — explained the representative of the Egyptian government — is intended to document that in Islamic societies reference to the Qur’an can be translated into a form inspired by the values of coexistence and respect among citizens of different religions...
Toronto art exhibit inspired by migrant crisis (Catholic Register) The exhibit, opening 2 April, is a collection of creative meditations on ongoing social issues of homelessness, migrant issues and refuge. Michael Stoeber, APT member and a professor at Regis College, said the theme was chosen as an initial reaction to the growing Syrian migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe, but looking around Toronto, the group realized these issues are also in their own backyard...
31 March 2016
Sister Arousiag Sajonian serves as superior of Our Lady of Armenia Convent in Gyumri, Armenia.
(photo: Nazik Armenakyan)
Her first name means “Carrier of Light” in Armenian. And for more than two decades, Sister Arousiag Sajonian has been bringing light and hope to a troubled corner of Armenia — a land ravaged by earthquakes, wars and economic crises.
She was born and raised in the Middle East — “between Syria and Lebanon,” as she puts it — and entered the convent at age 19. A sister of the Immaculate Conception, she now serves as superior of Our Lady of Armenia Convent in Gyumri. CNEWA once described her order as a group of “no nonsense nuns” — and they are, to put it mildly, active. Sister Arousiag supervises an orphanage, a daycare center for the elderly, a vocational school and a summer camp program.
As she wrote in our magazine in 1997:
We have taught some 1,000 students on a weekly basis, preparing them for Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Reconciliation.
We have also visited the elderly and the sick and have organized public seminars. All these activities have been made possible through a vehicle donated by CNEWA, which has carried us back and forth from village to village.
Our classes and presentations were the first formal catechetical lessons offered to Armenian Catholics since the country was annexed by Soviet Russia in 1922.
This busy nun visited our New York office in 2012 and found time to sit down for an interview and described her long partnership with CNEWA:
Sister Arousiag: Every time I haven’t been able to get enough funds for a project, I’d write a letter to CNEWA and put on the top “S.O.S.” And I always received a positive response. Immediately.
ONE: What is the one message you’d like the world to hear about the work that you do?
Sister Arousiag: My message would be to share what they have with the least fortunate. Most of the time, they are people who don’t know how to get out of their situations. What we want is to teach them how to overcome — how they can have a more dignified life. That is very important: that we don’t pity them. We just help them to live a better life. That is something every human being strives for. They want dignity.
31 March 2016
Pope Francis waves from his Fiat during his visit to the United States last September. One of the cars used during his trip will be auctioned to benefit a number of Catholic charities,
including CNEWA. (photo: Getty Images)
Place your bid.
From The New York Times:
The used hatchback up for auction comes with low mileage, a premium sound system and a glass roof. But because it once carried Pope Francis around New York City, bidders are willing to pay several times its Kelley Blue Book value.
On the bidding site CharityBuzz.com this week, a Fiat 500 Lounge (list price: $24,695) is one of the biggest attractions, alongside items such as tickets to Beyonce’s “Formation” tour or a chance to meet Paul McCartney.
The car was one of six that Francis used on his three-city United States tour in September. Officials with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York decided, like their counterparts in Philadelphia, to auction the car for charity.
“We’ve never had a papal Fiat before,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said. “They’ve always taken the Popemobiles home with them.”
The auction for the car started on St. Patrick’s Day, when it appeared in the parade in New York, and the bidding had reached $130,000 by Tuesday evening, surpassing the $82,000 fetched by the hatchback used in Philadelphia. The auction ends on Thursday afternoon.
The proceeds will go to Catholic schools and charities, including Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. “We decided to use them to help further the work that Pope Francis was so supportive of while he was here,” Mr. Zwilling said.
Read the rest.