19 April 2018
Members of the St. Paul Prison Chaplaincy of the Archeparchy of Addis Ababa, a lay organization that ministers to prisoners, travel to a facility outside of the Ethiopian capital. (photo: Don Duncan)
Last week our blog dealt with the “formation” of the clergy and members of religious orders and communities. This week we are going to look at the formation of the laity.
We focus on the subject of formation in the current edition of ONE, with stories throwing a spotlight on priests and religious sisters. But we also tell the stories of the laity.
First, we need to ask: who are they?
Vatican II defines the laity as those who are not clergy or religious (“Lumen Gentium,” par. 51). Last week, we noted that CNEWA does not directly engage in the formation of the clergy; rather CNEWA helps those who do the formation by providing them with the necessary resources to accomplish their task. It is the same with formation of the laity. CNEWA does not itself maintain any programs of lay formation. Nevertheless, wherever CNEWA is present, it supports such programs.
The Second Vatican Council attempted to make the church and its mission more effective in the modern world. Three documents published at Vatican II are extremely important for understanding the role of lay people in the church: “Lumen Gentium,” or the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (21 November 1964); “Gaudium et spes,” or the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (7 December 1965); and “Apostolicam actuositatem,” or the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People (18 November 1965). If, in the past, Councils had dealt primarily with questions/problems of dogma — with great emphasis placed on the Magisterium or teaching office of the church and those who carry it out — viz., the clergy — Vatican II took a different approach. Vatican II spent little or no time dealing with dogmatic or theological controversies. Rather, it looked at the church as it was (in 1965) and asked how it could be more effective in its mission — how it could use its resources better for the Kingdom of God.
Key among those resources, of course, is the laity — the ordinary people in the pews to make up the greatest part of the Body of Christ.
In a sense, Vatican II “rediscovered” the laity. While lay people were all too often defined by what they were not — not clergy, not religious — Vatican II sees lay people as those “incorporated into Christ … and [who] in their own way share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ and … carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the church and in the world” (“Lumen Gentium,” par. 31). The role of the laity is: “to make the church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them [the laity] that she [the church] can become the salt of the earth” (par. 33).
The laity form a crucial and indeed indispensable part of the church’s mission. It is at this point that the formation of the laity is recognized as central to the life of the church. If people are crushed by dehumanizing poverty, by lack of education, oppression, war and debilitating yet curable diseases, there is no way they can carry out the mission entrusted to them by Christ. It is very hard for the sick, the poor and uneducated to be the leaders the church needs.
The first step of the formation of the laity, therefore, is to help them achieve a standard of living which promotes their human dignity as members of the Body of Christ. Working with local churches, CNEWA supports programs that help people recover their dignity and their futures. Wherever we work, CNEWA supports programs that promote the health, education and dignity of those whom we serve. Programs, for example, which teach people — especially women — a trade allow these people to rise above subsistence living and to begin to influence a wider world: their family, their village, their church. It helps empower them to go out spread the Gospel and change the world.
However, raising people’s standard of living and educating them for work is only a part of what the formation of the laity means.
Vatican II sees the life of lay person in the world as a life of witness and service. As people are trained, for example, to run small businesses, they need also be trained to behave as witnesses to the Gospel in the world in which they live and work. Perhaps the most important part of the formation of the laity is teaching them that their role in life is not merely to earn a living and support their family but to witness to Christ and transform the world in which they live and work into the Kingdom of God.
19 April 2018
Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, meets with Iraqi Christian refugees on 14 April in Beirut. Refugee families, who fled Iraq in 2014 when Islamic State took over their village, are waiting to immigrate to Canada or any country that would welcome them. Archbishop Miller was part of a delegation from CNEWA visiting Lebanon this week with CNEWA’s chair, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Read more about the trip and watch videos of it here, here and here. (photo: Carl Hetu/CNEWA)
19 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA Canada
On 19 April, Indian students in Amritsar join in protests calling for justice for rape victims and an end to sexual predation. (photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters march against India’s rape crisis (UCANews.com) Priests, nuns and lay Catholics were among thousands of people who joined a candlelight march in India to express solidarity with the nationwide outrage over gang rape and murders, especially of minor girls. About 1,500 people including children and the elderly from various religions marched through Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, on 16 April…
How Lebanon is teaching refugees to thrive (The National) Grassroots activists are doing what they can to ease the most crushing impacts of poverty and prepare Syrians in Lebanon for the future. One such organization is Maps (Multi-Aid Programs), run by an inspirational 33-year-old neurosurgeon, Dr Fadi Alhalabi. Having fled Damascus himself in 2013, he knows all too well the difficulties facing his compatriots as they attempt to rebuild lives shattered by war…
Ukraine moves to split church from Russia as elections approach (Reuters) Ukraine’s Orthodox church could become independent of Moscow under the terms of a presidential initiative lawmakers approved on Thursday, a move that President Petro Poroshenko said would make it harder for Russia to meddle in Ukrainian affairs. The Moscow Patriarchate is part of the Russian Orthodox Church and has a sizeable following in Ukraine…
Archbishop says special Mass for Christians in the Middle East (CNS) As a sign of solidarity with religious minorities who have been victims of Islamic State-led genocide, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford celebrated a special Mass for persecuted Middle Eastern Christians on 15 April at St. Mary Church. He welcomed Bishop Bawai Soro, who heads the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto and is a native of Iraq. He delivered the homily and also proclaimed the Gospel in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus…
Child marriage doubles among Syrian refugees in Jordan (Middle East Monitor) Child marriage among Syrian refugees has more than doubled in the last four years according to new data released by Jordan’s court system. War, poverty and economic instability have been major factors in the increase in under age marriage throughout the Middle East…
18 April 2018
Tags: India Ukraine Middle East Christians Ukrainian Orthodox Church Women in India
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.
18 April 2018
Tags: Lebanon Refugees CNEWA
Part of the program in Sagar, India, taught young women basic sewing skills, to help them find better-paying jobs. (photo: CNEWA)
We recently received this update on a wonderful program CNEWA support from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas:
The project aimed to educate poor and destitute children living in low-income urban areas of Sagar, India, helping them to learn basic skills — such as tailoring and dressmaking — to generate income for poor women and widows.
The program took place in seven urban neighborhoods and one village, benefiting some 200 children. Seven lay teachers were given the task to instruct the children and others, and did so with great talent and commitment.
Each class consisted of four hours of training in the morning.
A religious sister meets with some of the women. (photo: CNEWA)
The program, supported by CNEWA, has provided a platform for the sisters and priests of the diocese to meet the parents personally and provide counseling. The parents and teachers also met together in groups, which has helped them understand the value of education for their children and encourage them to go to school.
We could see that 83 children living in poverty were mainstreamed to government schools. Their attitude toward life will be better once they leave the slums, with a greater sense of responsibility toward their families and the community. Most of the teachers involved in the project were women; some came from poor families but were immensely dedicated.
The children showed great interest and enthusiasm to learn. The project not only helped the children to learn, but also reduced their stress and depression.
The results have been very promising! It was observed that these children see possibility and hope in their lives. They are not among those who go out begging or pursuing child labor, and they are not involved in drug abuse or addiction. Government authorities and the general public all appreciated the efforts through this project.
18 April 2018
Tags: India CNEWA Education Poor/Poverty Women
A group of lay people supported by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Jordan gathers for one of its regular meetings in Amman. Discover how the sisters are Inspiring the Faithful in Jordan in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
18 April 2018
Tags: Jordan Sisters
Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 18 April. He encouraged those taking part in the World Bank meeting in Washington to promote the life of the poor. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope urges economic leaders to favor inclusion and promote the lives of the poor (Vatican News) Pope Francis expressed hope that the upcoming World Bank Meeting may yield positive results that favor “an authentic integral development that is respectful of human dignity.” Speaking on Wednesday at the conclusion of the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope mentioned Saturday’s World Bank Spring Meeting in Washington and encouraged participants to make “efforts for financial inclusion that aim to promote the life of the poor…”
Caste plays vital role in Indian election (UCANews.com) Dust plumes waft above poorly maintained roads as legions of motorists head to Ranebennur township in the state of Karnataka in southern India in April ahead of the upcoming polls, where not only religion but caste, too, is expected to take center stage…
OPCW issues statement on Syrian fact-finding mission status (OPCW) “The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (U.N.D.S.S.) has made the necessary arrangements with the Syrian authorities to escort the team to a certain point and then for the escort to be taken over by the Russian Military Police,” the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons clarified today, regarding the investigation of alleged chemical weapon use in Douma. The statement continued: “However, the U.N.D.S.S. preferred to first conduct a reconnaissance visit to the sites, which took place yesterday,” during which a reconnaissance team came under “small arms fire,” it said. “At present, we do not know when the [fact-finding mission] team can be deployed to Douma. Of course, I shall only consider such deployment following approval by the U.N.D.S.S., and provided that our team can have unhindered access to the sites…”
Christian pilgrims to Holy Land get tattoos (CNS) Three generations of the Razzouk family busily attended to Christian pilgrims and tourists packed into a tiny shop to get Christian tattoos to mark their pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The Razzouk family has been tattooing Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land for 500 years — and 200 years before that in Egypt. One of their ancestors, Jeruis, was a Coptic pilgrim to the Holy Land five centuries ago; he fell in love with the land and decided to stay and used his tattooing skills to make a living. The art of tattooing was passed down through the generations, with the methods adapting themselves to the times…
Disabled Palestinian refugee plans to climb Mt. Everest (Al Jazeera) Jarah al Hawamdeh, a Palestinian refugee in Jordan who lost one of his legs to cancer, has vowed to reach the summit of Mount Everest in hopes of saving his cash-strapped school. Al Hawamdeh, 22, who has lost one of his legs to bone cancer, is climbing the world’s tallest mountain to raise funding for the school that gave him an education…
17 April 2018
Tags: Syria India Pope Francis Palestinians
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
Tags: Lebanon Refugees Health Care