7 April 2016
Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam founded a home that cares for single mothers and their
children in India. (photo: Sean Sprague)
To many of the faithful in India, he is a saint: Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam, known as the “father of the poor.”
We profiled him in ONE magazine two years ago:
Mar Joseph died in Kenya in 1998 visiting a newly established house of Nirmala Dasi Sisters, a community he helped found in 1971. Translated from the Malayalam, the local vernacular, as the “Servants of God,” the Nirmala Dasi Sisters often serve as the primary agents of Mar Joseph’s works to serve the poor, the marginalized or those too feeble to care for themselves.
The community felt orphaned after his death, Nirmala Dasi Superior General Rosily Pidiyath recalls from the community’s tiny parlor in their motherhouse in Mulayam, near Trichur. The sisters are not alone. People cared for by the archbishop echo these sentiments, and hundreds will tell you they are alive today because he came forward to help when others had abandoned them.
Sixteen years after he died, Mar Joseph Kundukulam has left behind a remarkable legacy — a testament to a man who, even in death, continues to touch hearts and change lives.
As a young priest, Joseph Kundukulam was no stranger to charitable work. But his outreach to the poorest of the poor began in earnest when he was appointed pastor of St. Anne’s Church in Padinjarekotta, a suburb of Trichur. One day, a young woman carrying an infant asked the young priest for a place to stay. She was single, abandoned after the father of her child learned she had become pregnant. Her family had disowned her for her indiscretion. Father Joseph had to break the news that he had no shelter to offer.
Hours later, he found the young woman and her child still waiting for him. When he asked her what else she needed, she requested a small sum of money — little more than pocket change — to buy poison so she could kill herself and her child. Her request shocked the priest, who immediately worked with the parish to find some way to accommodate her.
He began to search for a more permanent way to help the young mother and others in her situation. Before long, he found a priest in Germany who offered him funds to start a new facility, on the condition the center be named after the patron saint of his parish in the heart of Europe. Since its founding in 1967, St. Christina’s Home has sheltered some 4,000 single mothers and their children, says the vice superior of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, Chinnamma Kunnakatt, who has been working in the center for more than a decade.
And because St. Christina’s Home focused on the care of mothers and their toddlers only, the young pastor founded Savio Home, which cares for children 5 years of age and older.
These were only the beginning.
Read on to learn more about his extraordinary legacy. We’ve written often about his work in India, and the lives that have been changed because of this man who, as one priest put it, was “a shepherd who smelled like his sheep.” To read about the order he founded, check out ‘Slumdog’ Sisters from the July 2011 edition of the magazine; House of Blessings from March 2007; and God’s Servants of Action from July 1994.
7 April 2016
Sandar Salem, administrator of a mobile clinic serving displaced Iraqis in Kurdistan, registers patients. To learn more about this CNEWA-supported clinic and its work, read Health on Wheels in the Spring 2016 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
7 April 2016
An ethnic Armenian soldier rests beneath a crucifix on 7 April at an artillery position near the Nagorno-Karabakh’s town of Martuni. In both the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals, crowds have been gathering to voice support for their respective militaries after four days of intense fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. (photo: CNS/Reuters)
Emotions run high in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict (The Guardian) In both the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals, crowds have been gathering to voice support for their respective militaries after four days of intense fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. Amid an upsurge of patriotic feeling in Yerevan and Baku, Azerbaijan claimed on Wednesday that the terms of the ceasefire agreed to just 24 hours earlier had already been broken 115 times...
Catholicos to visit Nagorno Karabakh (Fides) The Catholicos of the Armenians, Karekin II, and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Aram I, will together in the coming days visit Nagorno Karabakh, the region with an Armenian majority, under Azerbaijan where in recent days the conflict between Azeris and Armenians violently exploded again...
Iraqi Kurdistan government will continue to pay salaries of some Christians displaced (Fides) The regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan has renewed, until the end of 2016, the commitment to pay the salaries of Christian civil servants and public employees who worked in Mosul, in the Nineveh Plain and other areas conquered by the Jihadists Islamic State, and now live as refugees in Erbil and other areas of the north-Iraqi autonomous region...
Cardinal Dolan visiting Iraq to show support for displaced Christians (CNA) This week Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, will travel to Iraqi Kurdistan in order to offer support to families displaced by extremist violence...
Early seasonal rains bring deadly flooding to Ethiopia (AllAfrica) Seasonal rains have come early to parts of Ethiopia, causing deadly floods in places. The state broadcaster, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation told the Associated Press news agency that 28 people have been killed in two remote regions of the country. The intense downpours caused flooding in the drought-stricken region of Afar. Five people were killed as waters rose across what is the lowest point in Ethiopia and one of the lowest in Africa...
Palestinian Christians bitter over destruction of church ruins in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post) Palestinian Christians Wednesday expressed anger over the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have handled the ancient ruins of a Byzantine church that were uncovered in Gaza City last week. They said that bulldozers removed the antiquities and continued with their work without supervision. They accused the two big Palestinian parties of seeking to obliterate Christian history and identity in the Holy Land...
6 April 2016
The shrine holding the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
(photo: Gali Tibbon/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
The New York Times today posted this look at a developing story in Jerusalem: growing concerns about a possible collapse of the structure surrounding the tomb of Jesus:
It was a typical day at the shrine around what many believe is the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Old City. A Greek Orthodox choir sang inside a room facing the baroque structure. But the voices were drowned out when chanting Armenian priests and monks circling the shrine raised theirs.
“Sometimes they punch each other,” Farah Atallah, a church guard wearing a fez, observed with a shrug.
Mr. Atallah is a seasoned witness to the rivalries among the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic communities that jealously share — and sometimes spar over — what they consider Christianity’s holiest site, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Amid the rivalry, the unsteady 206-year-old structure, held together by a 69-year-old iron cage that honors the keystone of Christianity, the tomb from which Christians believe Jesus was resurrected, is an uncomfortable, often embarrassing symbol of Christian divisions, which have periodically erupted into tensions. In 2008, monks and priests brawled near the shrine, throwing punches and pulling one another’s hair.
But in recent weeks, scaffolding has gone up a few feet from the shrine in the gloomy shadows of the Arches of the Virgin, the first step in a rare agreement by the various Christian communities to save the dilapidated shrine, also called the Aedicule, from falling down.
The 22 March agreement calls for a $3.4 million renovation to begin next month, after Orthodox Easter celebrations. Each religious group will contribute one-third of the costs, and a Greek bank contributed 50,000 euros, or $57,000, for the scaffolding, in return for having its name emblazoned across the machinery.
The idea is to peel away hundreds of years of the shrine’s history, clean it and put it back together. Simple enough, but delayed for decades because of the complicated, centuries-old rules and minute traditions — called the status quo — that define the way Jerusalem’s holy sites are governed, in which the very act of repairing something can imply ownership.
“One of the serious issues in the church is that the status quo takes place over every other consideration, and it's not a good thing,” said Athanasius Macora, a Franciscan friar. “Unity is more important than a turf war.”
Read on for more.
For additional information on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its history, check out Christianity’s Holiest Shrine from the Fall 1987 edition of our magazine. And read A Church Transformed to learn about CNEWA’s involvement in the restoration of the building’s dome.
6 April 2016
Father Theodore Krepp displays Mary Yasenchak’s mold for making communion bread. Byzantine Catholics in northeastern Pennsylvania are maintaining their traditions, even as their numbers dwindle and demographics change. Read more in After the Boom in the March-April 2004 edition of the magazine. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
6 April 2016
In the video above, the Vatican confirms that Pope Francis will visit refugees from Syria and Iraq on the Greek island of Lesbos next week. (video: Rome Reports)
Greece confirms: Pope will visit refugees later this month (Reuters) Pope Francis is to visit Greece on 14-15 April, a Greek government official said on Tuesday, getting a first-hand look at the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis and thousands of refugees fleeing conflict. The Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, said in a statement it wanted the pontiff to visit Lesbos, the Aegean island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in the past year. Confirming the visit, a Greek government official said Francis would be accompanied to Lesbos by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians...
Relics of saint recovered in Syria (CNS) The relics of Syrian St. Elian, which originally were thought to have been destroyed by members of the so-called Islamic State militia, have been found amid the rubble of the desecrated Mar Elian Church in Qaryatain, Syria. The sanctuary was bulldozed in August 2015, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Father Jacques Mourad, the prior of the Syriac Catholic monastic community, was kidnapped three months earlier when the terrorists initially raided the church...
Archeologists discover ancient Christian church in Gaza (AP) Palestinian tourism officials say construction workers in the Gaza Strip have discovered what they believe to be a Christian religious site from the Byzantine era. Heyam al-Bitar, research director for the Hamas-run Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, said on Tuesday that the discovery included remnants of marble Corinthian pillars, foundations and crowns, some of them with a Greek cross. She says the ruins likely belong to a church-like structure that existed in what is now Gaza City. She says they date back to the sixth century, and are characteristic of the era of Emperor Justinian...
Cardinal Dolan traveling to Iraq with CNEWA (NCR) New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, is traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan this week, according to a press release from the organization...
First Syrian refugee family headed to U.S. (AP) The first Syrian family to move to the U.S. under its speeded-up “surge” resettlement operation has left Jordan for the United States. Ahmad al-Abboud, his wife and five children, left on Wednesday for Kansas City in Missouri...
Syriac Orthodox Church calls arrest “insulting” (Fides) The Syriac Orthodox Church considers the way the Palestinian police arrested Metropolitan Swerios Malki Murad, Patriarchal Vicar of the Holy Land “insulting.” Such police custody — which took place on Saturday evening, 2 April and lasted a few hours — is “a humiliation for all the faithful of the Syriac Orthodox Church throughout the world.” This is what the statement issued by the General Secretariat of the Syriac Orthodox Holy Synod reads...
Canadian diocese will reimburse money for Syrian refugees lost in gambling (Catholic Register) The Diocese of Hamilton is picking up the pieces after a Chaldean Catholic priest admitted to gambling away $500,000 of donations meant for refugees. The diocese has vowed to make sure no refugees are turned away due to the loss of funds...
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
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)
Tags: Eastern Europe Hungary Greek Catholic Church