30 April 2014
Cardinal John O’Connor prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during a goodwill journey in December 1986 and January 1987. (photo: Chris Sheridan/Catholic New York)
Some fascinating news was revealed today in the pages of Catholic New York, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New York:
Cardinal John O’Connor, who as Archbishop of New York cultivated and cherished his strong ties to the Jewish community, was born of a mother who was born Jewish.
It is not known whether he knew that his mother, Dorothy Gumple O’Connor, was born Jewish. She converted to Catholicism before she met and married Thomas O’Connor, the late cardinal’s father. Mary O’Connor Ward, the cardinal’s sister, told CNY in an exclusive interview that her mother never spoke about having belonged to another faith.
The fact that Mrs. O’Connor was Jewish by birth came to light during a genealogical search undertaken by Mrs. Ward at the prompting of one of her daughters, Eileen Ward Christian, who had begun digging into the family’s history. Mrs. Ward said in an interview that when she was growing up she surmised that her mother was a convert, but that the family never discussed the matter.
Asked whether Cardinal O’Connor was aware of his Jewish lineage, she said, “I have no way of knowing that.” But she added, “I just don’t understand, if he knew, why something wouldn’t have come up before. He was so close to the Jewish community.”
Musing about his probable reaction to the news, she said, “I think he would have been very proud of it.” She said that she was very proud when she discovered her Jewish ancestry, and she noted that Cardinal O’Connor often spoke of the Jewish people as “our elder brothers” in faith.
“I don’t think you can be a Catholic and not feel that connection,” Mrs. Ward said.
Cardinal O’Connor apparently felt that connection in ways that, in retrospect, seem prophetic. On May 3, 1987, he watched thousands march down Fifth Avenue protesting the oppression of Soviet Jews. Later he joined the protesters at a rally near the United Nations and told them, “As I stood on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral this morning and watched you stream by, I could only be proud of those who streamed out of Egypt several thousand years ago, winning freedom for themselves and for all of us. They are your ancestors, and they are mine.”
He added, “I am proud to be this day, with you, a Jew.”
In an accompanying essay, Cardinal O’Connor’s sister writes:
My brother revered the Jewish people for their sublime dignity as God’s chosen race. It was the Jewish people who taught mankind what it means to know and trust God, and to be His beloved. He would have considered it the greatest honor to be united with ties of blood to the race that bore our Savior Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. I see now that my brother’s entire life was shaped by the faith of Jewish people. Whenever he spoke of the Holocaust he did so with tears in his heart. As a priest, during a trip to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, he was pierced to the core. He vowed that he would do whatever he could, until his dying breath, to promote the sacredness of every human life.
He said that the men and women who died at Dachau shaped his adult life. His childhood was shaped by a woman who did not die at Dachau, but could have, had the circumstances of her birth been different. She shaped his heart and warmed his love. She taught him the faith and how to pray to God. He wrote to her before his ordination to the priesthood, “To my Mother, in appreciation of the fact that if her son ever becomes (a) good priest … the credit and the reward will be hers.”
I marvel at God’s mysterious ways.
Read more in the current issue of Catholic New York.
30 April 2014
Tags: Catholic Catholic-Jewish relations Christian-Jewish relations Jewish Cardinal John O’Connor
Young Syrian refugees are spotted at a camp in Lebanon. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the spring edition of ONE, Msgr. John E. Kozar writes about his experience visiting a settlement for refugees in Beirut:
Imagine a child, alone in a foreign land, where everyone is a complete stranger. Imagine that that child has had to flee several times from several areas of conflict or even several countries.
Such is the plight of Armenian children who fled Iraq for refuge in Syria, and now have found a safe haven in Lebanon. How long will this refuge hold out? Where to next? Armenia? When will the horror end? No one knows the answer. And if one looks at history as a guide, the Armenians have had a very sad history, having been routed and chased from their ancient homeland and now in their places of refuge.
We have an expression, “Home is where the heart is.” CNEWA, in partnership with local the churches, reaches out to these innocent children and tries to create some semblance of a safe and secure environment, meeting the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, and going far beyond.
During a recent visit to a large settlement of Armenian Syrian refugees in Beirut, I was very touched to join groups of children tutored by very committed teachers, refugees themselves, as part of a program to keep their minds active in learning and their hearts engaged in an environment of love. And CNEWA, thanks to our benefactors, is there, bringing alive this loving program, which instills both hope and cultural pride.
Read more in the new edition of the magazine, now online.
And to learn how you can help these smallest refugees, instilling “both hope and cultural pride,” visit our Syria giving page.
29 April 2014
Tags: Syria Refugees Children
In this 2010 image, Myven Aihab prepares for winter exams at the Santa Lucia Home in Alexandria. (photo: Holly Pickett)
In the spring edition of ONE, writer Sarah Topol visits an institution in Egypt bringing hope to visually impaired children:
At Santa Lucia, the nurturing environment and commitment to higher learning provides some balance. Named for the fourth-century saint and patron of the blind, St. Lucy — who, according to tradition, was blinded before her martyrdom — the home encourages children to rise above their limitations. They are taught that nothing is beyond their reach, and the children are expected to shine.
“We teach them independence,” says Sister Souad Nohra, the director of the home.
At the home, children who once might have spent their lives in the shadows — helpless or hopeless — are receiving an incalculable gift. Darkness is giving way to light.
Read more about efforts to bring children Out of Darkness in the spring 2014 edition of ONE. To read the story in its full graphical layout, click on the image!
28 April 2014
Tags: Egypt Sisters Education Disabilities
Retired Pope Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis before the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 April. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
25 April 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope John Paul II Saints
Nuns from Brazil take photos in front of a large banner of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on 25 April. Pilgrims have begun streaming into Rome for the 27 April canonization of Blesseds John and John Paul at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
24 April 2014
Tags: Pope John Paul II Saints
The spring edition of ONE is now available online.
You can check out the stories at our spring 2014 link. Or, even better, visit this link to view the magazine in its full format, with layouts, graphics and interactive features.
Our cover story focuses on the remarkable efforts of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon to help refugees from Syria, especially children.
All that, plus an eyewitness account of the conflict in Ukraine; a visit to a country with only five Catholic priests; and an inspiring look at the legacy of India’s “Father of the Poor.”
Stop by and have a look. Spring is finally here!
24 April 2014
At Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Tbilisi, parishioners greet one another during the
Kiss of Peace. (photo: Molly Corso)
The spring edition of our magazine has just been posted online, and one of the stories focuses on the firm faith of Armenian Catholics, persevering and creating a sense of community in a country with only five priests:
The lack of priests on the ground means Armenian Catholics living in cities such as Borjomi, Ozurgeti and Chiatura attend Latin parishes, a phenomenon that impacts all Eastern Catholics where clergy and parishes are nonexistent. This means that a way of life, as well as a faith tradition, is imperiled. More Armenian Catholics are finding themselves disconnected from centuries of tradition without access to the sacraments and rites that have been a part of their faith and, in fact, their identity.
Yet, defying the odds, they stand firm. To spend time with Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is to rediscover the deep reservoirs of piety and purpose — and a remarkable strength of character — that have defined them for generations.
It is also to realize, above all, that the story of Georgia’s Armenian Catholics is one of unwavering faith.
“The Soviet period was a time of oppression for Armenian Catholic families,” says Tbilisi’s Rev. Mikael Khachkalian, the only Armenian Catholic priest in the city, of the challenges facing his flock in Georgia.
“The Soviet Communist regime’s deliberate policy gave birth to another problem — the Armenians of Tbilisi in particular don’t have a good command of the Armenian language, knowledge about their national Christian tradition and their rich, centuries-old history.”
Father Khachkalian estimates that around 80 percent of those worshiping in Tbilisi’s two Catholic parishes are in fact ethnic Armenians. The same problem exists around the country, outside the predominantly Armenian Catholic villages in southwestern Georgia, where the Armenian language and culture dominate. Yet even in these villages, the heart of Armenian Catholicism in the Caucasus, challenges exist. Priests must travel travel hundreds of miles in wretched conditions to provide the sacraments to far-flung congregations in shrinking communities largely empty of its men, most of whom have abandoned their families for work in Russia.
Solakat Davolian, 75, attends liturgy every morning in the small makeshift chapel in the Armenian Catholic center in Tbilisi, yet she prefers to attend Mass every Sunday afternoon at the Latin parish of Sts. Peter and Paul downtown.
Before Armenian Catholic priests arrived in Tbilisi, Armenian Catholics were served by Polish-speaking missionaries. This, Mrs. Davolian says, made participation in the life of the community a challenge. “Now that there is an Armenian priest, I come every day,” she explains. “It was hard before; we could not understand the language. Now, thank God, it is much easier.”
Read more about A Firm Faith in the Spring 2014 issue of ONE.
23 April 2014
A restorer displays fragments of a recovered mosaic near the Jordan River (left) and a reproduction of a finished product. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Several years ago, we visited the area around the Jordan where tradition holds that John baptized Jesus, and uncovered some remarkable archeological work:
Archeologist Dr. Muhammad Waheeb is the excavator of the most recently investigated major site associated with the life of Jesus. The two Gospel passages state that John the Baptist was baptizing at Bethany beyond the Jordan River, i.e., on the east side of the river, as seen from Jerusalem. This Bethany should not be confused with the home village of Mary, Martha and Lazarus on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem.
For many centuries pilgrims have identified the location of the baptism of Jesus with a spot on the western bank of the Jordan River near Jericho. But over the past five years Dr. Waheeb has shown that for most Christians of the Byzantine period — the fourth through the seventh centuries — the activity of the Baptist was located at a site on the eastern bank known today in Arabic as Wadi el-Kharrar, about four and a half miles northeast of where the river empties into the Dead Sea.
The evidence of some pottery shards and other remains from the time of Jesus himself — what historians and archeologists call the Roman period in this region — is not yet sufficient to make an absolute identification of the site with the Gospel’s Bethany. And indeed it is difficult to “prove” archeologically the exact location of many, if not most, events of both the Old and New Testaments.
The earliest shrine-building efforts of newly free Christians, however, following the Romans’ issuing of an edict of religious tolerance in 311, as well as monastic settlements, bear witness to the attraction of particular sites to the faithful by at least the second quarter of the fourth century.
Read more about Bethany Beyond the Jordan in the January-February 2002 issue of our magazine.
22 April 2014
Pope Francis carries a candle as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 19 April. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
17 April 2014
Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Easter Rome
In this image from 2008, early morning sunshine fills St. Basil the Great Church in Krajné Cierno in Slovakia. The region is noted for its historic wooden churches. To learn more, read Rooted in Wood from the May 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Andrej Bán)
Tags: Cultural Identity Eastern Churches Architecture Church Slovakia