7 May 2019
Jean Vanier helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over the past half century. (photo: CNS /Abramorama)
A man whom many had dubbed a “living saint” has died.
Jean Vanier, 90, founder of L’Arche communities and co-founder of Faith and Light, died on 7 May. Vanier had been suffering from cancer and was assisted at a L’Arche facility in Paris.
Vanier was the author of some 30 books, a member of the Order of Canada, winner of the Templeton Prize and member of France’s Legion of Honor, but he was perhaps best known as a kind of village elder to the world.
Vanier permanently changed the fate of intellectually disabled people everywhere by demonstrating how the care of a community could open lives to meaning, joy, hope and trust -- not just the lives of the disabled, but the lives also of those who live with them and care for them.
“Jean Vanier’s legacy lives on. His life and work changed the world for the better and touched the lives of more people than we will ever know,” L’Arche Canada spokesperson John Guido said in a prepared statement.
Over the past year, Vanier gradually entered into the sort of frailty and weakness natural to his age, before entering palliative care in France in April.
In a visit to Chicago in 2006 to accept the Catholic Theological Union’s Blessed are the Peacemakers Award, Vanier said he had noticed that people who have mental disabilities often have great faith, but they never speak of “Christ” or “the Lord.”
“They always talk about Jesus,” Vanier said. “It’s a personal relationship.”
In L’Arche communities, the disabled residents are seen as the “core members,” and treated as individuals, with respect and love, and nondisabled and disabled residents alike learn to live together.
“Our danger is to see what is broken in a person, what is negative, and not to see the person,” said Vanier. “It’s not just a question of believing in God, but of believing in human beings, believing in ourselves, and seeing people as God sees them.”
That means not relating to them from a sense of power, even if that power comes from generosity.
“Generosity is something that is good,” Vanier said. “When we have more wealth, resources and time, we want to succor those in need, and that’s good. But behind generosity is a notion of power. Generosity must flow into an encounter. We must meet people. It’s not a question of doing for, but of listening to their stories.”
CNEWA has supported the efforts of Vanier’s mission at L’Arche for many years, at various places around the world.
In 1990, for example, we reported on Hope Kindled in Bethany, at a L’Arche community, and described Vanier’s guiding philosphy:
In this international federation of Communities, stretching from Burkina Faso to Brazil, handicapped people and those who help them work and share their lives together.
According to its charter, the members of L’Arche also believe that “a person who is wounded in the capacity for autonomy and in the mind is capable of great love which the spirit of God can call forth, and we believe that God loves each one in a special way because of this very poverty.”
Unfortunately, many of the handicapped are rejected, without work, without homes or are shut up in psychiatric hospitals. In addition to providing care, L’Arche seeks to develop in society “a greater sense of justice and brotherly concern toward all.”
For L’Arche assistants, living and working with the handicapped is a lesson in love, an experience from which they have as much to gain as the needy they help. According to Jean Vanier, “We discover the immense joy God wants for us by meeting Jesus in the poorest, the weakest and the most broken.”
That mandate remains close to the heart of all of us at CNEWA, wherever we find ourselves seeking to serve those in need and give to them light, dignity and hope.
We lift up our prayers today for all those who were touched by Jean Vanier’s remarkable legacy, and we pray in gratitude for the great gift he gave to so many, including to us.
May his memory be eternal.
The Way to the Ark
Helping Cairo’s Handicapped
A New Home With a New Family
6 February 2019
Tags: India Egypt Mental health/ mental illness
Jim Kingham and Anastasia Shkilnyk. (photo: courtesy Jim Kingham)
The current edition of ONE contains the hope-filled story of how Caritas Ukraine — with support from CNEWA — is offering the elderly poor a Window to the World, giving new life and possibility to some of the country’s neediest men and women.
In the course of his reporting, writer Mark Raczkiewycz spoke with Jim Kingham from Canada who, along with his now deceased wife, Anastasia Shkilnyk, has been an ardent supporter of this work:
They have contributed more than a half million dollars to implement a program in Ukraine similar to one in Canada: Medical equipment is purchased for Caritas, which in turn lends or rents it to the elderly. Family members then are shown how to use walkers and other life-easing equipment with their older relatives.
They started donating because, as he told us, “we felt that … elderly people have given so much to their children, too often not appreciated or recognized, that the least we could do is offer a little comfort, with freedom from financial worries when they need medical equipment, while still preserving their dignity.”
Five years ago, we told the story of the Kinghams on our blog — and noted with sadness the death of Jim’s wife, Anastasia:
We have known Anastasia as a generous person who strived to make the world a better place and who succeeded in changing many hearts.
Being a Ukrainian Canadian, she cared particularly about the marginalized people of Canada and Ukraine; however, her generosity knew no geographic borders. During her fulfilling life, she championed the principles of social justice and spent enormous amounts of personal time and resources to help victims of discrimination.
In 2013, together with her husband Dr. Jim Kingham, she established with CNEWA Canada a special endowment fund to support social justice projects in Ukraine. A modest woman, Anastasia refused to have the endowment named after her. This year, the endowment will start continuously supporting the charitable initiatives of Caritas Ukraine. One of these projects will be lending medical equipment, free of charge, to poor people with serious temporary and permanent disabilities.
The legacy of Anastasia’s writings, actions and of her sacrificial love will continue transforming lives in many countries. You can read more about her remarkable life in this tribute*, on the website for Ukrainian Catholic University.
To discover more of the good fruits of the Kinghams’ generosity — and the generosity of so many others around the world — read Windows to the World in the December 2018 edition of ONE.
* [Editor’s note: The original “tribute” hyperlink destination no longer exists; the link in the text now points to an Archive.Org preserved copy. For another Ukrainian Catholic University piece celebrating the life of Anastasia Shkilnyk, click here.]
3 June 2013
Tags: Ukraine CNEWA Canada Caritas
Hayat Shao gives her son Jamil Makhoo, an Iraqi refugee, a hug for the first time in 13 years. (photo: Evan Boudreau/Catholic Register)
What a joy it must have been for Cardinal Thomas Collins to welcome to Toronto the Iraqi Christian family he sponsored!
The story, from the Catholic Register:
Though it took a few hours longer than expected, six members of the Makhoo family — Iraqi refugees sponsored by Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins — finally arrived in Canada on 23 May.
It was an emotional reunion as members of the clan already settled in Canada were on hand to greet the family they hadn’t seen in years.
“I was very happy,” said Hayat Shao, mother to the Makhoo family’s patriarch, Jamil. “It was like I owned the whole world when I saw my son coming through the gate.”
It had been 13 years since the mother and son last embraced before their reunion at Pearson International Airport.
Like any Iraqi refugee story, the Makhoo’s is filled with these kind of heart-wrenching anecdotes amid a tale of suffering, displacement and delays.
Read more at the Register link.
Like so many, I was waiting for this moment, too. Thanks to Cardinal Collins — a director of CNEWA’s governing board in Canada — for his leadership on this issue. Thanks also to Dr. Martin Mark, who directs the Archdiocese of Toronto’s refugees office, and his team for his diligent efforts to bring so many Iraqi refugees to Canada.
This project has been a great collaboration between CNEWA Canada and the Archdiocese of Toronto, helping to raise awareness of the plight of Iraqi Christians. It certainly highlighted our Catholic Church’s positive role and the many volunteers that put their time and resources to make this happen.
To learn how you can help Iraqi Christians, visit this link.
29 April 2013
Tags: Iraq Refugees Iraqi Christians Iraqi Refugees Canada
Canadian Senator Anne C. Cools introduces the documentary “Across the Divide” to Christian leaders in a Parliament building in Ottawa. (photo: CNEWA/Antin Sloboda)
On 15 April, CNEWA Canada joined with the office of Senator Anne C. Cools to organize a special event in Ottawa highlighting the situation of Christian communities in the Holy Land.
The Parliament Hill event brought over 30 community leaders representing a variety of Christian faith traditions, including Eastern Christians, Anglicans, Catholics, Mennonites, Presbyterians and others. The highlight of the conference was the screening of a documentary about the Bethlehem University, “Across the Divide.” The film is a production of the Salt + Light Media Foundation. CNEWA Canada sponsored its presentation across many Canadian cities in 2012.
Through Bethlehem University, we can see how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has had a negative impact on the local Christians, who desire only to live in peace. Besides presenting the challenges these Christians face, the film also offers signs of hope. It shows how the leadership of the university and the students of many faiths together are committed to working for the benefit of all.
After the screening, participants shared their communities’ experiences in promoting peace in the Holy Land. Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, moderated the constructive dialogue. The Rev. Thomas Rosica, C.E.O. of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, played an important part in stimulating the discussion as a panelist.
Senator Cools concluded by encouraging leaders of the Ottawa Christian communities to continue working together so one day peace might become a reality for all in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.
If you would like to order the film, contact Salt + Light Television.
And to learn how you can support Bethlehem University, click here.
10 January 2013
Tags: Middle East Christians Israeli-Palestinian conflict Middle East Peace Process CNEWA Canada Bethlehem University
The Eparchy of Saint-Maron de Montreal of the Maronites, which Bishop-Elect Marwan Tabet will head, is located in Montreal, Quebec, and serves Canada’s entire Maronite population. (photo: Sarah Hunter)
Today, a good friend of CNEWA, Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, was named bishop of the Eparchy of Saint-Maron de Montreal of the Maronites by Pope Benedict XVI. The bishop-elect was born in Bhamdoun, Lebanon, in 1961, entered the Congregation of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries in 1980, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1986. Father Marwan, who is known throughout Lebanon as a man of action who knows how to get things done — and well. As the general secretary of Lebanon’s Catholic schools, Father Marwan raised the standards for Catholic education throughout the country, offering superb educations for Christian and Muslim students in the poorer sections of the country as well as students in the affluent neighborhoods of Beirut.
In the July 2008 edition of ONE, we focused on Father Marwan and his efforts with Catholic schools in Lebanon:
In many parts of Lebanon, [Catholic schools] represent the last forum where Christian and Muslim youth meet and grow up knowing one another. “Catholic schools are natural places where children can come together, sit next to each other and get to know the other person slowly but surely,” said Maronite Father Marwan Tabet, who heads Lebanon’s General Secretariat of Catholic Schools.
“It’s not like you have to shove it down the throats of people — and the kids grow to know each other, to love each other, to accept each other. That’s very important.”
Father Marwan believes the student body’s religious diversity ranks among the greatest strengths of the nation’s Catholic school system. These schools, he said, are a “place where there is no proselytism, where children are not converted to Christianity. On the contrary, they are open to the other culture. They are accepted and they are cared for with the best of means and possibilities.”
Congratulations Bishop-elect Marwan, and God’s blessings on your new assignment.
27 August 2012
Tags: Education Christian-Muslim relations Canada Catholic education Maronite
Bishop Boris Gudziak was ordained yesterday at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine.
(photo: Press Office of Ukrainian Catholic University)
On Sunday 26 August, Father Boris Gudziak, a long-time friend of CNEWA and former professor of mine, was ordained a bishop for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Bishop Boris was born in 1960 in Syracuse, New York. After completing his Ph.D. in Slavic and Byzantine History at Harvard University, he went to Ukraine and in 1992 founded the Institute of Church History. He played a key role in reestablishing the Lviv Theological Academy, which in 2002 became the Ukrainian Catholic University, the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union. From 2002 to 2012, he was the university's rector.
Bishop Boris’s consecration took place at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine, and his Principal Consecrator was His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The new bishop is appointed as the Apostolic Exarch for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics of France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Two weeks from now, Bishop Boris, along with all other bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, will participate in the Church’s Synod in Winnipeg, Canada.
23 August 2012
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada
A mother and child receive care at the Shepherd’s Field Hospital (photo: PMP-CNEWA Jerusalem)
CNEWA Canada is very excited to partner with the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada for a joint venture called “Velma’s Dream,” named after outgoing C.W.L. President, Velma Harasen. The Catholic Women’s League is a national lay association of women and is the largest organization of Catholic women in Canada — with over 1,300 councils across Canada.
Last week, CNEWA Canada National Director Carl Hétu visited the Annual National Convention for the C.W.L. held in Edmonton, AB, Canada, from 12 to 15 August 2012. He was invited to speak to 950 delegates on the topic of Christians of the Middle East. He inspired and challenged them to bring hope to these Christians, who are a minority and caught in the midst of power struggles. We can help them keep the light of Christ burning in the Holy Land by being in solidarity with them, since they are part of the family of the Catholic Church.
Carl also gave the Catholic Women’s League an update on a project they are supporting in Holy Land — the education program of the Infant Welfare Center in Jerusalem, which works at getting youth who have dropped out of school back into the classroom. The project has now been fully funded, meeting its goal thanks to the generosity of women and councils across Canada. The funds will be sent this September for implementation.
During the National Convention, the C.W.L. approved the funding of a second project. This new dream is to support the Beit Sahour Cooperative Society in the Bethlehem area, to provide affordable quality health care for poor families — especially pregnant women and newborn babies through the Shepherd’s Field Hospital.
Another example of their generosity is that approximately $2,500 was collected at Masses during the National Convention to go towards this second project. What a wonderful witness of solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land. Carl enjoyed his time spent at the Annual National Convention and in Edmonton. To all the wonderful ladies of the Catholic Women’s League, we say: “Thank you!”
To support Velma’s Dream, visit our website by clicking here.
21 June 2012
Tags: Holy Land Health Care Donors CNEWA Canada
Carl Hétu, left, and Father Thomas Rosica, right, participated in a panel discussion at the “Across the Divide” screening in Vancouver earlier this month. (photo: The B.C. Catholic Paper)
In partnership with CNEWA Canada, Salt + Light Television is premiering a new documentary entitled “Across the Divide” on a Canada-wide tour. The film tells the story of Bethlehem University, the De La Salle Christian brothers who run it and Christian students who sacrifice everything for their education. Together, they aim to build a better future for the Holy Land. CNEWA has been supporting the efforts of Bethlehem University since its inception in 1973.
The tour began in Vancouver with the world premiere on 3 June 2012. The theater at Simon Fraser University sold out its 350 seats. Immediately following the film, Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, participated in a panel about life in the Holy Land. Also on the panel were Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, Brother Jack Curran of Bethlehem University, Father Thomas Rosica of Salt + Light and, via Skype, Berlanty Azzam, one of the students whose story is featured in the film.
Shot on location in Israel and the Palestinian territories, “Across the Divide” offers a glimmer of hope for the region through the heroic actions of staff and students at Bethlehem University. The film captures the drama of a campus that, like its students, bears the scars of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The next screening of “Across the Divide” will take place in Halifax on Monday, 25 June 2012. For further information about the documentary and to R.S.V.P, click here.
The film will also be screened at events in Toronto and Ottawa — on 5 and 19 September, respectively — as well as Montreal and Windsor at later dates. CNEWA Canada is a featured sponsor of the tour and Carl Hétu will continue to appear on the panel at future screenings.
For a more in-depth interview with Berlanty Azzam, on whom the documentary centers, and Kris Dmytrenko, writer and co-director, read this article in the Canadian Catholic Register and watch a special episode of Perspectives Weekly on the film, produced by Salt + Light Television.
11 May 2012
Tags: Holy Land Education Canada CNEWA Canada Bethlehem University
Next month, CNEWA Canada will co-sponsor the premiere of a new documentary on the troubles facing the Holy Land, as seen through the people at Bethlehem University. The Vancouver Sun offers a preview:
The population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories is less than 11 million. But ongoing violence and anger in the region continues to create global military tensions and tear holes in the hearts of billions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and non-religious people.
Canadian Roman Catholics are offering their perspective on this land of what Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller calls “intolerance” and “fear” in a new documentary, titled Across the Divide. It premieres in Vancouver on June 3, 2012. See the preview of Across the Divide, which captures the dramatic time when a Catholic University in Bethlehem is caught in a gut-churning crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.
Shot on location in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and edited in Canada, Across the Divide offers a glimmer of hope for the divided region through the heroic actions of staff and students at Bethlehem University, which has 3,000 students, most of whom are Christian (30 per cent) or Muslim (70 per cent). The film captures the drama of a campus that, like the lives of its students, bears the scars of what the Canadian Catholic leaders call the “intractable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This film presents the story of Bethlehem University, caught in the middle of a sad reality of injustice, violence, intolerance and fear that dishonour the Holy Land, a land that should be a wellspring of hope and faith,” says Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.
“By watching this film, viewers will take a positive step toward building a future of political and religious peace and justice in the region,” adds Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and executive producer of the documentary.
Rosica adds: “Across the Divide tells the remarkable, provocative story of the first Catholic institution of higher learning in Palestine... Against all odds, Bethlehem University has become a school of justice and peace in the Holy Land, and a real bridge among many different groups of people: Arab and Israeli, Christian, Muslim and Jew. In a part of the world that has known so much conflict, animosity, monologue and despair, the Catholic Church’s presence through Bethlehem University has offered a model of peace, friendship, dialogue and hope for the world.”
To learn about the film and its premiere, check out this link. And for more on Bethlehem University, read The Perseverance of Bethlehem University from ONE magazine.
Tags: Holy Land Canada CNEWA Canada Bethlehem University Media