13 July 2012
A family stands outside their home, which the prison ministry helped build, in Paracode, a village near Ernakulum. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE, Sean Sprague wrote about a prison ministry in Ernakulum, Kerala. Led by a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest, the ministry helps rehabilitate ex-prisoners like Rajesh:
Once he got out of jail, Rajesh spent several months at the ministry’s center, Shanti Bhavan, which means Home for Peace, in the small town of Edappally. Here Rajesh received additional counseling and job training, turning farther away from his life of crime.
Finally, Rajesh and Father Joy visited Rajesh’s family. Father Joy spent two hours with his wife. He assured her that Rajesh had indeed changed. This was not just some act to get back into her good graces. Okay, she said, I’ll give him one more chance.
Today, Rajesh and his family live in a rented house. He does laundry for Indian Railways, a job the ministry arranged. They are poor but are saving to buy their own home. The ministry may help out. It has helped purchase about 50 modest homes for ex-convicts, who do not gain control of the title for 10 years to ensure they do not return to crime.
“We are poor, but I’m very happy,” Rajesh said. “Now, I have a life I never dreamed possible.”
For more, read Prison Ministry In Kerala.
12 July 2012
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Homes/housing
Bedouin men perform at a restaurant in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Greg Tarczynksi)
Yesterday, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra played a concert in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo to celebrate the feast of St. Benedict, patron of Europe. Pope Benedict XVI spoke afterward, thanking the performers and reflecting on the unifying effect of music:
“Music,”, the pontiff continued, “is the harmony of differences … from the multiplicity of tones of the various instruments a symphony can arise. However, this doesn’t happen magically or automatically. It comes only from … a patient and laborious commitment, which requires time and sacrifices in the effort to listen to one another, avoiding excessive egoism and privileging the best success of the whole.”
Continuing, the Pope emphasized that the symphonies that were performed, Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth, express two aspects of life: “drama and peace; humanity’s struggle against adversity and its enlightening immersion in a bucolic environment. The message I would like to draw from it for today is this: to achieve peace we must dedicate ourselves to dialogue with a personal and communal conversion, patiently seeking possible areas of understanding.”
For more, read Universal Language of Music, Hope for Peace from the Vatican News Service.
11 July 2012
Tags: Middle East Jordan Pope Benedict XVI Cultural Identity Amman
Capuchin Franciscans take a break from a continuing education and formation program for catechists in Bhurat, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Through this blog, Msgr. John Kozar has shared countless stories and photos that make the world seem a lot smaller and bring you closer to the people we serve. Back in April, Msgr. Kozar shared some inspiring stories from his first pastoral visit to Ethiopia:
Another very inspiring experience on this day was a brief visit to a class being given to catechists, as part of their continuing education and formation program. And to me an amazing part of their story is that each of them has been chosen for this most important role by their respective communities. They must be men and women of great faith, willing to share their faith with others as catechists.
The big campus at Bhurat also includes a health clinic. Two sisters from India run it and do a superb job in offering first-rate healthcare in an environment of loving kindness. We ended our visit with a marvelous meal, which included the ritual roasting of coffee beans and serving of rich Ethiopian coffee. With us for the entire visit to this site were the elders, almost serving as our security team and “honor guard.” In fact, the honor was all ours.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s detailed blog series from his time spent in Ethiopia, “An Ethiopian Odyssey.”
10 July 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Seminarians Ethiopian Catholic Church
Coach Gevorg Shushanian gives boxing lessons at an Armenian school.
(photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
In the March 2009 issue of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan wrote about some of the obstacles facing Armenia’s impoverished communities. In A Fragile Lifeline, we learned that children of these communities are often forgotten or left behind. That is where the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception step in and do their best to fulfill the basic needs of these forgotten children:
“I also miss my mother very much. We have not seen her for two months,” she said, shyly pulling the picture from her pocket.
“The only joy in these children’s life is the sisters’ center. They forget everything when they go there,” their grandmother said of the Our Lady of Armenia Center.
Run by the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, the day care center, with funding from CNEWA, has been providing a host of services to the region’s needy children since 1994. Currently, the day care center serves more than 2,000 children.
“Our children receive food, clothes and stationery. They teach them. They even give them lessons in music and take them to camp in the summer,” said Mrs. Movsesian. “I think sometimes that, were it not for the center, what would we do?”
For more, read A Fragile Lifeline.
9 July 2012
Tags: Children Armenia Georgia
Parishioners gather outside the Immaculate Conception Church in Smakieh, Jordan.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
Back in December, Msgr. John Kozar made his first pastoral visit to the Holy Land as CNEWA’s president. While visiting with people and church leaders who are a part of the CNEWA family, he also gained a deeper understanding of the traditions and cultures that permeate this community of Christians. One stop included the village of Smakieh in Jordan, where he took part in an ordination:
A couple of impressive sights from the ceremony: Being welcomed outside the church as we arrived with the archbishop by all the men removing the agal, or cord, from their kaffiyeh, a traditional head covering. It was a sign of deepest respect given to us. The men were robust in their handshakes and in their welcoming.
After the ceremony, after all the elders and people of the parish had personally greeted the new deacon and given him a kiss on each cheek, a group of younger parishioners hoisted the deacon on their shoulders and began dancing to the beat of their chanting which created a most festive mood.
The village of Smakieh is entirely Christian, which is rare in this Muslim kingdom. There are only two families of Bedouin living in the village, the Latin Hijazine family and the Melkite Akasheh family. Between these two families they have offered 14 priests in service to the church. Added to this are the number of Catholic and Orthodox priests that have come from neighboring Bedouin towns, such as Raba and Ader, who basically supplied much of the entire presbyterate for Jordan and Israel and Palestine. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.
If you haven’t done so already, check out Msgr. Kozar’s blog series from his Holy Land visit,“Journey to the Holy Land.”
6 July 2012
Tags: Middle East Jordan Cultural Identity Bedouin
Artist Andrei Arapov chose folklore and imperial authority as themes for this lacquered box.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Some of the most striking works of art aren’t found hanging on a wall, but on the lid of a box — like the image above, from a story by Sean Sprague on the remarkable works being restored in one Russian village:
For centuries icon painting in Palekh was passed down by apprenticeship from father to son. In the 19th century the state supported Palekh artists, whose importance the monarchy recognized in reaffirming Russia’s spiritual and artistic symbols, and as a bastion against encroaching Western influences.
In 1814 there were said to be about 600 artists in Palekh, the same number as today. Icon ateliers dotted the village, with the most famous belonging to Nikita Safonov, who along with his son Mikhail undertook commissions across Russia. The reputation of Palekh grew so that by the end of the 19th century Palekh masters had established studios in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Nizny-Novgorod and Perm.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, however, interrupted the tradition, with the Bolsheviks banning icon painting in their attempt to rid Russia of its religious heritage.
Palekh adjusted to the times. Rather than becoming unemployed, its artists switched to other forms of expression. They began decorating porcelain, glass, eggs and wooden toys with nonreligious themes.
The painting of black-lacquered boxes made from papier-mâché was the most successful alternative. Local artist Ivan Golikov is credited with introducing Palekh to the boxes, whose origins lay in the Far East, but which had gained popularity in the village of Fedoskino, near Moscow.
Read more about New Reality, Same Artistry in the March-April 2004 issue of ONE.
5 July 2012
Tags: Russia Village life Art Frescoes
Young Ukrainians travel on foot and on horseback for a pilgrimage from Lviv to Univ.
(photo: Petro Didula)
Last year, writer Mariya Tytarenko looked at how a new generation of priests is helping rejuvenate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — and in the process, they are also helping to make pilgrimage scenes like the one above more common:
Subdeacon Ostapyuk and Father Prokopets celebrate liturgies for the children and staff in chapels in or near the orphanage schools. If there is no chapel in the vicinity, they improvise. In the summer, they often celebrate the liturgy outdoors. In addition, they explain the meaning of the liturgy to the youngsters as well as teach them lessons from the Bible and about Christian values.
Each summer, the men also help run the Druzhba Camp for orphaned children and youth, some of whom have disabilities, in the village of Svirzh, 39 miles southeast of Lviv. For the rest of the day, they and a group of volunteers oversee a daily agenda of outdoor activities, crafts and games.
Read more about young Ukrainian men Answering the Call to the priesthood in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
3 July 2012
Tags: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Pilgrimage/pilgrims Eastern Europe Seminarians
Following the footsteps of St. Thomas, Indian pilgrims climb Mount Malayattur. Visitors of all faiths believe the trip can cure them of physical and mental disease. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today marks the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle in the Latin Church (Eastern churches celebrate his feast day on 6 October). In Kerala, St. Thomas has had a major influence, and is known to have brought Christianity to the region:
“This main port opened to the seas well before the time of Christ, from 300 B.C. onward,” says Father Davis Chenginiyadan, executive director of the Kodungallur Research Academy for Mar Thoma Heritage.
The priest stands at the site of the ancient city of Muziris, located on a jetty at the mouth of the Periyar River, about 20 miles north of Cochin. This was once the main crossroads of India’s global spice trade and the landing spot of St. Thomas the Apostle, who brought Christianity to the region in the year 52.
To learn more about St. Thomas’s influence, take a look at Msgr. John Kozar’s blog series from his pastoral visit to India earlier this year, “In the Footsteps of St. Thomas.”
2 July 2012
Tags: India Kerala Thomas Christians Saints
Sister Lisi leads evening prayer in the chapel of Grace Home, with 2-year-old Chakara.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
Two years ago, we visited Grace Home in Kerala, where the Nirmala Dasi Sisters care for children with H.I.V./AIDS:
With the school-age children gone, a quiet falls upon the grounds of Grace Home — that is until a 2-year-old boy noisily pushes his pintsize tricycle across the facility’s marble floor. The tricycle plays an electronic version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Energetic and healthy — in fact, rather pudgy — the boy first came to Grace Home in 2009 covered in scabies and looking lean, says Sister Lisi, who calls him simply Chakara, or “sweetie” in the local Malayalam language.
“He would cry all day and all night,” she says. “Maybe he was thinking about his mother — she lost her mind and lived with Chakara in the Kuttippuram Railway Station, taking him here and there. Or maybe he feared he was going to be given away.
“He’s in good condition right now,” boasts Sister Lisi, adding that Chakara’s CD4 count is high, at more than 800. “He doesn’t need ARTs.”
Chakara’s attachment to Sister Lisi is unmistakable. He clutches her habit at the knees. She picks him up and puts him back down. He pushes the tricycle around some more and then into her feet. Sister Lisi ignores him. Chakara gets fussy and she picks him up again.
“At his age, he needs a mother’s concern and love,” says Sister Lisi. “I feel like I’ve been appointed his mother. Now he’s getting so much love. I don’t know how much love I have to give, but whatever I have I give.”
Read more about a home Full of Grace in the November 2010 issue of ONE.
29 June 2012
Tags: India Children Sisters HIV/AIDS
Parishioners pray during the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)
During Msgr. John Kozar’s first pastoral visit to the Ethiopia in April, he witnessed just how faithful the Ethiopian Catholic community is, despite being small in number:
My first exposure to the rich Ge’ez Rite would come at an early morning Divine Liturgy the following morning at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral. The bishop and most of the eparchy’s priests concelebrated the ancient liturgy. I was taken aback by the beauty of the liturgy, the amazing intricacy of the chanting, not just of the bishop and the priests, but all the many faithful who had assembled as well. The cathedral had a large of number of people for this ordinary weekday eucharistic liturgy, celebrated at 6:20 a.m. All of the faithful are farmers and some regularly walk great distances to attend.
Another impressive aspect of the cathedral is the outstanding paintings that adorn most of the walls. These are works of art in progress, as the bishop has commissioned an 80-year-old Orthodox priest-iconographer to paint the cathedral murals. After four years of labor, I would say this venerable priest is about 80 percent finished. He lives with the bishop and two other Catholic priests assigned there, together sharing their lives, meals and prayers. I had the honor to meet this outstanding artist and thanked him for his great gift.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s first blog post in his series from Ethiopia, A Warm Welcome.
Tags: Ethiopia Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church Church