21 March 2012
From left, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar, Dominican Sister Maria Hanna and CNEWA Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq Ra’ed Bahou gather with Dominican Sisters outside the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Jordan. (photo: CNEWA)
Last December, during his pastoral visit to the Holy Land, CNEWA President Msgr. John Kozar had a chance to visit with Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena at their clinic in Jordan. These sisters — whose provincial house is in Iraq — staff hospitals, orphanages and schools for those still in Iraq and those Iraqis displaced throughout the Middle East. They do not turn their backs on the people, and the dire circumstances in Iraq seem to drive them to want to do more. Last August we were able to catch up with a few Dominican Sisters visiting the U.S. and gain some insight into this fearless congregation of sisters:
Your community lost its mother house to the violence.
Sister Diana Moneka: Yes, it was bombed several times. But God was with us. When they bombed our mother house the first time, the missile fell on a bedroom where four sisters were sleeping. It was 1:30 a.m. They couldn’t escape. Pressure from the fire prevented them from opening the door. A sister sleeping down the hall eventually got them out. The sisters were so shocked, but after a while they felt the presence of God. They realized, “We’re still alive because of God.”
How is morale among the sisters?
Sister Maria: They are very down and frustrated. Whenever there is some activity and work, and they’re busy and producing, they are happy. But sometimes, they get very frustrated.
Sister Diana: We’re walking with people step by step, every day. Wherever there is a bomb, we’re with the victims. Caring for traumatized people is a very difficult task, because their trauma wears off on you. Coming back home, if you don’t have a big community that supports you, the spiritual and psychological parts are very hard.
We’ve lost lots of family. I lost my brother. Five years ago, he was shot. One sister, two of her nephews were kidnapped and disappeared. Another, her nephew disappeared and they have heard nothing about him. It’s been almost five years now. We’re trying to help people and at the same time dealing with our own trauma.
Sister Maria: In the past six years, we have not had one meeting with all the sisters together. We used to have them at the mother house. This is very difficult for the sisters, because we can’t unite together. We want to build a new mother house. We have the property and the blueprints, but we do not have the money.
Click here to read more of our interview with the sisters.
20 March 2012
Tags: Middle East Jordan Health Care Dominican Sisters
In this image taken in December 2008, a worker prepares grapevines at the La Salle Center near Meki, Ethiopia. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In 2007, the Brothers of the Christian Schools launched the La Salle Agroprocessing and Farmers’ Training Center facility in Meki, Ethiopia, which produces quality products, such as wine, marmalade, yogurt and butter, for domestic and international markets. The brothers aimed to develop a sustainable, profitable facility that at the same time provided educational, economic and professional opportunities to the community:
Women, wrapped in scarves to protect them from the scorching sun, clear brush from under the vineyard’s 20,000 imported Italian grapevines — grouped together by origin and identified with signs, such as “Barbera,” “Sangiovese” and “Montepulciano.”
If all goes according to plan, the brothers will have completely transformed this ordinary 75-acre plot of subdivided farmland into an integrated, income-generating agribusiness. Since the project’s inception, the brothers have raised a total of $800,000 in grants, which they have used to purchase the land, plants, construction materials, machinery and to pay labor costs. The next installment of funds will be used to double the amount of land, purchase 20,000 more imported grapevines and strawberry plants, and add livestock, including cattle, chickens, fish and pigs.
At every turn, the La Salle Center will provide economic, educational and professional opportunities to the community. Projecting a 54-person payroll, which will swell to 100 during harvest time, the brothers intend to staff the endeavor with people from the local community, who will gain on-the-job skills in modern agricultural techniques for use on their own family farms. The on-site agricultural training center will also offer workshops on improved agricultural techniques, such as biogas production, small- scale drip irrigation, animal husbandry and crop selection. The brothers also plan to loan the center’s tractors and other equipment to local farmers at below market rates.
For more, read Farming a Brighter Future.
19 March 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Farming/Agriculture Employment
A resident of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Pulincunnoo, Kerala studies for class.
(photo: Cody Christopulos)
Today, many Roman Catholics celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. There are numerous religious orders and charities that bear this saint’s name — including St. Joseph’s Orphanage, a home for girls run by the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel in Kerala. The girls’ parents are unable to support them financially, so St. Joseph’s affords them better opportunities and hope for their future. In the September 2005 issue of ONE, Paul Wachter wrote about this home named after the saint:
While it is true that nearly all the “orphans” at St. Joseph’s have parents, the opportunities available to them at the orphanage and affiliated schools offer the young women better lives, the sisters said. “Otherwise there would be even less opportunities for the girls,” said Sister Priscilla Anna. Through the schooling at the orphanage and the after-school program, the sisters believe they are breaking a cycle.
“Our goal is to see all our girls with a good job and/or a good husband,” Sister Priscilla Anna said. “That way, when they have children, they will be able to present them with better opportunities than their parents offered them.”
For more, read St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’. To learn how you can support girls like the residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage — and the work of religious sisters like that of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel — join us as we “Celebrate Women” this month through a matching gift campaign that supports this admirable work. You can also join our community on Causes.com to share your appreciation for women and sisters!
16 March 2012
Tags: India Kerala Orphans/Orphanages
A young Bedouin traveling by donkey through the ancient city of Petra, Jordan.
(photo: John E. Kozar)
Petra — the ancient fortress city carved out of rock in the Valley of Moses — features some of Jordan’s best-preserved traces of antiquity, along with significant evidence of early Christianity. In December, CNEWA President, Msgr. John E. Kozar visited Petra as a part of his pastoral visit to the Holy Land. Read all of Msgr. Kozar’s blog posts from his journey.
15 March 2012
Tags: Middle East Jordan Holy Land Msgr. John E. Kozar
Teacher Manna Gebreyons, interacts with her students at a Catholic school in the Tigrayan village of Sebia, Ethiopia. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In 2009, we interviewed Sister Winifred Doherty, a member of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, about empowering women in Ethiopia. She stressed the importance of knowledge as a tool of empowerment. Having access to education provides the opportunity for success and prosperity. Though Catholics are a minority in Ethiopia, Catholic-run schools are making a difference. Take a look at our interview with Sister Winifred Doherty below:
14 March 2012
Tags: Ethiopia Education Africa Catholic Schools
A woman stands in the window pane of her future home in the Eparchy of Trivandrum in Kerala, built with funds raised by CNEWA. (photo: John E. Kozar)
As a part of his pastoral visit to India, CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar visited with families who are benefitting from the support of CNEWA donors in the construction of new homes. These homes are more sound and spacious structures than their former cramped “shanty” houses. Msgr. Kozar described these visits as a high point of his trip because he was able to see the tangible results of CNEWA’s best efforts:
Only a few kilometers away, but on an unmarked road, we were led by one of the priests to a mountainous area that has no community name, no zip code and no street address. In fact, our vehicle could only go so far and then we had to walk the rest of the way. Our purpose in this visit was to offer our solidarity and support to the poorest of the poor for whom we are helping in the construction of homes. By the way, these people are of the Dalit group, which means they are the so-called “untouchables” in India’s illegal but powerful caste system.
The project of building these homes is a combined effort of CNEWA, the Indian government and the parish outreach; in some instances, a very modest share is borne by the poor themselves. To understand the contrasts between the hovels in which these dalits live to the beauty and dignity as witnessed in the homes under construction is impossible. One mother showed us her one-room shanty — that housed five people — that was about the size of a small bathroom in Canada or the states. Even though her new home is still under construction, and very rough in appearance, she beamed with pride as she took us through the modest dwelling.
We had the good fortune to visit with two other families whose new homes are under construction. We were accompanied visit by two priests, who related very comfortably and beautifully with these, the poorest of the poor. On your behalf, I accepted the heartfelt and emotional expressions of gratitude for the generosity of CNEWA in giving these supposed “untouchables” dignity of life for the first time in their lives.
These visits were perhaps the high point in my visit so far as they reflected so well the best efforts of CNEWA in reaching out to the poor in this part of the world.
For more, read Msgr. Kozar’s 2 March blog post from the field, In the Footsteps of St. Thomas: Reaching Out to the ”Untouchables.“ To read all of Msgr. Kozar’s blog posts from his visit to India click here.
13 March 2012
Tags: India Kerala Homes/housing Dalits
A photo of Sally, a young Iraqi woman in Jordan, taken in April 2010. (photo: Gabriel Delmonaco)
In May of 2010 we were introduced to Sally, a lovely young Iraqi refugee in Jordan, by Sister Wardeh of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. Sister Wardeh, a good friend and warrior for CNEWA, has worked with displaced Iraqis since the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. Sally’s story was especially poignant: this vibrant 19-year-old woman was battling cancer. Her chemotherapy was no longer working and she needed expensive surgery. CNEWA friends were able to rally behind Sally and her family. We raised $15,000 in one day to pay for her surgery. That gave Sally the precious gift of life, and the blessing of time.
Sadly, the time was short. We heard some sad news from Sister Wardeh recently: after a brave battle against the disease, Sally had “gone home to God.” We remember Sally and her family in our prayers, and we also remember those who cared for her so lovingly — people like Sister Wardeh. We are so thankful she introduced us to Sally — and thankful, too, that our CNEWA family was able to pull together and help her when she needed it most.
Join us this month as we celebrate the work of sisters like Sister Wardeh in the lives of women like Sally.
12 March 2012
Tags: Refugees CNEWA Iraqi Christians Jordan Amman
A parishioner leaves St. Elijah Church in Ain Kawa, a mostly Christian neighborhood outside Erbil, Kurdistan’s capital and largest city. (photo: Safin Hamed)
In the November 2011 issue of ONE, we reported that much of Iraq’s Christian population had found a haven in the Kurdish controlled north. Many had fled hostile cities like Mosul and Baghdad and were ready to start a new life in the Kurdish north. Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that Christians are now abandoning the area — due, in part, to lack of employment opportunities and security concerns:
“The consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in its most recent annual report, summarizing the concerns of church leaders.
In January, the International Organization for Migration found that 850 of 1,350 displaced Christian families it was tracking in northern Iraq had left in the past year. Many cited fears about security as well as the strains of finding work, housing and schools in an unfamiliar place where they had few connections and spoke only Arabic, and not Kurdish.
“No one has done anything for us,” said Salim Yono Auffee, a member of the Chaldean/Assyrian Popular Council, a Christian group in northern Iraq. “These people are trying to figure out how to build their futures, to find homes, to get married. And they are leaving Iraq.”
Even in the relative safety of Kurdistan, some Christians say they still live in apprehension. A kidnapping of a Christian businessman in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and a recent outbreak of riots and arson attacks against Christian-owned liquor stores in Dohuk Province — the northernmost in Iraq, along the Turkish border — have deeply unsettled Christian migrants to the area.
For more, read the Times’ article Exodus From North Signals Iraqi Christians’ Slow Decline.
9 March 2012
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians War
A sister treats a patient at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
Today is day two of our “Celebrating Women” campaign. In honor of the courageous women in our region, today’s picture comes from the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. This clinic is run and staffed by the Iraqi Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. Last year 3,600 children received immunizations from the clinic. In December, Msgr. Kozar blogged about his visit to the clinic and the great work and beautiful spirit of the sisters who run this clinic:
We left Amman for densely crowded Zerqa, where we had an appointment to visit the Mother of Mercy Clinic. Perhaps the word “clinic” is a misnomer; this facility teems with activity and offers a multitude of services to a huge number of poor, almost all of whom are Muslim.
I have to tell you, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, who run the clinic, are dynamos and command tremendous respect by the hundreds who come each day. Though the facilities are old, humble and crowded, the service provided is exceptional. On a typical day, the dispensary or emergency room might see between 100-140 patients. Additionally, there may be hundred mothers with their infants lined up for vaccinations. There are only two full-time doctors on staff, but they are complimented very well by a trained group of nurses, technicians, midwives, assistants and other helpers who make the delivery of services something to behold. I think our huge mega-hospitals in North America could learn a thing or two with the efficient management style seen here.
But most of all, there is a loving spirit demonstrated by the four sisters who work here and the dedicated staff that collaborates with them. Ra’ed mentioned that most of the staff have been employed at Mother of Mercy for many years, and while they could make greater sums elsewhere, they have made a commitment to stay and serve the poor.
Mother of Mercy is located right beside a huge Palestinian refugee camp, which houses about 80,000 inhabitants. You can imagine the volume of traffic to the clinic on some days, which lies within a compound that includes a parish church, dedicated to St. Pius X, and the parish school.
Another indicator of how beloved the sisters are is the fact that in every instance, save one, all the Muslim women with their children and infants felt very comfortable in allowing me to photograph them. Being cautious, I let one of the sisters accompanying me to ask their permission to take their photograph. I must tell you, the faces of both mother and child were prize-winning smiles, thanks to the sisters.
To learn more about the Mother of Mercy Clinic and the work of the Dominican Sisters, read Mothering Mercies from the May 2009 issue of ONE. To learn how you can help support the work of sisters like the Dominican Sisters, join our Causes page or give on our website.
8 March 2012
Tags: Middle East Jordan Health Care Dominican Sisters
Sister Bincy Joseph assists girls with their homework at Mother Mary Home for Girls in Kerala. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today through 31 March, CNEWA celebrates women. Throughout the month we will share stories about the women who are vital to the work of CNEWA. You can find items here on the blog, through our Facebook page, Twitter, and our newly-minted Causes page. On the Causes page, you can stop by to give toward our $20K matching campaign, share a story, or just show your support and spread the word.
Today’s story comes from the March 2008 edition of ONE. In A Place to Call Home, Sean Sprague reported on the work of a group of sisters at an orphanage for girls in Kerala:
Sister Jean Mary emphasized that Kerala, while largely rural, is densely populated, as much as three times the rest of India. And up to a third of the state’s population live below the poverty level.
Most of the parents of the girls at Mother Mary Home work as day laborers at local quarries, brick factories or large rubber estates. Wages are abysmally low, the work, seasonal and hunger, common. Parents often find it necessary, Sister Jean Mary said, to send their children out to work to supplement their meager incomes. The parents of these girls are so socially and economically marginalized that they never bothered to obtain birth certificates for their children.
As its stated mission, the orphanage offers the children the chance to lead a “fulfilling and self-reliant life in close relation with other people.” To this end, the sisters do their best to create a homey atmosphere, prepare healthy meals, nurture the girls’ spiritual growth and faith in God and encourage them in their academic work so they may find gainful employment as adults.
The girls attend local Catholic elementary schools, which are within walking distance from the orphanage. Classes for kindergartners and students through fourth grade are held at a school half a mile away. Junior high school classes are conducted at a Catholic school two miles away.
For more, read A Place to Call Home. Don't forget to join us on Causes and follow along with our updates throughout the month!
Tags: India Sisters Orphans/Orphanages