3 November 2017
Elizabeth and Hannah Valentine pray at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wisconsin.
(photo: Miriam Sushman)
In 2003, we paid a visit to Cedarburg, Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee, where the people of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church are preserving ancient traditions and welcoming a diverse flock:
About half of the parish’s 175 members were raised in other church traditions. Others are second — and third — generation Greek or Russian Orthodox. About 40 are Arab. With this kind of a mix, everyone is thankful for the exclusive use of English in the Divine Liturgy.
Three of the youthful members are Chinese and were adopted by a local family. The oldest child is blind. She has learned the liturgy by heart and chants it with the choir. Her father watched her with pride while her siblings squirmed in the pew.
Though the congregants come from different ethnic backgrounds, they are united by their faith and the traditions of the Orthodox Church. “When there is a disagreement, it is never along ethnic lines,” Father [Bill] Olnhausen said.
He takes care to explain again and again the meaning of the church’s traditions for newcomers. Repetition, he explained, reinforces tradition.
Some traditions require more from the congregation than just listening. Prostration is common in the Orthodox Church, and on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross parishioners knelt and bowed during the procession of the cross.
Among the joyful noises on that day were the voices of the youngest parishioners, some still so young they were wrapped in blankets and lay cooing in the pews.
St. Nicholas is child-friendly. A crying room in the back of the church was full of active toddlers whose parents retreated there for a “time out.” Preschoolers attended church school, returning for Communion with the adult parishioners.
Children and adults alike dressed in their Sunday clothes. Ties and white shirts were standard for boys and men and dresses for girls and women.
Community participation is also strong at the church. The church double tithes: 10 percent supports the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. The other 10 percent goes toward charities and needy individuals.
Read more about Serving a Diverse Community in the November-December 2003 edition of our magazine.
2 November 2017
A displaced child, pictured in March 2017, walks through a refugee camp in Zahleh, Lebanon. What does the future hold for the people of the Middle East? Read a reflection by CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, in the current edition of ONE. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
31 October 2017
Sisters Irene, Catherine and Veronica, members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, are pictured at their residence at La Paix Hospital in Istanbul. (photo: CNS/Oscar Durand)
At 10 a.m., the Rev. Dominic Ko walked to the altar to begin Mass in Korean, his native tongue.
“Amen,” replied the 30 people in attendance, all of them also Korean.
The Church of St. Mary Draperis is in the heart of Istanbul, where the Franciscan Father Dominic landed 10 years ago to tend to the country’s Korean community. He is the only Korean priest in Turkey but, as a religious from a foreign country, he is not alone. He is one of the 125 Latin-rite Catholic religious from more than 20 nations. It is a tiny yet very diverse community for a country with very few Latin Catholics. Accurate numbers are not available, although the Istanbul Vicariate estimates they number about 5,000; Eastern Catholics number about 20,000.
“This place is very important in Christianity, a Christian treasure; therefore, we have to maintain this place,” said Father Dominic, who comes to Istanbul every week to celebrate Mass. He lives south of Istanbul, near the ancient city of Ephesus.
Turkey is a storied area in the history of Christianity. Early church communities began here and later expanded to the rest of the world. St. Paul traversed the region during his missionary journeys.
Much has changed since then. Today, the majority of Turkey’s 80 million inhabitants are Muslim. The number of Christians is estimated at about 100,000.
“Because there are Catholics present, we (the religious orders) are present,” said Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, apostolic vicar of Istanbul. Bishop Tierrablanca, who is originally from Mexico, is a Franciscan friar; his order has been in Turkey since the 13th century.
Bishop Tierrablanca said some of the Latin Catholic religious orders currently active in Turkey put down roots many years ago. Today, despite the modest number of Catholics, they continue their mission.
Less than three miles from the church of St. Mary Draperis is the oldest psychiatric hospital in Turkey, Hospital La Paix (Peace Hospital), owned by the French Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent of Paul.
During the Crimean War, France and the Ottoman Empire asked the Daughters of Charity to help treat wounded troops. The order responded by sending a contingent of 255 sisters. About 100 of them died during their service.
After the war ended in 1856, Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid wanted to thank the sisters for their contribution and offered them titles and medals of honor. The sisters refused and requested instead land to build a place where they could continue their charism of serving the poor. The sultan accepted and, two years later, Hospital La Paix opened its doors.
The Daughters of Charity no longer run the day-to-day operations, although they are still present at the hospital. The five sisters come from Italy, France, Greece, Slovenia and Vietnam.
“When I arrived here five years ago, I had never seen such a diversity to express the love of Christ,” said French Sister Catherine, head of the community of sisters at the hospital. Turkey is her first experience living in a country other than her own.
“It is important to show this diversity, which proves that we can live together, like brothers and sisters, doing well to each other,” she said.
Latin-rite Catholics in Turkey can attend Mass in English, Italian, French, Turkish, Korean, German and Spanish. Sometimes the Mass is only in one of these languages; sometimes it is a combination.
Back at St. Mary Draperis, as the Korean Mass ended and Father Dominic and the Korean community moved to another room to mingle, a new crowd took its place. Father Eleuthere Makuta of Congo arrived to celebrate Mass in English, French and Italian.
The Mass began and the choir, made up of Congolese, sang in French, accompanied by musicians on a keyboard and two drums.
Among the about 40 people attending Mass was Bing Giducos, who has been living in Turkey for nine years.
“It is beautiful, the joy of praying in my own language. It is as if I am one with God,” she said.
30 October 2017
In one Indian village, a volunteer explains how to stay healthy and battle encephalitis — one of the most serious health issues in Uttar Pradesh. (photo: CNEWA)
This morning, we received an email from M.L. Thomas, CNEWA’s regional director for India, describing efforts to combat encephalitis in the region — and how CNEWA is helping:
The Diocese of Gorakhpur took the initiative for major awareness and cleanliness activities essential to control an outbreak of encephalitis, implementing the project “JEEVAN,” through the financial support given by CNEWA. The support was very extensive — providing encouragement for the church’s volunteers in reaching out to the poor, especially when a large number of children succumb to the illness.
Encephalitis, or “killer brain fever,” is one of the most serious health issues of eastern Uttar Pradesh. It is categorized as Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). The villages in Gorakhpur district have a been the most affected. It is an epidemic — a silent witness to the innumerable deaths (mostly children under the age of 15, some of them infants). It destroys many with life-long mental or physical disabilities. Mosquitoes and contaminated water are the major known causes of the disease. Tragically, the season when the disease is most prevalent stretches too long, beginning with the advent of monsoons in July and lasting until December and winter every year.
As part of the project:
- The trained leaders share different themes associated with encephalitis — its symptoms, cause, prevention and cure in monthly meetings in 20 villages.
- They demonstrate the use of hand pump bleaching (purifying water through bleaching, helping to encourage cleanliness of of surroundings and the house).
- Leaders implement a community-level awareness campaign on safe drinking water, nutrition (intake of nutritious diet for decreased malnutrition in children) and sanitation.
- They organize street plays, puppet shows, and distributed pamphlets to raise the awareness of the disease.
- They host awareness sessions at schools, speaking about the importance of education, vaccination, hygiene and sanitation.
CNEWA is proud to be a part of this important initiative which — thanks to the generosity of our donors — is helping to save lives and foster hope among some of the most vulnerable people of India!
27 October 2017
Displaced Iraqi Christian girls play during a break at the summer school organized by the Syriac Catholic Church of Martha Shmouny in Ain Kawa, a suburb of Erbil in Kurdish Iraq. Read more about the status of Christians of the Nineveh Plain in Hard Choices, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Raed Rafei)
26 October 2017
Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Iraqi
Palestinian Christians Najwa and George Saadeh pray in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Following the death of her daughter at the hands of soldiers, Najwa says she has drawn strength from her faith to pursue reconciliation. For more on families who have suffered tragedies working diligently to create a better world, read Love as a Healing Balm, in the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nadim Asfour)
25 October 2017
Tags: Palestine Israeli-Palestinian conflict Bethlehem
Sister Davida Twal has made a big difference at the Rosary Sisters Elementary School in Bethlehem. Here, schoolchildren greet her and Mrs. Alexandra Bukowska-Mccabe, Representative of Poland to the Palestinian Authority, during a recent visit. (photo: CNEWA)
When Sister Davida Twal was entrusted with the responsibility of running the Rosary Sisters Elementary School in Bethlehem — a few steps from the “King David Wells” mentioned in the Bible (2 Sam 23:15) — little did she know that her leadership skills and long experience in school administration in Jerusalem and later in Gaza would be crucial to help turn the school into a wonderful safe haven for the children of Bethlehem.
When she arrived, in 2014, the kindergarten had around 16 children; the whole school, which goes up to 7th grade, had a total of 294 students.
Today, thanks to Sister Davida — and in close cooperation with CNEWA and a few other partner donors — the school has around 67 children in kindergarten, and a total of 415 students. The school is at full capacity and has had to turn away students. But thanks to a generous grant through CNEWA (Shaheen Endowment), the school will be able to expand, adding three more classrooms to enable more children to enroll.
24 October 2017
Seniors play chess and backgammon in a Yerevan, Armenia park. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
ONE magazine has been chronicling the struggles of Armenia’s elderly for many years. In 2008, for example, we took a look at Pensioners in Crisis:
Most senior citizens depend on pensions to survive. And though the average pension has increased by $10 over the last five years, the cost of living has risen, mitigating the effectiveness of any increase. Today a typical pension pays a third of what is considered necessary for the average person to maintain the minimum standard of living in Armenia.
“The problem with raising pensions is quite difficult,” said Anahit Gevorgian, who heads the Elderly Issues Division in the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues. “Paying higher pensions is impossible in a country with widespread unemployment.
“Today there is just 0.9 worker for every pensioner, when there should be at least two workers to pay for one person’s pension.” About 11 percent of Armenia’s citizens are 65 or older.
In addition to the high unemployment rate, many Armenians work in the country’s substantial but informal economy. These “black market” jobs undermine the national pension system since neither the employee nor the employer pays taxes on salaries. Tax evasion of this kind plagues Armenia’s economy; the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recently urged Yerevan to address the problem swiftly, which poses a principal hurdle to the country’s economic health.
Though pensions continue to fall short, the government is taking measures to make primary medical care freely available to pensioners in need; but those requiring specialized care must register in the hospital system. Generally, patients in Armenia pay for at least a portion of their medical costs. Under a special state-issued order, however, hospitals are required to waive their fees for pensioners, including those associated with specialized examinations and procedures.
Unfortunately, the order, signed into effect by the health minister, has had little success in compelling profit-driven hospitals to waive fees for pensioners.
“Each time we take an elderly person to the hospital using the state-issued order, they simply refuse the patient. In cases where we manage to have them admitted, we are forced to pay for everything,” said Karine Hayrapetian, a social worker with Mission Armenia, a social service agency serving the needs of elderly Armenians.
All too aware of these and other gaps in the health care system, Ms. Gevorgian says the breadth of the problem reaches farther than anything the Elderly Issues Division can tackle alone. A solution demands an overhaul of the entire national health care system.
For generations, Armenia’s seniors lived out their golden years in the company and loving care of their children. Their plight today comes as an alarming wake-up call to many in a society deeply rooted in traditional family values. A crisis that cannot be chalked up to inadequate pensions alone, it reveals a fundamental change of the family’s role in contemporary Armenian society.
23 October 2017
Sisters at St. Mary Monastery in Bediani, Georgia tend the community’s vineyards. Learn more about Georgian women choosing Alternative Lifestyles of prayer and service in the September 2007 edition of ONE. (photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)
20 October 2017
Children socialize outside St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Ader, Jordan. Read more about this ancient community of Bedouin Christians, and how they work to adapt to a changing world in Jordan’s Christian Shepherds, from the September 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nader Daoud)
Tags: Children Jordan Cultural Identity Village life Bedouin