5 November 2013
Oseni Khalajian, a pensioner living in Eshtia, belongs to a community of Armenian Catholics descended from Armenians who fled to Georgia to escape the Turkish mass murder. (photo: Molly Corso)
The Autumn issue of ONE includes a memorable look at life in Armenia, and Catholics who have true staying power — those who kept the faith alive despite years of persecution:
Older generations, while they maintained their Catholic identity, are still struggling to come to terms with their faith after decades of pressure to abandon it. Built in 1886, when the first Armenian immigrants started to trickle out of Turkey and into Georgia, the church in Eshtia was turned later into a warehouse when the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin went to war against religion in the 1930’s.
Armenian Catholics, however, went to great lengths to maintain their identity and faith. Villagers tell tales about elders baptizing the communities’ babies in secret, and Dr. Ovsepian remembered celebrating Christmas.
“During the time of the Communists, people were also religious,” Father Antonian recalls. “I remember well the holidays like Christmas — which were celebrated.”
But for men like Vano Gasparian, a local born in 1955, being an Armenian Catholic was part of his identity, even if he grew up knowing little about the faith.
“Catholics remained Catholics,” he says, adding, however, that for the older generations it can be a difficult transition from a culture that promoted atheism to a life of faith.
“For the young, they believe with their whole soul,” he says. For the older generations, “for us, it is harder.”
Read more in the Autumn issue of ONE.
4 November 2013
Tags: Cultural Identity Armenia Village life Georgia Armenian Catholic Church
A young Ethiopian girl is shown in one of many photographs captured by Sister Christian Molidor during her travels for CNEWA. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
In the Autumn edition of ONE, we devote several pages to the remarkable photographs of Christian Molidor, R.S.M., who worked for CNEWA for many years and died this past summer. Michael J.L. La Civita pays tribute to her life and work in the video below.
29 October 2013
At the Bird’s Nest, an Armenian orphanage in Lebanon, women make miters and vestments. To learn more about the Armenian Catholic Church, read our profile from the September 2008 issue of ONE. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
28 October 2013
Tags: Lebanon ONE magazine Orphans/Orphanages Armenian Catholic Church
Children take part in the dedication of the new cathedral in Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Several weeks ago, CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar had a chance to visit Ukraine and take part in the dedication of a new cathedral. He writes about it in the new issue of ONE:
We came at the invitation of Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to participate in the consecration of the new Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Our Lord, located in Kiev, Ukraine, and to commemorate a historic religious event heralding the beginning of the church in Ukraine. Gathered with us for the formal celebrations were Cardinal Timothy Dolan, CNEWA’s chair and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Richard Smith, his counterpart in Canada; and a number of Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops from Canada and the United States.
But our primary reason for visiting Ukraine was pastoral — to demonstrate CNEWA’s abiding support for this church that is, in fact, relatively young. Let me explain.
I say “young” because even though the church has been present there for over 1,000 years, it was suppressed for generations — forbidden and driven underground until only 22 years ago. With the fall of communism and the end of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has risen from the underground. Today, it is a dynamic and vibrant church. It never lost the faith — in fact, despite thousands of bishops, priests, sisters and lay faithful being executed or sent off to labor camps in the countryside and into Siberia, the faith was heroically passed on to successive generations.
What amazed and moved me was that these brave and courageous people do not complain about their great sufferings. Nor do they not look for pity. Rather, they celebrate their joy of rising with Christ and proclaiming him to all. The consecration of the new cathedral was a dramatic sign to the faithful in Ukraine and beyond that the faith shared in baptism can flourish — even in the worst of times.
Read more about his visit in the Autumn issue of ONE.
25 October 2013
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Msgr. John E. Kozar Eastern Europe CNEWA Canada
A Syrian refugee boy flashes a peace sign along the border in Kilis, Turkey, in mid-September. More than a 1 million Syrian refugees are under 18, about 740,000 under 11, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Read more about the refugees in this story from the Catholic Register. And visit our Syria giving page to learn how you can help.
(photo: CNS /Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)
24 October 2013
A child of the village of Sebeya enjoys an enriched biscuit. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
The Autumn issue of ONE magazine is now online. One of the stories offers a look at a program to feed hungry schoolchildren in Ethiopia, in places where the need is great:
In places like Sebeya, Awo and Alitena near the northern border with Eritrea, famine and death are never far from the doorstep.
“I already shiver when I think of the dry season months that are coming. For some schools, we are not sure we will be able to secure food on time,” says Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat, whose eparchy of the Ge’ez Catholic Church administers some 52 schools in the region. “This is how we live, in a continuous kind of uncertainty.”
It is July, the fields have been planted and this continuous kind of uncertainty reigns over them. Farmers like Gebremichael Gebru, 68, from the village of Sebeya, about 20 miles from Adigrat, look to the skies for the much needed rain. So far, it has not come. If none falls in the next month, says Mr. Gebru, the harvest will be ruined and his family will have a very hungry year.
One of the many consequences of this condition is fainting — children passing out in class because they have had no breakfast and have no lunch to eat. The task of concentrating on a blackboard overpowers them.
“We usually eat three times a day, but when food is short we only eat once a day,” says Gebremichael Gebru’s 10-year-old son, Teklit, who attends the local Holy Trinity School. “I have to go to school hungry sometimes. It’s very difficult.”
The family used to have more than two and a half acres of land. But in Ethiopia, where the state owns all the land and has very strong powers of eminent domain, the government took half of that land to provide space for housing for the village’s growing population.
“It’s not enough land for us,” says Mr. Gebru. “Now, as there is no rain, I plan to move from tillage to livestock. I’m not interested in cultivation anymore. It’s not sustainable.”
Sustainability is the current watchword of the Ethiopian government and its international development partners. The numerous terraces lining the surrounding hills, the small dams, reservoirs and canals that punctuate the landscape attest to this. But in Sebeya and other rural outposts, such infrastructure for irrigation and water preservation looks obsolete and resembles the debris of a former, defunct civilization where living off the land in comfort and dignity was possible.
In some corners of the country, sustainability is a dream and simply surviving can be a struggle.
But there is hope. Read what CNEWA and others are doing. And check out this link to learn how you can help.
23 October 2013
Tags: Ethiopia Children Education Catholic education Hunger
Father Kevin O’Connell baptizes a child at Sacred Heart Church in Amman. (photo: Tanya Habjouqa)
Two years ago, we profiled Filipino workers who were making a new start in Jordan:
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem established Sacred Heart parish in 1996 to serve Amman’s swelling Catholic migrant community.
Among the families are a scattering of Europeans and North Americans, most of whom work in the foreign embassies of the posh Jabal Al Weibdeh neighborhood that surrounds the church. A few wear bright salwar kameez, the traditional pajama-like trousers worn by men and women from the Indian subcontinent. The vast majority, however, are Filipino women.
“It was a little strange for me in church at first,” says Father Kevin O’Connell, who has led the parish since its inception 15 years ago. “You’d look out to an entire congregation of women.”
A congenial 67-year-old Jesuit priest from Boston, who wears slacks and sandals under his vestments, Father O’Connell, looks and acts the part of a wise, friendly grandfather.
He helps the choir and he holds the lease on a house where the choir rehearses and other church groups gather. Father O’Connell also oversees the Sacred Heart youth basketball team and helped a group of youngsters from the church secure a space in the Jesuit Fathers’ center where they can breakdance.
Most important, Father O’Connell spends much of his energy responding to the spiritual, emotional and material needs of his predominantly Filipino congregation and other Filipino migrants in the country.
“I understood that the first task was to give people a place where they could be at home,” says Father O’Connell. “For these people, just the ongoing, regular liturgy — with Filipino music, with people reading, with them being able to participate in whatever way they want — gives a strand of consistency and continuity. It’s their home. It’s their place. In most cases, there’s no place else they can gather.”
Though some have jobs at the Philippine Embassy or in international organizations, most are domestic workers. They live in their employers’ homes and work long hours. Many experience intense feelings of loneliness and homesickness. They often have families back home whom they miss desperately.
With few job opportunities in the Philippines and families to support, these women come to the Middle East, where jobs in the “care-giving industry” are plentiful. Motivated by the promise of comparatively high earnings, most of which they intend on sending home to their families, they often accept without complaint long hours, little personal time or freedom and substandard living accommodations.
Read more about Filipinos who are Far From Home in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
22 October 2013
Tags: Jordan ONE magazine Immigration Women Amman
A man orates near a casket during a funeral on 21 October for one of four victims killed the previous day in an attack at a wedding outside the Church of the Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox in Cairo. A masked gunmen fired an automatic weapon on a wedding party outside the Coptic church, killing four people, including two young girls, in an attack that raised fears of a new insurgency by extremists. To find out how you can help Christians in Egypt, visit this link. (photo: CNS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)
21 October 2013
Tags: Egypt Violence against Christians Africa Coptic Christians Copts
Jordanian boys catch their breath during playtime at Our Lady of Peace Center in Jordan. (photo: Bill Lyons)
In 2004, we profiled a center in Amman seeking to help disabled youth:
Our Lady of Peace Center in Amman, Jordan, is more than just a rehabilitation center for the disabled; it is a meeting point for Christians and Muslims, caring adults and handicapped children, rich and poor. The center’s administration makes it so, ensuring that the facility is open to everyone regardless of ethnicity, religion or social background.
Inaugurated in April 2004 on behalf of Queen Rania by Prince Ra’d bin Zeid and his wife, Princess Majda, longtime advocates of Jordan’s handicapped, the center serves disabled children at no cost to their families.
The facility, whose funding took six years to secure, is the brainchild of Bishop Selim Sayegh, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan. He envisaged a comprehensive retreat and rehabilitation center offering academic classes, vocational training, physiotherapy, basic medical care, as well as community outreach programs.
“[The center] will be a source of consciousness raising, in order to teach and train the whole of Jordanian civil society to respect the basic rights of the physically or mentally challenged. It will guarantee equality of treatment both in their families and communities and in public institutions,” said the bishop.
Read more about how the center is Unlocking Talents from the September 2004 issue of ONE.
And to learn how to help the people of Jordan, visit this page.
17 October 2013
Tags: CNEWA Children Jordan Disabilities Amman
Pope Francis shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience in the pontiff’s library at the Vatican, on 17 October. (photo: CNS/Maurizio Brambatti, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis today offered a practical gift to a visitor from the Middle East, according to CNS:
Pope Francis gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a fancy pen as a gift, and Abbas told the pope, “I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen.”
Pope Francis responded with his hope that the agreement would be reached “soon, soon.”
The exchange took place 17 October in the papal library after the pope and Palestinian president had spent almost half an hour meeting privately.
Abbas had given the pope a Bible and a framed scene of Bethlehem, West Bank. The pope gave Abbas a framed scene of the Vatican along with the pen, “because you obviously have many things to sign,” which is when Abbas spoke about his hopes to sign a peace treaty.
A Vatican statement about Abbas’ meeting with the pope and a later meeting with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said, “The reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” was a topic in both conversations.
“The parties expressed their hope that this process may bear fruit and enable a just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict,” it said. “Hope was expressed that the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace” and that the international community would support their efforts. The U.S.-mediated talks began in July.
The Vatican statement did not mention Pope Francis’ possible trip to the Holy Land, although when Abbas greeted Archbishop Mamberti he told him that he had invited the pope to visit. Abbas’ delegation also included the mayor of Bethlehem, which likely would be on the itinerary of a papal trip.
In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited the pope, and Israeli media have been reporting that a papal visit is expected in the spring. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced on 16 October that the prime minister would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on 23 October and meet the pope during the same trip.
The Vatican statement on Abbas’ meetings said the pope and Palestinian leader also discussed the ongoing war in Syria and expressed their hopes that “dialogue and reconciliation may supplant the logic of violence as soon as possible.”
The two also discussed the work underway on a Vatican-Palestinian agreement regulating “several essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine,” as well as the situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian territories and the contributions Christians make to society throughout the Middle East.
Tags: Pope Francis Middle East Christians Palestine Vatican Middle East Peace Process