Msgr. Robert Stern greets an elderly woman on a trip to Kerala, India in 1991.
(photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Today marks Msgr. Robert Stern’s last day as president of CNEWA, after almost a quarter of a century leading the agency. We asked another CNEWA veteran, and longtime colleague, Sister Christian Molidor, to share a few thoughts.
I’ve been asked to write a brief profile of Msgr. Stern... but how can it be brief?
Three days after I was hired by CNEWA, I was sent to India. When the cardinal appointed Msgr. Stern to CNEWA, he was told to begin immediately to reorganize, renew and revitalize the agency. Was this favoritism by the Holy Spirit?! I asked myself: Who is this Jewish-Irish fellow from Harlem’s parishes?
Oh, just a physicist educated at Amherst (and honored as an archimandrite before I even knew how to spell the word), an experienced traveler and linguist (the ability to speak several languages is an asset, but the ability to keep your mouth shut in one language is priceless), a skilled diplomat (he will accept “probably,” but never “perhaps”), a wise manager (he never thinks of CNEWA more than 19 hours a day), a creative and generous mentor (“I always listen carefully to everything you say, Christian, then don't do it,”)... Okay, so he’s a genius, but you’ll have to admit his puns are terrible.
“Sterno” and I have been colleagues for years too numerous to mention (my old age erases numbers) and in truth, we’ve been friends for twice that long. (Are we really that old?)
But the highest, the most significant compliment I offer is that Bob Stern is a good priest.
And that’s why gratitude is my heart’s memory!
14 September 2011
Tags: CNEWA Msgr. Stern
Sister Lutgarda with Abel and Helen at Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
During her time with CNEWA, Sister Christian Molidor often provided personal and informative stories for our magazine. In the story Every Child Has a Name, she wrote of her experience visiting the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — a child-care facility enrolled in CNEWA’s Needy Child Sponsorship Program.
If Kidane Mehret did not exist, chances are many of the children would have been aborted or died from exposure. The Franciscan Sisters receive what the government considers “reject children.”
My first visit to Kidane Mehret was to gain an overview of the orphanage and its children. Besides caring for 90 children, the sisters also provide meals twice a week for more than 150 displaced persons from the surrounding area, mostly women and children. Many of the displaced women reciprocate, working in the kitchen, preparing food and serving.
How do the children come to Kidane Mehret? They are often illegitimate. In Ethiopia, the shame of bearing an illegitimate child remains strong. Many children are just left at the gate of the orphanage. Sister Lutgarda told me about a small, very ill boy who was thrown over the fence into the garden. When the gardener went to work the next morning, his first thought was to scold the children for throwing their clothes in the garden. Then the tiny boy started to cry. He was taken into the orphanage. After much difficulty, Sister Lutgarda received government certification for the boy — without such certification, he cannot be adopted.
For more about the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Ethiopia check out the September/October 2001 issue of the magazine.
13 September 2011
Tags: Ethiopia Sisters Africa Orphans/Orphanages
Early today, the leaders of Christian churches in Jerusalem released a communiqué, announcing “the need to intensify our prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” Among other things, the statement calls for a “two-state solution [that] serves the cause of peace and justice.” You can read the entire statement at this link. We asked Rev. Elias Mallon, CNEWA’s Education and Interreligious Affairs Officer, to help put this in context for us.
At the 66th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations which begins next Monday, it is expected that the Palestinian National Authority (P.N.A.) will apply for membership at the U.N. In order to receive member status the Palestinian application has to be approved by the Security Council, which consists of five permanent members and 10 member states elected by the General Assembly for a two-year term. The Permanent Five have the right to veto; the other 10 members do not. The United States, one of the Five, has made it clear that it will veto any Palestinian bid for member status at the U.N. A veto by any of the Permanent Five stops a proposal.
Given the unlikelihood of the Palestinians achieving member status, they can, nonetheless, upgrade their present status from being an “observer entity” to being an “observer state.” Acceptance as an observer state requires the majority vote of the General Assembly which consists of 193 member states. It is relatively certain that the P.N.A. will be granted observer state status, should it choose to apply. This would effectively recognize Palestine as a state, allow it to be a member of several U.N. organizations and give it the right to access the International Court at The Hague.
While it is relatively certain that the United States will veto a Palestinian application at the level of the Security Council, many other things are not clear. It is not absolutely certain that the Palestinians will actually make application for membership in the U.N. It is not clear how the countries of the European Union will vote, should such an application be made. It is also not clear how much the U.S. will be isolated from the world community by casting its veto or if, having cast the veto, the U.S. will ever again be seen as a credible, neutral partner in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
13 September 2011
Tags: Middle East Palestine Jerusalem United States
An elderly woman makes her way through Jerusalem. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Sister Christian Molidor has a knack for capturing quiet, unguarded moments in her pictures — like the one above, from 1993. We asked her what she remembered about this shot, and she wrote back:
“How about that? I can’t always remember my car’s license plate, but I know most every photo I’ve ever taken.
This was an elderly woman, not a nun, taken in Jerusalem. I spoke with her as she was on her way to shop near Damascus Gate.”
If you would like to read or share Sr. Christian’s final email message, it is available on our website.
12 September 2011
Two young girls at a displaced persons camp outside Dellé, Eritrea, in August of 2000. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Today’s featured image comes from our extensive collection of photographs by our long time friend and staff member — Sister Christian Molidor, who is retiring from CNEWA this week. The image was taken in conjunction with the story, Eritrea in War’s Aftermath in the Nov/Dec 2000 issue of the magazine. The article was a first hand account by Brother Vincent Pelletier, F.S.C., CNEWA’s Regional Director for Ethiopia and Eritrea, at the time.
We visited a camp for the displaced in the village of Delle, about 18 miles west of Barentu. With some 45,000 residents, it is one of the largest camps in Eritrea. More people are expected to enter the camp as those who fled to Sudan during active fighting continue to return. As we walked through the camp we noticed that many inhabitants had set up shop in their tents and were selling everything from soap powder to beer. Under a canvas, a makeshift school had been organized for the children. I was relieved to see that the children in the camp looked healthy. By contrast, some of the children from surrounding villages appeared malnourished. Some of these people have been in the camp for two years.
You can see more pictures at the link — and we’ll have much more from Sister Christian to share, as well. For the next few days, we’ll be posting more images from her collection for our “Picture of the Day.”
Last Thursday she sent out her final “Greetings from Sister Christian” email message, which you can view on our website as well.
9 September 2011
Tags: Children War Africa
Medical Sisters of St. Joseph fill buckets for the evening wash at their house of formation in Kothamangalam, Kerala, India. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Our beloved Sister Christian Molidor will be retiring from the agency in a few days. With that we’ll also be retiring her biweekly email message, “Greetings from Sister Christian.” In her most recent message, she leaves us with some inspiring words of wisdom:
Manifest your loyalty in word and deed, keep a promise, find the time; forgo a grudge, forgive an enemy; listen, try to understand, examine your demands on others and think first of someone else.
Appreciate. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little, then laugh a little more, deserve confidence, fight malice and decry complacency.
Express your gratitude, go to church, welcome a stranger; brighten the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.
Speak your love; speak it again. Speak it still once again.
Among her many gifts, Sister Christian is also a talented photojournalist. During her nearly 30-year tenure with us, she captured thousands of images from CNEWA’s world (like the one above). She was eager to share her gift with others and we’d like to share it with you. We will feature a Sister Christian photo from our archive in the ‘Picture of the Day’ post for the next few days.
Read more of Sister Christian’s heartfelt words in her final email message.
Tags: India Sisters Kerala Vocations (religious)