10 January 2017
Sister Souad Nohra, the director of the Santa Lucia Home in Egypt, teaches blind children “there is nothing they can’t do.” (photo: Holly Pickett)
One of the more inspiring projects CNEWA supports is the Santa Lucia Home, a boarding facility for blind children run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Alexandria, Egypt. The director is Sister Souad Nohra, who never tires of teaching the children the art of the possible:
In Egypt, children with special needs have many disadvantages. Yet at Santa Lucia, the nurturing environment and commitment to higher learning provides some balance. Named for the fourth-century saint and patron of the blind, St. Lucy — who, according to tradition, was blinded before her martyrdom — the home encourages children to rise above their limitations. They are taught that nothing is beyond their reach, and the children are expected to shine.
“We teach them independence,” says Sister Souad Nohra, the director of the home.
At the home, children who once might have spent their lives in the shadows — helpless or hopeless — are receiving an incalculable gift. Darkness is giving way to light.
The center cares for 5 girls and 11 boys between the ages of 4 and 18. Most students come from poor farming villages in Upper Egypt or the outskirts of Alexandria. The sisters provide for every need — from clothes and books to food and extracurricular activities, such as sports and music. They also organize field trips to the beach.
Upstairs in the center’s immaculately clean dormitory, the children have their own numbered cupboards. The children are expected to dress themselves. At meal times, students procure their own cups and silverware from dining room drawers, and then clean up after themselves.
“They have to know they can do these things by themselves. They are very proud; they don’t have to depend on anyone,” says Sister Souad.
And many of the children do indeed learn to live independently:
Sister Souad says they begin preparing children for the task from day one.
“We tell them, ‘One day, you will leave here and go to university with all kinds of people around.’ Since they are prepared, the transition is normal. We encourage them to take recorders to class, then listen again at home. They study normally.”
One of their students recently received a scholarship to study in the United States.
“I hope other blind children learn that going away from their family is not that difficult; it can be much better for their future,” Abanoub says.
“We teach them there is nothing they can’t do,” Sister Souad says proudly. “They are normal children. The only difference is they cannot see, but that doesn’t mean they can’t live a normal life.”
Sister Souad and the other sisters at the home are heroically making the impossible possible — giving hope to those who so often feel like outcasts, helping to bring light to those born in darkness.
6 January 2017
Tags: Egypt Sisters
Brother Joseph Loewenstein, F.S.C., has been a fixture at Bethlehem University for more than
40 years. (photo: Bethlehem University)
One of the most familiar fixtures at Bethlehem University for several decades has been Brother Joseph Loewenstein, F.S.C. Affectionately known as “Brother Joe,” he has been a member of the CNEWA family for a long time. For several years, in the 1980’s, he served as the director of our regional office in Jerusalem.
He’s also a rarity: a CNEWA hero who has actually been around longer than CNEWA.
The university’s magazine saluted him shortly after his 90th birthday, in October of 2015, and told some of his story:
Brother Joe was born in Queens, New York, in 1925 where he grew up during the depression. With two siblings, his parents had three children to attend to in those difficult economic times. Brother Joe attended an elementary school run by Dominican Sisters, the parochial school of the Brooklyn diocese of Elmhurst, Queens. The diocese offered scholarships for students to its secondary school, Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, which was run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. “I always wanted to be a priest,” Brother Joe says. “But at school I became interested in joining the Brothers. At 15 years old, Brother Joe left home to go to a training school for boys interested in joining the Brothers. “We were encouraged to focus on the vocation, and at that time it was common to leave home for that purpose” Brother Joe explains. He graduated in 1943 and went to Novitiate for one year’s training in the Brotherhood, after which he enrolled in Catholic University in Washington D.C. His class was sent to various schools after three years, before completing their Bachelor’s degrees, since there was a shortage of teachers during World War II.
When Brother Joe came to Bethlehem University in 1975, he was ready for a new challenge.
That new challenge was to serve as the university’s second president, a position he held for seven years. Forty-two years after he arrived in Bethlehem, he is still active at the school, continuing to help shape young lives.
We got in touch with him recently, and he offered a few thoughts on CNEWA (better known in the Middle East as Pontifical Mission):
The work of CNEWA/Pontifical Mission made a lasting impression on me to this very day, which is difficult to explain.
I had spent all my life working in the classroom with young men — wonderful work, but rather narrow in scope, between walls with regular hoursand specific topics but in a sense confining. That was life in the “Ivory Tower.”
The work of CNEWA/Pontifical Mission is quite different from teaching and being cooped up in the classroom all day. The classroom and labs are quite immobile and inside, with rare opportunities to be outside. But there is a world outside the classroom. I saw and felt this reality with the work of CNEWA/Pontifical Mission.
One example — and perhaps the most outstanding for me — was visiting several handicapped children, living in a recently established center converted from a school to a home for mentally disabled children (with the help of CNEWA/Pontifical Mission — that was why I was there).
I had never worked with handicapped children. I was scared stiff the first time I visited the home. But seeing the children of all ages (including babies) made me want to cry, but gave me the strength to continue my regular monthly visits. I remember the first time one of my superiors from the United States came to see my work and I brought him to the center and how nervous he was about seeing these unfortunate children. Despite my attempts to prepare him, he had to excuse himself early in the visit.
Another highlight of my work was regular visits to the libraries sponsored by CNEWA/Pontifical Mission in Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I was surprised the libraries were so well-used and the librarians were so popular. I always enjoyed these visits to the libraries, which were so helpful for education. I am pleased to say that in my supervisory position I was able to support constructing a public library in one corner of the university, having its own entrance outside the walls for the children and public, so it was accessible when the university was closed.
Even when the country was still adjusting to the results of the Six-Day War, which limited our work to the local scenes and Gaza, where we supported a school for the blind, I was rewarded by the great help we were able to give — such as loans, verbal support, personal visits and so on.
Today the most important work is the same as at my time: helping others. That means helping them earn a living, helping with medical needs or housing, especially when their house was destroyed or residents evicted. It also means helping, especially, the children, who often go hungry.
My philosophy is ‘helping others’ — be they students, the poor, anyone in need.
That philosophy lies at the heart of CNEWA’s mission, as well. We’re proud to have shared in that work with Brother Joe and the dedicated people at Bethlehem University. Ad multos annos!
22 December 2016
Tags: Palestine Bethlehem Bethlehem University
As a seminarian from Ukraine, Oleksandr Bohomaz told us in 2014, “I want to be a witness of God’s greatness.” (photo: courtesy Seminary of the Three Hierarchs, Kiev)
In 2014, in the wake of the upheavals in Kiev, Antin Sloboda from CNEWA’s office in Canada interviewed a seminarian in Ukraine, Oleksandr Bohomaz, who described his background, his vocation and his faith:
I aspire to bring people closer to God. Our people are very poor, materially and spiritually. Soviet rule wounded spiritual life in Ukraine, and now it is strongly needed. Many people struggle with addiction — families are broken.
My family has been also touched by the problem of alcoholism. I believe only Jesus can help us to overcome these challenges and that he calls me to dedicate my life to proclaiming his love to all people. …
The Lord has used the recent events in Ukraine to strengthen the faith of our people. First of all, Ukrainians, who for centuries were dominated by others, finally have realized they are one nation. Since November 2013, our priests have actively supported the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to fight for their dignity and justice. More people now trust the church, even those who previously identified themselves as atheists.
On the Maidan Square in Kiev, I had a chance to pray with people who have never prayed before. People asked me to teach them how to pray and how to live a life of a Christian. This is indeed wonderful! Being able to speak with such people is an incredible experience of God's love in action. The recent events in the country have strengthened my faith and the faith of my neighbors.
And he offered this beautiful testimony:
I hope I will successfully complete the seminary and that I will become a faithful and humble priest. I want to be a witness of God’s greatness, and I want to proclaim his Gospel. I already see how God gives us a chance to become authentic Christians. I hope we will become the people who provide care for the marginalized and the weak. …
When I realize someone on the other side of the planet is praying for me, it is very encouraging and a source of support. It’s wonderful to realize that through the prayer we are united, regardless of where we live.
Since that interview, Oleksandr has been ordained to the priesthood. He now serves in the town of Melitopol is southeastern Ukraine, not far from Crimea.
Pray for more heroic young men to answer the call to the priesthood-and please help support us in our mission to support them. Visit this page to learn more.
20 December 2016
Tags: Ukraine Seminarians Ukrainian Catholic
Ani Kaloust helps families in need through a CNEWA partner, Caritas Lebanon.
(photo: Dalia Khamissy)
In 2015, we introduced readers to a powerhouse: Ani Kaloust, a 65-year-old Lebanese Armenian Catholic who lives in Beirut and works for Caritas, a CNEWA partner and charity of the Lebanese Catholic churches.
She described some of her work to journalist Don Duncan:
I have been with Caritas for more than 25 years, working in Geitawi, receiving and helping families in need. We give them money and food aid. Besides that, we have families struggling with illness — even cancer. We help them however we can.
My other job is with the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, as a member of their charity arm. I’ve been with them for 40 years. In order to help the people of the area, you need to have someone who knows the families, right? Well, I know all the families in this community: rich, middle class and the poor. In the patriarchate, when people come knocking on the door asking for help, they say: “Go see Madam Ani.” I do a little interview to see what they need, and the patriarchate helps them if able.
ONE: How did you become so deeply involved in charity work? Isn’t it all overwhelming?
AK: Since my childhood, I liked to help people. I was small and I worked in a dispensary beside our house. I liked that. I was in my 20’s during the civil war here in Lebanon and I helped everyone. I spent the whole war in this neighborhood. I didn’t leave it even for one day.
I am no longer a young girl, but I work more than a young girl does! And people say: “Oh, I’m tired.” Me, I can’t say that; I don’t get tired!
One story of hers left an indelible impression:
In 1978, when the Syrians attacked us with the bombs, I was pregnant. I was taking shelter in the basement under our building and I could feel that I was going to give birth. I couldn’t breathe. I said I must go to the hospital, or will I have to give birth before 400 people! My brother came to take me there, and I was sure either I’d die or my baby would. I went to the hospital in a car of a Christian militiaman. I arrived with the baby’s head already coming out and I gave birth on the bathroom floor in about five minutes. Then a sister said: “You must leave. The hospital is burning.” I took my baby and she was black from the dirt. There was no water. About 10 or 15 minutes after having given birth, I was running through the streets with the baby to get back to the shelter. I arrived and could see my husband and kids across the street, but couldn’t cross because the bombs were falling so heavily. Finally, I got back to safety. Two hours later, there was a cease-fire.
ONE: Did such experiences — or indeed, does your charitable work — change you spiritually?
AK: No. I was a student of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and I have had my faith since I was a child. Every day, when I wake up, before leaving the house, I have a picture of Jesus and I say to him: “I am leaving the house and I leave it to you. It’s up to you to decide if I make mistakes or not and you’ll always be with me.”
But prayers help me when life is tough. Without prayers, how do you live? Prayers are our protection. God stays with us when we pray and he doesn’t let us go astray.
For her tireless work on behalf of the poor — and her fearlessness in the face of hardship and war — we consider Ani Kaloust a true CNEWA hero, one who embodies so much of our own mission and vision.
15 December 2016
Pope Francis kisses the foot of a refugee during Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Center for Asylum Seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, about 15 miles north of Rome on 24 March 2016. The pope washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including Muslims, Hindus and Copts.
(photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)
Pope Francis celebrates his 80th birthday this Saturday, 17 December, and it seems a good opportunity to take note of his profound commitment to the poor and suffering of the world — a commitment that became clear from the moment he took the name Francis. He described his choice of that name in his first homily as pope in 2013:
During the election, I was seated next to the archbishop emeritus of São Paolo and prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man. ... How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!
It was a theme he elaborated on just a few days later:
The church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
His search for a “more humane and more just” society has taken him to some of the most troubled corners of the world — and inspired dramatic gestures that still resonate. In 2014, the pontiff made his first trip to the Holy Land, where he repeatedly urged peace and dialogue among different faiths. At one point, in a historic and controversial move, he stopped his motorcade so he could pray at the Separation Wall:
It is an image that will define Pope Francis’s first official visit to the Holy Land. Head bowed in prayer, the leader of the Catholic church pressed his palm against the graffiti-covered concrete of Israel’s imposing “separation wall,” a Palestinian girl holding a flag by his side. It was, as his aides conceded later, a silent statement against a symbol of division and conflict.
His concern for the marginalized and suffering has also inspired Francis to become a leading voice in the world — perhaps the leading voice — crying out on behalf of refugees and displaced persons. In 2013, he wrote:
Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history. As the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects, and to maximize its positive influence on the communities of origin, transit and destination.
Again and again across the first years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has heroically championed the poor, the displaced, the forgotten. He serves as an example to all of us at CNEWA — and to the rest of the world — of what we are called to be as Christians.
As he put it during a general audience in March of 2013:
Following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves ... to meet others, to go toward the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step toward our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort and help.
There is such a great need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!
Happy birthday, Pope Francis. Ad multos annos!
13 December 2016
High school student Christopher O’Hara was so inspired by CNEWA’s work, he organized a fundraiser for us at a New York restaurant earlier this year. (photo: CNEWA)
One of the inspiring figures from CNEWA’s recent past just may be our youngest hero: a 17-year-old student from Long Island, Christopher O'Hara.
Hearing about the work we do, he wanted to help support our mission, and got an idea that he hoped would make a difference:
I am a junior in high school, and I came to be involved in CNEWA in a rather unusual way. I spent a month last summer in rural Tibet studying Chinese and living with a local family. When I returned home, I was looking forward to spending the rest of my summer reading at the beach. But on one of those first quiet days, I ended up having a long and detailed conversation with a good friend of my parents, who wanted to tell me about an incredible organization she had been involved with, CNEWA. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The more I listened, the more I thought this was something I needed to look into. I did some research on CNEWA, and I could not have been more impressed. My parents’ friend put me in contact with Lauren Lozano, a development associate at CNEWA.
In my conversations with Lauren and her colleagues Norma Intriago and Philip Eubanks, we discussed how someone in my position could raise awareness and funds for CNEWA. At the same time we were having these conversations, the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq was exploding, and I thought the subsequent lack of international response was appalling. The professionals at CNEWA informed me of the real threat facing Christians in the Middle East, and I decided that my focus would be on their charitable operations in that region. I reached out to faculty and administration at my school, Chaminade High School, but I wanted to do more. It became clear that I should organize — with the help of my family and friends — a fundraising event. I told the people at CNEWA my idea, and we were off and running.
He ended up organizing a fundraiser at the renowned Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York City last June. The event garnered some attention — and Chris even appeared on a local radio show to discuss his interest in CNEWA and how others can help.
As he put it during the interview: “People in need shouldn’t be a political issue. We’re all humans. When people are suffering, we have an obligation to help each other.”
We couldn’t agree more — and we remain grateful for so many like Chris O’Hara who are helping us to fulfill our mission: to “build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.”
To learn more about what you can do, and how you can help, visit this link.
6 December 2016
Bishop Denis J. Madden served the CNEWA family from 1994 until 2005.
(photo: CNS/Tyler Osburn)
Joy is a true gift of God, and what a gift it is to those who share in it.
For more than a decade, the CNEWA family delighted in the joy of Denis J. Madden, who as Father Denis joined CNEWA as its regional director for Palestine and Israel in 1994. Two years after engineering a remarkable feat — the restoration of the great dome of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, involving the historically contentious custodians of Christendom’s holiest shrine — Msgr. Madden joined the New York office as CNEWA’s associate secretary general, where he coordinated the expansion of CNEWA’s work in northeast Africa, particularly in Eritrea and Ethiopia. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI asked Denis to serve as an auxiliary bishop of a particular church, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where he coordinated the many ministries of Baltimore’s inner city parishes.
It was a move that put to great use his skills as a clinical psychologist specializing in conflict resolution.
But the many editorial meeting battles waged between this author and the editorial board were perhaps the greatest challenges for this man endowed not only with joy, but a steely sense of justice and truth and unyielding compassion and love for the poor and the marginalized.
Bishop Madden is “a good friend, ideal collaborator and a perfect associate,” Msgr. Robert Stern said of the newly appointed bishop. He’s “a very pastoral priest, a man with great concern for the poor and needy. We will miss him.”
And we did.
Yesterday, Pope Francis accepted Denis’ resignation nearly a year after his submitted it according to the norms of canon law. No doubt the Holy Father saw in this man the same qualities that served the CNEWA family and the poor we are honored to serve: joy, selflessness and effectiveness.
Well done, Denis! “Onwards and upwards!”
1 December 2016
Sister Lutgarda Camilleri cares for children who have been abandoned or even discarded
in Ethiopia. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)
For decades, Sister Lutgarda Camilleri, F.C.J. has been a tireless and devoted caretaker for children in Ethiopia — a true hero who has provided encouragement and love for those most in need at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
When Sister Christian Molidor visited the home in 2001, she described the daunting task facing the sister when she first took over the home:
Sister Lutgarda Camilleri of the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus was asked if her community would assume responsibility for the orphanage. Sister Lutgarda was told the sisters had two options: “Take care of the children or throw them back on the streets.”
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.”
Besides caring for the 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.
Over a decade later, the home is still providing sanctuary — and hope. And Sister Lutgarda is continuing her mission. In 2013, journalist Don Duncan interviewed her for ONE:
ONE: How many children does the orphanage house currently?
SL: At the moment, we have the lowest number ever: 80. The government policy has changed. All abandoned children must go to government orphanages now, and no longer come directly to us. I think the policy change is due to child trafficking.
The government in Addis Ababa gives the older children to us, especially if they are sick. They come to the sisters because no one else wants them. It is not easy. Many of the older orphans have contracted H.I.V.
ONE: Is H.I.V. — the virus that causes AIDS — an issue for many of your children?
SL: The majority of our children lost their parents to AIDS-related infections. Some were lucky enough not to contract the virus themselves, but others were not so lucky.
Every month, the H.I.V.-positive children get a checkup. It is a government requirement. They have a blood count and according to their count they are prescribed medicine. Some do not have to take medicine yet, but they still have to go for the checkup. We have others that are full blown and are on full medication.
Here at the orphanage, I do not think the children lack anything that most children have, except one very important thing: family. We tell them that we are a big family, but we cannot give them the same individual attention that a mother and a father can give. We try to love them. We try to educate them. We care for them — but as you can see, there are many of them and few of us.
...I know the situation around us is not easy, but God is always helping us in other ways.
Surely, the world needs more heroes like Sister Lutgarda. CNEWA is proud to be supporting her in her mission. Visit this link to learn how you can support her, too.
29 November 2016
The Little Sisters of Nazareth bring learning — and joy — to young residents of the Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Lebanon. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
This year, to mark #GivingTuesday, we are encouraging our friends around the world to support CNEWA’s education programs — and, as one example of that, we’re turning a spotlight on the Dbayeh Refugee Camp in Lebanon. There, a small group of heroic sisters is helping minister to thousands of displaced men, women and children. The Little Sisters of Nazareth are providing healing and help to so many who have seen their lives torn apart by war. We profiled the sisters several years ago in the pages of our magazine:
The Little Sisters of Nazareth have had a family of three nuns stationed in Lebanon since 1971. Sister Anita and Sister Rosa have served for four years, while Sister Joanna arrived a year ago, though she has long experience in Lebanon. Based first in Jisr el Basha, the sisters left Lebanon briefly for the safety of Jordan after the camp was razed in 1976. But in 1978, the Pontifical Mission [CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East] approached the sisters and, to ease their return, offered living quarters in Dbayeh.
With CNEWA’s support, the Little Sisters began their work at the camp in 1984.
“There were no other organizations working here,” Sister Joanna said. Since then they have been joined by several aid organizations, including World Vision and Caritas Lebanon. Through CNEWA, benefactors have sponsored many of the camp’s needy children and also fund educational programs, emergency health care and even infrastructure repair, such as sheathing the camp’s open sewers.
The sisters trace their roots to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the French mystic and hermit who lived humbly in the Sahara desert and prayed to God, “I abandon myself into your hands, do with me what you will.” He desired to live among those who were “the most abandoned.” Today, this little band of heroic sisters continues to live out that spirit of sacrifice and surrender among the displaced in Lebanon — and CNEWA is proud to support them in their mission. Won’t you join us? Visit this page to learn how you can help.
22 November 2016
The Rev. Thomas Rosica has been a great partner in CNEWA’s mission. (photo: CNS/Bob Roller)
Readers of CNEWA’s materials — magazine, blog, social media and appeals for help — are aware that this special agency of the Holy See depends on its partnerships with men and women in all walks of life to carry on its mission of service to the Eastern churches. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.
Without these relationships, Catholic Near East Welfare Association would be merely an idea, not even a vision.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is one of those partners, a companion committed to the mission of CNEWA who in a very real way works “to connect you to your brothers and sisters in need.”
Born, reared and educated in Rochester, New York, Father Tom entered the Congregation of St. Basil and was ordained to the priesthood in Rochester in 1986. It was during his years of advanced studies at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem that Father Tom became well acquainted with the work of CNEWA and the staff of our Jerusalem office, then led by Brother Donald Mansir, F.S.C., and (then) Father Denis J. Madden. These were hopeful and exciting years in Jerusalem, with peaceful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians making headway — invigorating CNEWA’s outreach to the poorest of the poor through the local churches — and dialogue among the Holy City’s church leaders, coordinated by CNEWA, that would eventually lead to the restoration of the great dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In a very real way, Father Tom began connecting the people served through CNEWA with hosts of concerned men and women after he founded in 2003 Salt+Light Television, Canada’s first national Catholic television network. A fruit of World Youth Day and the visit of St. John Paul II to Canada in 2002 (which Father Tom directed at the request of the Canadian Catholic bishops), Salt+Light has become a major resource for Catholics not just in Canada, but throughout the English- and French-speaking world.
Millions of homes have learned about the miracles of Bethlehem University, the hopes of Pope Benedict XVI’s special assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, the challenges of the churches in the lands made holy by the blood of martyrs, and the crises in Ukraine and the role of the churches there in healing a people scourged by war.
In televised features and interviews with CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar and staff members, such as Canada’s national director Carl Hétu, Father Tom has explored what makes CNEWA tick, revealing CNEWA’s love for the poor and passion for the truth.
In these times of fear, trouble and uncertainty, Father Tom has been a clear voice of reason, serving the Holy See as a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, media attaché for synods and papal transitions and as an English-language assistant for the Holy See’s press office. An engaging man with a lively wit and a clear understanding of the church’s role in engaging and transforming rather than condemning society, Father Tom is, nevertheless, critical of those instruments used to divide the people of God. The Internet, for example, “can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space,” he said upon accepting the St. Francis de Sales Award given by the Diocese of Brooklyn earlier this year, describing it as “an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties.”
“The church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who — even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation — often find themselves afraid and wounded by life,” he added.
“The light of Christ reflected in the church must not become the privilege of only a few elect who float enclosed within a safe harbor or ghetto network of communications for the elite, the clean, the perfect and the saved.”
CNEWA is grateful to Father Tom for his heroic work to help us reflect “the light of Christ” — and spread that light around the world, especially among those most in need.