7 March 2017
Msgr. John E. Kozar makes some new friends during a visit to Iraq in 2016. (photo: CNEWA)
We began our 90th anniversary series, “90 Years, 90 Heroes,” literally “in the beginning,” with a look at the life of a man instrumental in CNEWA’s founding, the Rev. Paul Wattson. We thought it only appropriate that we conclude with the man leading CNEWA today, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar.
Honestly, Msgr. Kozar would probably cringe at being labeled a “hero.” When he first arrived at CNEWA in 2011, after a decade heading the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, he described himself as simply a “happy and fulfilled priest...if there’s a title that I would put in front of me it would be ‘Parish Priest on Loan to the World.’ ” He began his ministry as a “parish priest” in his native Pittsburgh — but he has, in fact, made the world his parish. He’s logged a lot of miles circling the globe for CNEWA, paying pastoral visits to India or Ethiopia or another corner of the Middle East — often venturing into some of the most troubled and dangerous corners of our world.
He does this again and again out of a sense of mission and a desire to be present to those in need. Indeed, if he were to sum up his credo in one simple word — one first popularized by Pope Francis, in fact — it would be “accompaniment.”
This has been Msgr. Kozar’s guiding principle. “Ours is a ministry of accompaniment,” he wrote in 2014. Living out this ministry, this “happy and fulfilled priest” has sought to bring a sense of purpose, consolation and hope to suffering people around the world — through the work of CNEWA and always in the name of Christ.
His regular column in ONE magazine, Focus (a name that offers a nod to his great avocation, photography) has helped bring readers and donors along with him on his travels — and that, too, has spread that spirit of “accompaniment.”
As he wrote in 2015, following the visit of Pope Francis to the United States:
As a papal agency, CNEWA is honored and privileged to serve our Holy Father in accompanying local Eastern Catholic churches in many troubled areas of the world. In the Holy Father’s name, we humbly strive to be agents of peace, reconciliation and, especially, love of God for all.
I cherish the many such opportunities I have personally experienced on my pastoral visits to faraway places. In areas of extreme conflict, persecution and poverty, the love of God — as witnessed by the faith of those who suffer so much — rises above the dark clouds of so many ugly realities. As with Pope Francis in his pastoral visit here, the local church in those parts of the world we serve brings hope to so many souls. And CNEWA is privileged to walk with the church in the name of our Holy Father.
It is a journey that began 90 years ago — and one all of us at CNEWA look forward to continuing for many years to come!