on the world of CNEWA

by John E. Kozar

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A Pictorial Journey to Jordan

There is a saying in Jordan: “If you are not a foreigner, you’re a stranger.” The implication is that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has opened its borders to welcome multitudes of refugees from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Turkey, and beyond. In the Middle East, Jordan is a beacon of hope for millions of people who have been forced to flee their homelands, and CNEWA stands with the local church in reaching out to these refugees.

On a 4-8 May visit to the kingdom, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, experienced firsthand the best of how the church serves in the Middle East, where Christians represent a very small minority, and how CNEWA seeks to accompany the church in her ministry.

There were three principal aspects to his visit: providing health care to the poor, especially refugees; serving the spiritual needs of displaced and refugee families; and sustaining Christian communities, especially in rural Jordan.

By supporting a network of hospitals, clinics and medical outposts, CNEWA offers not just basic medical support to the poor, but in the case of the Italian Hospital in Kerak, a town in the arid south of the country, the only venue to provide surgical procedures and cancer treatment in the region. To the worried mother with a sick child, to the wearied refugee who has lost everything and is malnourished, to the abandoned elderly with open sores, the church — through the hospital’s Comboni Sisters — offer a warm embrace. As the cardinal noted often, it is the loving hand and the gentle care of the religious sisters who put the face of Christ on the work of the church. And CNEWA is privileged to assist them.

That same loving attention is directed by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to Iraqi and Syrian refugees living in Amman. They gather regularly for the Eucharist, religious education, cultural and linguistic classes — opportunities all to keep strong in the faith, to maintain their identity and dignity and to bolster their hope to return to their respective homelands. It was particularly impressive to see how the sisters have inspired the refugees to serve as teachers for the children, religious educators, sacristans and community workers.

One of the Chaldean refugees serving as a catechist privately approached Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center, New York, and shared, perhaps for the first time, that he was interested in becoming a priest. The grace of the moment directed Bishop Murphy, who is also a member of CNEWA’s Board of Trustees, to share this with the local parish priest, the only priest to serve Jordan’s substantial Chaldean Catholic refugee community.

We’ll leave this in God’s hands.

The real energy of the church finds its focus in the Eucharist, and we experienced this on a visit to Ader. This is a village settled by Bedouin, one of the few towns in Jordan with a Christian majority, and represents a remnant of the nomadic shepherds who came to adore Jesus in Bethlehem. Today, the faith is alive and vocations are numerous.

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