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An Association in Mission

by Michael Healy

In the previous issue of this magazine, Monsignor John Nolan anticipated traveling to Bethlehem to be with “God’s people” for Christmas during his twenty-fifth year of service to these needy people of the Near East.

Ten days before Christmas he learned that he was appointed bishop. On January 6, Pope John Paul II ordained Bishop Nolan in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He has subsequently moved on to his new appointment as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for Military Services. Our prayers and best wishes go with him.

Bishop Nolan wanted to thank and encourage readers in their support of this unique mission called Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). He had become synonymous with this pastoral and humanitarian mission in Lebanon, Ethiopia, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, India, Jordan, and other places much removed from the mainstream of American life. He knows that this vital work continues through the network here and abroad of Catholic religious and laity who make up this Association. Monsignor Robert L. Stern, associate secretary general of CNEWA, guides the organization in its continuing work.

CNEWA is very much an “association” in the sense that it is a group of people united in their participation in a catholic, or universal, mission to allow others to “fare well,” no matter what their faith, race, or nationality. Since its incorporation in 1926, CNEWA has been a generous expression of the compassion of Catholics in North America united in the mission of the universal Church. Today, CNEWA is an international agency linking people who are usually considered separated by great distances and opposing cultures. Together, they respond to the urgent and long-term community.

Perhaps the most visible and concrete programs of CNEWA’s mission are the sponsorship programs. They build the Association through thousands of personal associations between individuals. More than anything, they let members of CNEWA cross the bridge linking North Americans to people of that area from the Balkans and the traditional Near East of Asia Minor through the Middle East and northeast Africa to India. Sponsorship is a personal commitment of people to people as individuals. It is a personal way to make the human family closer.

CNEWA’s Child Sponsorship Program has let American families and individuals make a commitment to support needy children on a one-to-one basis. Religious women and men along with lay people overseas carry the day-to-day responsibilities for these children, but sponsors make their work possible.

CNEWA’s Novice and Seminarian Sponsorship Programs offer a more particularly religious affiliation within this Association. As young women and men develop their vocations, they have the spiritual and financial support of people half a world away. Through their commitment to each other as members of one family in Christ, these people of East and West grow as members of one world and one faith. Geographical distances and cultural differences fall away to reveal the unity of the People of God in action.

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