Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
28 October 2015
D.E. Hedges

In this image from 2014, Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, in the blue habit, meets refugees
during a visit to Erbil, Iraq. (photo: CNEWA)

Name: Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf
Order: The Good Shepherd Sisters
Facility: The Provincial Home of the Good Shepherd Sisters
Location: Ain Áar, Metn, Lebanon

During times of peace as well as war, the abuse of wives and daughters is often condoned in many communities across the Middle East. Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf knows she can’t end such widespread, deeply ingrained practices. But at the Provincial Home in Lebanon, she’s having a positive effect on women’s lives just the same.

Like her fellow Good Shepherd Sisters, she views the group home they’ve established for those at-risk as an oasis of compassion. “Our mission is to support women and girls living in violence in their homes,” Sister Marie-Claude explains. “We receive women who have marital problems and they’re sometimes pregnant. We give them food and shelter. We also help children between 2 and 7 years old, and have a boarding home for girls 4 to 18 years old.

Many refugee families now living in Lebanon are also receiving help, either at the Provincial Home or at other facilities run by the greater community of Good Shepherd Sisters.

As Sister Marie Claude points out, “We provide shelter, rehabilitation, education and professional training for young people, women and refugees. There is also an emergency food and hygiene program, a legal support program for women, and psychosocial support for children who have suffered trauma from the war.”

Among the children they’ve assisted is Syrian girl named Hamide. As Sister Marie-Claude explains, “At the age 12, Hamide was taken by a group of terrorists. She was raped several times, but managed to escape and was found in a public garden in Damascus.”

Once she was brought to the Provincial Home, “Hamide became another person. She studied hard and she is now in her complementary level. Hamide is very loving and very sensitive, especially when the sisters receive a new person in our home.”

If Sister Marie-Claude has one frustration, it’s that the Provincial Home is so understaffed, “we are not able to help the sick refugees. We do not have enough time to listen to so many people. We are only three sisters and there are so many requests for help.”

With no solution in sight, Sister Marie Claude admits she’ll simply continue working, as hard as she possibly can. But with so many desperate people to comfort, the sisters need more than dedication to continue their work. It’s why they need your support.

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.

Also, for a limited time, you can make your gift go twice as far. A generous benefactor is matching every donation to support the sisters between now and 1 November, All Saints’ Day. Learn more about this great gift here.

21 October 2015
D.E. Hedges

Children line up at the St. Charles Orphanage near Beirut, Lebanon, where Sister Josephine Haddad and seven other sisters care for orphans who would otherwise live on the street.
(photo: Sarah Hunter)

Name: Sister Josephine Haddad
Order: Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul
Facility: Saint Charles Orphanage
Location: Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon

Near the center of Beirut, Lebanon, there’s a busy place where nurturing has been a way of life for years. It’s called Saint Charles Orphanage. And back in 1948, it opened its doors to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable residents: children who were poor, alone and had nowhere else to go.

Over the decades, Saint Charles’ mission has expanded. Sister Josephine Haddad and seven fellow sisters — along with seven staff members — still care for young orphans who would otherwise live on the street. But they now reserve part of their time for adults who arrive seeking help.

“We help children from age 5 until 17 years-old,” Sister Josephine explains. “And we serve free lunch for poor adults and elderly three times weekly.”

In addition to their orphanage and lunch program, the sisters run a boarding school for girls. As Sister Josephine says, “The girls come from very poor families and their living conditions are very severe. We provide them with education, nourishment, and what they need most: affection and love.”

She’s especially proud of a girl named Marwa who — along with her parents — knocked on Saint Charles’ door in 2004. “Her parents are deaf, unable to communicate,” Sister Josephine explains. “So she took the initiative to explain to us what they wanted. Marwa was very clever and responsible. And she was never ashamed of her parents’ handicap.”

Marwa spent four years at Saint Charles “and was always one of the best students in her class. Today she is in her last year in university, studying sign language, so she can help children suffering from deafness. She is still visiting us once or twice every week in order to assist the sisters in the afternoon.”

Sister Josephine admits that many children arrive with emotional issues due to extreme hardship or abuse. It’s why hiring a staff psychologist is at the top of her list — and why Saint Charles Orphanage desperately needs your financial support.

For now, she and her fellow sisters continue to accomplish a great deal with very little. And she takes comfort in knowing they’re making a difference. “Seeing the little children happy, smiling, having all their needs met,” she says, describing what makes the hard work worthwhile. “Seeing them playing, studying, sharing... this is my joy.”

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here. Also, for a limited time, you can make your gift go twice as far. A generous benefactor is matching every donation to support the sisters between now and 1 November, All Saints’ Day. Learn more about this great gift here.

10 September 2015
D.E. Hedges

The Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Lebanon help care for the mentally and
physically handicapped. (photo: CNEWA)

Between now and 1 November (All Saints’ Day), the first $100,000 donated to help the sisters in CNEWA’s world will be matched dollar for dollar.

This past week, CNEWA received the following letter from a loyal donor. During this Year of Sisters, he shares our belief that supporting the compassionate women of the Church has never been more important:

As a California businessman, I have always tried to get the biggest bang for the buck. I saw no reason that I should view religious affairs differently. Jesus, in one of his parables (Luke 16), seems to acknowledge the skill of worldly managers as greater than those of the light, and suggests we learn from them.

I remember my early years in Catholic education, and the huge impact the sisters made on me and my classmates. Who can overlook the life commitment these women made, and the opportunity to have a family that they gave up? What a statement of faith and love.

As a result of the sacrifices of many young women like these, the backbone of the Catholic Church in the United States was formed. They were never in the headlines, but were present, telling their story of faith in a quiet but very real way.

This same opportunity presents itself today in the third world, a world of grinding poverty and war. So many young women are ready to sacrifice, but unable to do so for lack of resources.

What is the solution? How might we be shrewd managers?

Well, CNEWA has come up with a plan: when you send a dollar to train and educate a young woman in a novitiate, another donor has agreed to add a matching dollar.

Doubling the amount you give to a good cause will always be a good investment. It also increases the number of good people who can join together, to not only make the world a better place, but also build up the Church.

That sounds like something in which everyone wins. So won’t you join me in participating in this wonderful project? Together we can make a difference.”

Your gift to CNEWA is worth double if received by 1 November. Please click here to give what you can. Thank you!

10 August 2015
D.E. Hedges

Sister Lilly Chirayath sits with some of the children at the “House of Hope” in New Delhi.
(photo: CNEWA)

Name: Sister Lilly Chirayath C.H.F.
Order: Holy Family Congregation
Facility: Holy Family Asha Niwas
Location: New Delhi, India

In India’s poorest urban districts, homeless girls often wander the streets. They’re unwanted and vulnerably alone. It’s a grim reality that Sister Lilly Chirayath, her fellow sisters, and their staff are working to change at Holy Family Asha Niwas — or “House of Hope.”

Together, they run the orphanage and a second center in New Delhi, now celebrating its 100th year of helping the poor. “Our main mission is taking care of our orphanage,” Sister Lilly explains. “It’s where we help neglected and unwanted street girls 4 to 18 years of age.”

More than 25,000 families live in the slums of southwest New Delhi, where even menial work is hard to find. Many people turn to petty crime or worse. And for the homeless girls the sisters have taken in, the orphanage has been a place that has literally saved their lives.

“These girls had been wandering around railway stations, markets and streets,” Sister Lilly points out. “Some lost their parents or are abandoned. Others have been ill-treated by their drunken fathers. They were exploited by antisocial elements. Many are undernourished, both mentally and physically.”

The sisters help them in many ways — from providing shelter, food and clothing to ensuring each girl receives an education. As Sister Lilly says, “We believe they should have vocational training, health care, counseling and guidance.”

One of Sister Lilly’s favorites, a girl name Shilpa, “lost her parents when she was small. She was living with relatives, who told her to work in the kitchen. She was working very hard, but they treated her very badly and she ran away.”

The police found 12 year-old Shilpa in a railway station, and she was brought to Holy Family Asha Niwas. As Sister Lilly says, “She wanted to study and become something. The sisters arranged tutors and she was very brilliant in her studies. She did her B.A., her Masters in Social Work, and got married. At present, she is living happily with her child and family.”

Many girls who come to Holy Family Asha Niwas later work there as adults. But qualified staff and funding are in short supply. “We want to help the girls grow as good citizens and also in their future jobs and marriages,” Sister Lilly explains, aware that her compassion can only take them so far. “If we can find enough funds, we can give better quality service for our children. We want to help them realize their dreams.”

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.

6 July 2015
D.E. Hedges

Sister Belaynesh Walteji supervises students at the Atse Tekleghiorghis Catholic School
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (photo: CNEWA)

Name: Sister Belaynesh Walteji
Order: Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul
Facility: Atse Tekleghiorghis Catholic School
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

They’re poor. They’re hungry. And if not for their daily school lunch, many students at Atse Tekleghiorghis Catholic School would eat little or nothing at all.

Sister Belaynesh Walteji is a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul. Each school day, in one of the poorest slums in Ethiopia’s capital city, she and her staff offer free education and a hot lunch to 681 impoverished students.

“Many kids are physically weak, thin and underweight,” Sister Belaynesh explains. “They’re restless and inattentive due to hunger. They don’t have enough to eat at home.”

She says the meals help kids grow physically and be focused mentally. Few ever miss class. That’s not surprising, since each also receives an added treat of nutrient-rich biscuits, accompanied by tea and milk. “For kids,” she points out, “the stomach issue is more sensitive than lesson issues!”

But it’s the lessons that offer hope. Sister Belaynesh is especially proud of a 13 year-old boy named Eshetu. “He lost his mother at age 4,” she says. “His elderly father lives in a shelter run by a charity organization. I found a poor family with whom he can share a shelter. I personally contribute some money for his supper and breakfast.”

Has her support worked? Ask young Eshetu. “This past semester I stood fifth among 37 children in grade seven,” he says, adding that his hobby is “science creativity. I produced a winnowing machine for the family I live with. My school is everything to me — home, hope and stepping stone towards my future. Sister Belaynesh rescued me. Otherwise I would have ended on the street.”

Such caring costs money. As Sister Belaynesh says, “I come from one of the poorest and remotest parts of Ethiopia. I do not have external connections and cannot look for resources from abroad. Local costs of living are high and teachers’ salaries increasing.”

She admits that without help from Catholic Near East Welfare Association and its donors, many more children would go hungry. As one of the 25 Ethiopian Catholic schools with feeding programs supported by CNEWA, Sister Belaynesh’s school is a place where learning and nutrition come together. And where young lives change for the better.

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.

11 June 2015
D.E. Hedges

In this photograph from the 1980’s, Mother Virginie shares a happy moment with the little boy she named Moussa, or Moses. (photo: CNEWA)

Name: Mother Virginie Maalouf
Facility: Maison Notre Dame des Dons pour L’Enfant Heureux
Location: Zahlé, Lebanon

In 1978, when Lebanon was in the grip of civil war, Sister Virginie Maalouf decided to leave her congregation, “and go on my way to try to make a little difference.”

The home for orphaned children that she established — Maison Notre Dame des Dons pour L’Enfant Heureux — began in a modest four-room apartment in the Lebanese city of Zahlé. “It wasn’t much,” she recalls. “But we made sure to surround all the children with all the warmth and care we could provide them with.”

By 1984, more than 50 needy children — many of them former street kids — had lived at the home for varying periods, with more arriving every year. Encouraged by generous supporters, Mother Virginie began to consider buying a plot of land for a new, larger house for the children.

“On the night of July 24th 1984, I heard a knock on the door,” she remembers. “I opened the door, and there I saw a baby in a basket just like Moses. He was very weak and it was a miracle that he was saved. I named him Moussa (Moses). I decided to go forward in buying the land we needed — and then found that next to the land was a place where people visit and pray, and where a holy painting of the prophet Moses was placed. I was at peace, knowing I was on the right track, and thankful that God was with us.”

Since moving into the new house in 1987, Mother Virginie explains that she and her staff have continued to provide children with “an embracing family atmosphere.” Every child attends school in the neighborhood, many study music and theater, and also sing at churches across the region.

As for the orphan left in a basket on Mother Virginie’s doorstep long ago: Moussa eventually attended Christian schools and university, where he graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. “Now he has been married for five years,” she says with pride. “He loves what he does, is very successful at it, and still comes home and helps me every day.”

Lebanon has strict laws regarding the naming of abandoned children, but Mother Virginie has won permission to give her family name “to the children of my heart. Today, seventeen children with unknown parents, including Moussa, bear my last name, Maalouf.”

Over the years, more than 1,400 girls and boys have been nutured by Maison Notre Dame des Dons pour L’Enfant Heureux. “I look back now from where we started,” Mother Virginie says. “And I am beyond grateful for what we have been able to achieve. I pray that God gives all the children graceful lives and happiness.”

In light of all the good she continues to do, she deserves solid support for her hard work. As Mother Virginie admits, “the last few years have been very difficult to us because of the wars surrounding us. People cannot help us a lot anymore like the old days. But thank God, we are able to survive.”

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.

19 May 2015
D.E. Hedges

Sister Rosily Karuthedath, Superior of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters, serves at Grace Home
in Kerala. (photo: CNEWA)

Name: Sister Rosily Karuthedath
Order: Nirmala Dasi Sisters
Facility: Grace Home
Location: Peringadoor village, Kerala, India

In sprawling cities and tiny villages across India, millions of people endure lives of struggle and abuse. For the poorest of the poor who also live with HIV and AIDS, that struggle can be totally overwhelming.

Sister Rosily Karuthedath knows how much they suffer. In the village of Peringadoor, she and four other Nirmala Dasi Sisters have run an oasis of hope called Grace Home since 1999. On a slender budget bolstered with funds from Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the sisters provide shelter, food and medical support for sixty-five HIV infected patients, including thirty children.

Each resident’s life story is different, but all share a common thread. They’ve been rejected — often violently — by nearly everyone. They’ve been set adrift with nowhere else to turn. “A patient called Matthew came here with HIV,” Sister Rosily recalls. “He was in a state of depression and physically very weak.”

Although the sisters aren’t equipped to provide full medical services, they gently administered medication and IV fluids. In time, Matthew was strong enough to be taken to the regional Medical College for more intensive treatment. “Day by day, he became better,” the sister says. “Now he is able to help others.”

In a country where poverty and public ignorance about HIV run deep, Sister Rosily and the other sisters are painfully aware they can only do so much.

But for the poor and ill who arrive at Grace Home? The door is always open. And the caring sisters are always inside. “We believe in giving acceptance and dignity to the patients, even if they are socially isolated and discriminated against,” Sister Rosily says. “We attempt to fill the emptiness experienced by the patients with love, concern and care.”

As a CNEWA donor, you can help them continue their good work. As the sisters spend each day doing all they can, they can use a helping hand from you.

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.

28 April 2015
Greg Kandra

Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu, left, attends 5:30 morning prayer in the chapel of her convent
in Bahir Dar. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

Name: Sister Ayelech
Order: Daughters of Charity
Facility: Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School
Location: Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Nearly 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 14 attend the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia — and the woman responsible for them all is Sister Ayelech Gebeyehu. A member of the Daughters of Charity, Sister Ayelech has a special mission to “serve the poorest of the poor.” This includes making regular visits to 30 poor families, whose children attend the school. Some of the parents have tested positive for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

The sisters who serve the school live in a residence in the poorest corner of Bahir Dar, located about 350 miles northwest of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.

ONE contributor Petterik Wiggers recently contacted Sister Ayelech, who described her vocation, her mission and her hopes for the children in her care:

I have been in Bahir Dar for 13 years. As a Daughter of Charity, we go wherever we are sent. We obey, we are obedient; we don’t refuse. Now that we are here, we are happy. We don’t know our next station.

I have never regretted my decision, never. I didn’t care about other things. I don’t really care about getting married, having children. My family taught me to be kind and how to help others. And also, the first sister I worked with, she was a good example to me.

My work brings me satisfaction. The children continue studying, and some of them go to university. But it is first the will of God that is most important to me. God is very good to me. He made so many things happen to me in my life, so many things that I couldn’t have done by myself. God is always with me. Every day, he is with me.

I think God has given me the gift to lead. But I have struggled to lead, to reach this place. I have made a lot of mistakes, many times. Every day is a struggle. Every day we are trying to change. We are trying to live for God. We fail on a daily basis. We argue with the sisters. We argue with people in the work place. In spite of all this, forgiveness is there — we forgive each other. We are trying to do our work for God. We try to help each other in our spiritual life and in community life, too.

You can read more in the Spring 2015 edition of ONE.

Sister Ayelech’s life has been enriched immeasurably by her vocation — and the loving generosity of the donors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association has enriched the lives of so many she graciously serves.

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the great work of women like Sister Ayelech, click here.

26 March 2015
D.E. Hedges

Sister Sara treats a patient at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)

Name: Sister Sara
Order: Dominican sisters of St. Catherine of Siena
Facility: Mother of Mercy Clinic
Location: Zerqa, Jordan

Their patients are many. Their workdays endless. But for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena? Helping the needy who flock to Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan is a job that has to be done.

Sister Sara knows this well. The town struggles with poverty, crime and pollution. More than half of all residents in some neighborhoods live below the poverty line.

Ever since she arrived from Iraq to work in this busy facility 15 years ago, Sister Sara has helped provide health care to thousands. From local factory workers to Iraqi, Syrian and Palestinian refugees, everyone is treated regardless of creed or nationality.

But at its heart? Mother of Mercy Clinic is a sanctuary for poor mothers and children. Although the sisters specialize in prenatal and postnatal care, children of all ages receive treatment their families could never otherwise afford.

“The most lovely time to my heart is when working with these small angels for treatment and vaccinations,” Sister Sara explains. “A small kid named Wadi was afraid to come near me and used to run away. But I talked to him gently and provided him with chocolate. He asked me to visit them at their house and we did. When they moved, he invited me to visit again, insisting they have a spare room for me!”

In Jordan’s traditional culture, the sisters have gained the community’s trust. As Sister Sara points out, “A female patient told me that her parents are not afraid when she comes to the clinic by herself, as the nuns make them feel comfortable and secure.”

She remembers treating one 65-year-old diabetic. “He used to visit twice a week until he died. I will not forget his words, ‘I was lucky to come to the clinic. You have treated me with kindness and love. Your words encouraged me to bear my pain and suffering.’.”

Unfortunately, excellent care is expensive to provide. Medical equipment, drugs and supplies have to be imported. And because the sisters treat their poorest patients for free, the clinic depends on donations to meet its budget.

That’s why Sister Sara is so grateful to the donors of Catholic Near East Welfare Association. But with their patient roster increasing, she and her fellow sisters need your help more than ever. As they serve the poor. As they serve humanity with compassion, the only way they know.

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here.

5 March 2015
D.E. Hedges

Sister Micheline addresses the students gathered at her center in Lebanon before serving them a hot meal. (photo: Tamara Hadi)

Name: Sister Micheline Lattouff

Order: Good Shepherd Sisters

Facility: Dier el Ahmar Social Center

Location: Dier el Ahmar, Lebanon

What’s the biggest challenge a sister can face? An overwhelming humanitarian crisis—one that threatens to turn your entire community upside down.

That’s what happened to Sister Micheline Lattouff. With her fellow Good Shepherd Sisters, she had spent years running a center for the local poor in Dier el Ahmar, Lebanon. There, they provide schooling for the village’s children.

The surrounding farms have always drawn fieldworkers from neighboring Syria. But when civil war engulfed their homeland, that long tradition changed. Suddenly, the workers’ camp was, as Sister Micheline says, “full of children, women and elderly who had escaped from Syria and found refuge in the village.”

Everyone was huddled in “wet tents with rain leaking inside, the floor filled with mud without any heating. The children were around a wood fire in the snow with bare feet.”

The sisters raced to acquire tent material, warm clothes, shoes, food and heaters. Local Christians opened their homes, providing mattresses, blankets and supplies.

Soon, 1,400 families had poured in, overwhelming the village. But then Catholic Near East Welfare Association came through. As Sister Micheline explains, CNEWA’s donors “provided the refugees with food packages, winter kits and water supplies.”

She was troubled by seeing refugee children “trying to kill each other in war games, imitating the fighters in Syria.” So with more CNEWA funding, the sisters expanded their school program, providing focus for hundreds of traumatized girls and boys.

What will happen next? After dealing with the crisis head on, Sister Micheline is ready for whatever lies ahead.

“I feel very proud of the volunteering work provided by the whole community,” she says. “Now, when we visit the camp, we find that all families — Christian and non-Christian — became like one family, where members take care of each other.”

As war and natural disasters put more people at risk, the need for all of us to “take care of each other” is more important than ever. It’s why CNEWA is proud to support sisters like Sister Micheline. And it is why she hopes you can do the same.

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

To support the good work of sisters throughout CNEWA’s world, click here. (And you can read the introduction to our series, for more information, too.)

For more about Sister Micheline and her work, check out Syria, Shepherds and Sheep from the Spring 2014 edition of ONE.

Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Sisters

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