Driving South on the Garden State Parkway last Friday, I noticed that even the autumn air feels like summer the closer you get to the beaches. That’s an excitement I’ve noticed anytime I’ve come near the Jersey shore. Close by are pristine sands, the cool waters of the Atlantic, cedar shake homes, and gulls riding the waves of the air. Yet, what I was most excited for was a chance to meet the good people who call Ocean County home, those brothers and sisters looking to make a difference in the world.
One of those good people is a high school sophomore — a 15-year-old young woman named Gianna Brucato — who got in touch with us in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of persecuted minorities in the Middle East. In working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award, Gianna wanted to know what she could do to spread the word of what is happening some 6,000 miles away. That’s what brought me to her parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Whiting, New Jersey.
When I stepped into the large parish hall, I was greeted almost immediately with questions from eager parishioners who wanted to know: are the people safe? And what is CNEWA doing that’s making a difference?
It gave me an opportunity to share about our work with, for, and through the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq whose heroic resilience has kept displaced children and families educated and healthy on the Nineveh Plain. Or, how in Syria, we are working to ensure infants have something as crucial as milk, so that they are sustained through the ongoing crisis.
It gave us a chance to connect the family of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and its community with the many families abroad we work daily to uplift and support.
And all because a young woman committed to making a difference gave us a call! The truth is, when I was 15, I was a Boy Scout about to earn my Eagle. I’d learned CPR and how to tie knots and how to camp. But for the life of me, I must confess it wasn’t until much later that raising awareness for people hurting in another country was on my radar as something anyone my age could or would want to do, let alone something I could have thought possible as a teenager. I remain deeply grateful for the witness of Gianna and for the support of our donors in Whiting, New Jersey.
We’re always looking for new parishes to visit and spread our message. If you and your parish are interested in having us visit, simply drop us a line.