CNEWA’s Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., and Gabriel Delmonaco recently accompanied a group of friends and benefactors on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
When the alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m., I was already awake. The steady sound of the rain hitting the windows and the roofs of the cars woke me up. We all had to be ready by 6:30 to take advantage of the great opportunity to celebrate Mass at the Altar of the Crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Most of us could not believe that, this place that had been so crowded with pilgrims yesterday, would belong entirely to us for 30 minutes today.
As we walked through the wet roads of the Old City, some of the shops opened their doors. The strong smell of Arabic coffee permeated the alleys. Jerusalem was slowly waking up to a new day that for us would bring many unexpected surprises.
We waited for Father Guido at the Altar of the Crucifixion and at 7 a.m. sharp he arrived, escorted by a Franciscan priest. This altar is cared for by the Franciscans. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and other Eastern churches care for other sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. During Mass, we remembered one of our faithful donors from Arizona who will undergo a complicated operation to remove a tumor. This is CNEWA — a family of concerned Christians who care for each other.
Upon our return to the office, we were in for a surprise: Ra’ed Bahou, our regional director from Jordan, informed us our afternoon trip to his country was at risk, because an unusual snow storm was expected during the next two days. Unlike many of our cities in North America, a snow storm in Jordan means everything is paralyzed. Since all our donors on this trip are successful executives, we could not exempt ourselves from an impromptu meeting to make an executive decision. Should we shorten the trip and avoid being stranded in Amman? Or should we take the risk and be faithful to our initial schedule? Shortening the trip meant cutting our visit by more than two days. Weighing all our options, we decided unanimously to leave early.
The next few hours, as one can imagine, were as hectic and dense as the black clouds amassing in the sky over Jerusalem. We packed, changed flight plans, hopped on a shuttle, crossed the border to Jordan, paid a brief visit to a project for needy girls, hopped on the shuttle again and finally headed to the airport.
I’m writing my final notes on a plane at 4:30 a.m. As we head back home, I have a whirlwind of thoughts in my mind. Our donors on this trip have been incredibly united, joyous and profound, thanks also to Father Guido’s inspiring spiritual direction. With renewed enthusiasm, they return to their regular lives, executive meetings, loving families — but, I hope, with something more. I hope they have been rekindled in their Christian faith by what they have witnessed: the struggles of people who feel imprisoned in their homeland, the plight of Christians who feel compelled for many reasons to leave the land where Jesus walked, the dedication of staff members like Joseph in Jerusalem or Doris in Jordan, people who live their jobs as a ministry.
Life is a complicated matter. It is a constant battle between good and evil. I hope our benefactors realized that through CNEWA their treasures are planting many good seeds.
This has been an incredible experience. We officially close the chapter of this trip, but the story of CNEWA family continues.