CNEWA Canada

Encountering Holy Land Christians: Our Journey Begins

Together with CNEWA Canada, the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada has been supporting projects that aid our poor Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. With this in mind, CNEWA Canada organized a trip for C.W.L. members to discover the Holy Land by not only walking in the footsteps of Jesus on a pilgrimage, but also meeting the “living stones.” We will encounter the Christians of the Holy Land by visiting different CNEWA projects and local Christian communities.

This is my first trip to the Holy Land and I feel very blessed to be here as one of the coordinators. Our hope over the next few days is for you at home to journey along with us through these blog posts.

Taking this trip with me is Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada, along with Megan Knighton and Bradley Kerr from CNEWA in the United States. As well, we have the Rev. Geoffrey Kerslake from the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

The Catholic Women’s League initiative to aid Holy Land Christians is entitled “Velma’s Dream,” named after Velma Harasen, past president of the C.W.L. We are pleased to have Velma join us on this trip, and she will share with us some reflections.

We went directly to Nazareth and visited the Church of the Annunciation, the place where “the Word became flesh” and the angel Gabriel visited Mary — which was very special to me, given that my last name is Gabriel.

This statue of the Virgin Mary adorns the grounds of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The modern basilica of the Church of the Annunciation has been built above at least five previous edifices dating from the 4th century. (photo: CNEWA)

On Saturday, we mostly visited churches in the area of Tiberias. My favorite activity was sailing on the Sea of Galilee, like Jesus did.

Fishing on the Sea of Galilee is as important a business as in Christ’s day, and much of the 1600 tons of fish that are harvested every year provide nourishment not just for the local residents but for the people of Jerusalem as well. (photo: CNEWA)

Here are a few words from Velma:

“I have visited the Holy Land twice before. Now, I have the pleasure of visiting the projects that the Catholic Women’s League is supporting. As well, having my daughter Lori along with me has been wonderful. This time around, I’m getting to see how the local Christian people are living. My heart goes out to them, just hearing their stories.

“I was extremely impressed with the French Hospital in Nazareth and with the Maison du Sacre Coeur in Haifa — two projects that CNEWA supports. I had a brother who was severely handicapped and died when he was 53 years old. Sacre Coeur was like the home he had lived in for years, and being there reminded me of his place and brought memories back of him. I can’t help but admire the work that the Franciscan Sisters are doing to help the sick and the handicapped.”

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue our journey this week!

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