“We welcome Deacon Greg Kandra from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association this weekend. As we hear about the situation of Catholics in the Near and Middle East, we are reminded of how blessed we are to live in a country that places such importance on religious liberty. As we stand in the shadow of the Epiphany and the visit of the three kings, we recognize the Christian qualities of hospitality and diversity. These foreigners were some of the first people to recognize the Messiah and they continue to teach us much about our faith.” —Father Bob Stagg, From the Pastor’s Desk,
10 January 2016
This past weekend, our CNEWA development team celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord with the people at the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
For those unfamiliar, the church is located in the Archdiocese of Newark, about 20 miles northwest of Wall Street. Despite being so close to Newark and Manhattan, the church is situated in one of the most beautifully wooded and serene locations imaginable. Its proximity makes this a popular parish among a very diverse demographic.
The Rev. Bob Stagg, the pastor, and his parish social justice ministry group, led by Kay Furlani, welcomed us. The parish is already active in visits and aid to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other locations. Members have also visited the Holy Land. With so much happening in the world, the parish felt a weekend to address the plight of Christians in the Middle East would enhance the already strong faith and social justice awareness of this community.
Deacon Greg preached at all six Masses over the weekend, sharing stories that resonated with the parish. His homily helped bring attention to the many dire situations in the Middle East that both Christians and Muslims are struggling with right now.
He described, in particular, the challenges facing sisters serving the people of Iraq, and told the story of how Sister Maria Hanna and the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena had to flee their convent when ISIS swept through the country in the summer of 2014. (You can read more about their remarkable and courageous story in the pages of ONE.)
For my part, I was there as a member of CNEWA’s development team to meet parishioners, pass out information about our work, and answer questions about how people can support our mission, particularly on behalf of Christians in the Middle East.
There is still much more to learn and discuss. Abigail Metzger was one of the many dedicated parishioners we met in Upper Saddle River. She is coordinating a follow-up discussion session for the parish later this month that will include her own impressions from a recent trip to Bethlehem. You can visit the parish website or drop Abigail a line for additional details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had a wonderful visit and both Kay Furlani and Father Bob made us feel like part of the parish family. We’re grateful for their generosity of spirit, their hospitality and their tremendous commitment to helping the people of the Middle East.
If you’d like CNEWA to visit your parish or church group, please contact us. We look forward to seeing you sometime soon!