During his many years of distinguished service as the Secretary General of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Bishop (then Monsignor) John Gavin Nolan was fascinated by the remarkable origins of the Association and determined to tell its story. As his busy schedule permitted, he researched and investigated the circumstances that led to the founding of the Association and its intriguing development during its first five years.
As he described it:
After the war between Turkey and Greece that followed World War I, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) was incorporated in 1924 in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by five Philadelphia laymen, independently of the American bishops and the Holy See, for purposes as stated that were purely humanitarian, viz., “the relief of suffering peoples, particularly children, regardless of religious belief, in Greece, Turkey, and Armenia.”
Within eighteen months, however, the Vatican and the Bishops intervened. In support of their efforts to reunite with Rome the “schismatic” Christians in the east, CNEWA was declared “pontifical,” given a permanent place in the American Church, and accredited by the Bishops as their “sole instrumentality” for “Catholic interests” in general in a much larger “Near East” area and in Soviet Russia as well. Under its new president, an American Jesuit appointed by the Vatican, there followed for CNEWA five years of turmoil and spectacular success. Finally, in 1931, the Holy See again intervened, assuring CNEWA’s future. Its immediate direction was entrusted to the Archbishop of New York.
In spite of continual interruptions of the work due to the responsibilities of his position, Bishop Nolan completed this first draft of a history of these foundational years. Although this manuscript has not yet been completed or published, it is an eminently readable and captivatingly informative narrative.
For those who have not been privileged to know and work with its author, Bishop Nolan clearly stands out in the later history of CNEWA. A challenge for the future is to tell the comparably fascinating tale of his years of leadership!
Monsignor Robert L. Stern
Catholic Near East Welfare Association
New York, New York
17 August 2011