Today, we received word that a beloved member of our CNEWA family, after a long illness, has died.
Tens of thousands of friends and benefactors grew to know Mercy Sister Christian Molidor from her weekly emails she wrote until her retirement in 2011. But Christian’s work at Catholic Near East Welfare Association began long before the internet; in her self-deprecating style, she would say she joined CNEWA before the alphabet was invented. According to Christian, she arrived one day in 1984. Msgr. John Nolan, then the head of CNEWA, had no idea what to do with the Libertyville, Illinois, native, so he sent her “packing,” she recalled some years ago.
She went to India, where she visited orphans, catechists, priests, senior citizens, the handicapped and her beloved religious sisters. She helped cook and clean. She did the wash and hung the laundry. And she photographed. She took thousands of pictures of smiling children, sisters laughing and patients praying. She collected their stories, wrote them down, squirreled them away in her head and shared them for decades.
Christian held many positions at CNEWA — everything from communications director to associate secretary general to special assistant to the president — but she loved most documenting the stories and taking the portraits of the people she loved to serve. Christian’s love for and faith in Jesus, and his presence in the lowly, the poor and the marginalized, fueled her being. And she shared this love and faith with everyone she encountered. Everyone!
How fortunate I am to have known, worked with and loved this great woman of God. She taught me much, and she teaches still. Let me end with her last email message to her beloved CNEWA family. Her voice comes through clearly:
As a heartfelt gift to you, (and in my usual opinionated and nagging style), I end with a few suggestions for all:
Mend a quarrel, seek out a forgotten friend, dismiss judgments and replace with trust. Write a love letter, share some treasure, give a soft answer and encourage youth.
Manifest your loyalty in word and deed, keep a promise, find the time; forgo a grudge, forgive an enemy; listen, try to understand, examine your demands on others and think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little, then laugh a little more, deserve confidence, fight malice and decry complacency.
Express your gratitude, go to church, welcome a stranger; brighten the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.
Speak your love; speak it again. Speak it still once again.
There, I think I’ve covered my parting thoughts. Let’s pray together always; and if you remember, please tuck a prayer in your pocket for me.
Farewell and peace.
Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her.