Being at CNEWA for just over two years now, I often look back at my journey to working here as a development associate. You could say the journey began at any number of places — perhaps with my undergraduate degree in theology, or my year of service after college with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. But I’d say it truly began at my childhood parish of St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer in Groton, Connecticut, where I was fortunate to visit this past weekend with CNEWA multimedia editor Deacon Greg Kandra as part of our Parish Hope and Awareness Program.
The recent expansion of our Hope and Awareness program has literally taken us from coast-to-coast — as close as Long Island and as far away as California. But it was an honor to return home to the Connecticut coastline, where we were graciously welcomed by the Rev. Darius Dudzik, the pastor of St. Mary’s and its sister parish across town, Sacred Heart. Deacon Greg preached at all five weekend masses across both parishes, and I manned a table in the vestibules between Masses, offering more information about our work and some copies of ONE Magazine.
Deacon Greg’s homily for the Feast of Christ the King began and ended with the plea of one of the men who was crucified next to Jesus, and who asked him, “Jesus, remember me.” This is the plea, Deacon Greg explained, of Christians across the Middle East who have fled violence and terror. Fortunately, their call for help is being answered by people like Sister Maria Hanna, mother superior of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. With CNEWA’s support, the Dominican Sisters have set up a primary school for displaced children in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, a health clinic serving remote villages, and an orphanage — and 400 young boys and girls recently received First Holy Communion under the sisters’ care.
On a personal level, it was quite meaningful for me to be able to bring the good news of CNEWA’s work back home to Groton. A number of parishioners remembered me from my days as an altar boy and lector and occasional substitute organist, and were happy to see me again. Many had wondered what I had been up to since leaving home for college eight years ago. When they heard about CNEWA, they told me just how blessed I am to be working for such a worthy cause. I wholeheartedly agree.