Led by Cardinal Dolan, the CNEWA team visited health care apostolates of religious sisters in Zerqa, Amman and Kerak. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the heart of Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary provide a haven for Iraqi and Syrian refugees. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The sisters offer counseling for family members suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, academic tutoring and catechetics for refugee children, and a safe house for young refugee women. (photo: John E. Kozar)
There, in their convent known as the House of Mary, the sisters and the families they serve gathered around the altar for a special Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Murphy. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Afterward, the families spent time with the CNEWA team, sharing stories, swapping hats and consoling one another. (photo: John E. Kozar)
The CNEWA team ended their pastoral visit to Jordan traveling to the village of Ader, which is inhabited by descendants of Christian nomadic shepherds. (photo: John E. Kozar)
There, Cardinal Dolan presided at a First Communion Mass for Latin and Melkite Greek Catholic youth. The village celebration brought together Catholics and Orthodox, archbishops and nuncios, youngsters and grandparents. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Many of the children’s parents remarked it will be a day their children will never forget. The happy images from this Arab Christian village may help secure the memory of these moving days in the Holy Land in the minds and hearts of all those who shared in it. (photo: John E. Kozar)
A Pictorial Journey to Jordan
There is a saying in Jordan: “If you are not a foreigner, you’re a stranger.” The implication is that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has opened its borders to welcome multitudes of refugees from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Turkey, and beyond. In the Middle East, Jordan is a beacon of hope for millions of people who have been forced to flee their homelands, and CNEWA stands with the local church in reaching out to these refugees.
On a 4-8 May visit to the kingdom, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, experienced firsthand the best of how the church serves in the Middle East, where Christians represent a very small minority, and how CNEWA seeks to accompany the church in her ministry.
There were three principal aspects to his visit: providing health care to the poor, especially refugees; serving the spiritual needs of displaced and refugee families; and sustaining Christian communities, especially in rural Jordan.
By supporting a network of hospitals, clinics and medical outposts, CNEWA offers not just basic medical support to the poor, but in the case of the Italian Hospital in Kerak, a town in the arid south of the country, the only venue to provide surgical procedures and cancer treatment in the region. To the worried mother with a sick child, to the wearied refugee who has lost everything and is malnourished, to the abandoned elderly with open sores, the church — through the hospital’s Comboni Sisters — offer a warm embrace. As the cardinal noted often, it is the loving hand and the gentle care of the religious sisters who put the face of Christ on the work of the church. And CNEWA is privileged to assist them.
That same loving attention is directed by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to Iraqi and Syrian refugees living in Amman. They gather regularly for the Eucharist, religious education, cultural and linguistic classes — opportunities all to keep strong in the faith, to maintain their identity and dignity and to bolster their hope to return to their respective homelands. It was particularly impressive to see how the sisters have inspired the refugees to serve as teachers for the children, religious educators, sacristans and community workers.
One of the Chaldean refugees serving as a catechist privately approached Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center, New York, and shared, perhaps for the first time, that he was interested in becoming a priest. The grace of the moment directed Bishop Murphy, who is also a member of CNEWA’s Board of Trustees, to share this with the local parish priest, the only priest to serve Jordan’s substantial Chaldean Catholic refugee community.
We’ll leave this in God’s hands.
The real energy of the church finds its focus in the Eucharist, and we experienced this on a visit to Ader. This is a village settled by Bedouin, one of the few towns in Jordan with a Christian majority, and represents a remnant of the nomadic shepherds who came to adore Jesus in Bethlehem. Today, the faith is alive and vocations are numerous.
We were privileged to participate in a First Communion Mass. This was no ordinary liturgy: Two congregations in the village came together, one Melkite Greek Catholic and one Latin. The celebrant was Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Yaser al Ayyash; Cardinal Dolan presided; and the apostolic nuncio in Jordan, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, and Bishop Murphy concelebrated. The children were precious. They had even learned English to renew their baptismal promises before Cardinal Dolan. The liturgy may not have demonstrated the “perfect” order we might be used to, but it was certainly beautiful and inspiring. It was a shining CNEWA moment: our identity as Catholic, rooted and celebrated in the Eucharist.
Before and after the liturgical celebration the children and the elders of the community formed an honor guard of welcome and gratitude. The local pastor, Abuna Boulos, expressed it best. “We love CNEWA, because you helped us to build our church and nourish our faith, and now we can continue on our own.”
I pass on to all of you, our CNEWA family, the profound thanks of the poor in Jordan and the thanks of Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy. Especially, I share with you a warm embrace from the loving sisters in Jordan who form the front line of a serving church.
May God bless you, and the labors of CNEWA in Jordan.