Pope Francis has articulated “accompaniment” as a hallmark of Christian ministry. He especially challenges us to accompany and walk with the poor, the less fortunate, the forgotten segments of our societies.
At Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we, too, use this expression to describe our ministry as we reach out in service to our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters suffering in the Middle East, as well as those living in northeastern Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Ours is a ministry of accompaniment.
Imagine the terror of thousands of Christians who have fled the onslaught of fanatical and vicious jihadists in Iraq. They have left everything behind, including those too elderly or too infirm to flee. But their flight through the desert of northern Iraq, to relative safety in Erbil, was mediated by the accompaniment of heroic bishops, priests and especially the devoted sisters, walking with them through the desert.
Imagine if you can, a child who has lost mother and father in such an onslaught, and wanders aimlessly in search of comfort and security — and then a religious sister grabs the little child’s hand and walks with this orphan, now no longer alone.
Imagine a new mother holding a sick child in the midst of such trauma — and then being greeted by a smiling and loving nurse, a religious sister, who comforts a crying child and offers a measure of hope in this chaotic environment.
Imagine the long lines, the stream of sick, injured and malnourished refugees — who then receive medical attention at one of our dispensaries. Above and beyond any physical treatment or medicinal application, these suffering souls are met with a smile and an abundance of comfort and hope, all in the name of Jesus.
Imagine a bishop celebrating Mass in an open field with his huge displaced flock, which has fled with him from the city of Mosul. He walks with them. He loves them — and with them he shares the light of Christ. CNEWA stands with him. We walk with him.
I have been privileged to experience firsthand the loving and abiding presence of the church walking with the poor, the displaced and the persecuted in the Middle East. If there is any lack of clarity about who we are as church, look to our Eastern Catholic partners in the Middle East — our brothers and sisters whom we are privileged to accompany in their ministry to serve the poor of all faiths.
Your generosity to CNEWA allows us to continue this ministry in the Middle East. Those same crying children who are now smiling; those elderly who now feel a little comfort; those refugees who have no certain future home, but who now feel loved by the church — all of them share with you at least a fleeting smile and an abundance of gratitude for your charity and generosity.
God bless the poor. God bless those who serve them. And may God bless all of you, our CNEWA family, as we accompany all those who suffer in the Middle East.