In Zahleh, Lebanon, refugees pass the time, awaiting the chance to either return home or settle abroad. (photo: John E. Kozar)
A child goes for a checkup at the Martha Schmouny Clinic in Erbil, Iraq. (photo: John E. Kozar)
In the town of Aiga, Ethiopia, children receive nutritionally dense biscuits from a school meal program. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Msgr. Kozar visits the Home of Faith in Kerala, India, which cares for children with disabilities. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Msgr. John Kozar greets the Filipino community in Tel Aviv on a pastoral visit. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Our Holy Father Pope Francis often exhorts us to focus ourselves better as Catholics in our shared vocation to evangelize. But many followers either don’t understand this or even dismiss it. Some presume that evangelization is somehow only related to preaching, faith formation or catechetical programs.
All of these are certainly very important dimensions of evangelization and should never be dismissed as “irrelevant” or “outdated.” But the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, evangelizes in many other ways.
At the basis of all our evangelization efforts is the core truth that God loves all of us and invites us to know him more fully through meeting Jesus, his only-begotten son. And how do we share Jesus with the poor, the oppressed, victims of war, the displaced?
The opportunities are endless. In every good work, every response of loving kindness, every gesture of reaching out to assist someone in need — done in the name of Jesus — we share the Good News that God loves us and wants us to be uplifted by his love.
We are not alone, we are not forsaken, we are not orphans.
I think of so many examples of how CNEWA is honored to accompany the church — witnessing, sometimes without even mentioning the name of Jesus, to the power of God’s love in the midst of so much suffering and injustice.
The good works of the church, which form a major plank in the platform of evangelization, give witness of how Jesus would have us live and how he would have us respond to the needs of others. The recipients of these works often recognize there is something unique about what we do, and especially why we do it. Unlike governmental or secular programs of aid, the church — and CNEWA accompanying her — reaches out to those in need because we are compelled in faith to do so.
We exercise our baptismal mandate to live the Gospel of Jesus and to share his Good News with everyone. To be more concrete: CNEWA supports, through your generous contributions, many clinics and dispensaries, which serve everyone in need. Oftentimes these people are welcomed, embraced and tended to by the loving care of religious sisters and devoted lay associates.
For some patients, of whatever religious background or faith, this might be the only expression of love and human dignity they experience. And whether spoken or unspoken, it is done in the name of Jesus.
In hundreds of schools supported by CNEWA, the church — through priests, sisters, brothers and lay staff — offers a refuge from the realities of hatred, bigotry and disrespect. For a few hours each day, youngsters learn that God loves all of us and wants us to be at peace with each other. And oftentimes the lessons learned at these schools are long lasting, even life changing.
This is part of the future for many areas of CNEWA’s world. These are the fruits of this form of evangelization.
Where there is war and oppression, there is also great material suffering and want. Here, too, CNEWA accompanies the church in sharing the Good News of Jesus through many programs of food sharing, basic housing assistance, clothing, and so much more. Through the gentle hands of the priests and sisters and others, the church pastorally helps those in need through material assistance — never demeaning, never excluding, but always with the warm and loving presence of our Lord.
For some of those who are hungry or in need of basic material goods, this gesture of kindness, this good work of the church, is the only experience of love and concern to reach them. In offering material aid, in emergency circumstances or in abiding conflicts, the church — and CNEWA alongside — evangelizes about the love of God for all.
People in flight or displaced refugees are extremely vulnerable to feeling alone and forgotten. In camps, in settlements and in provisional surroundings, often crude and even dangerous, the church lovingly assists those in need with food, water and shelter. More than just meeting material needs, the church, with the support of CNEWA’s generous donors, uplifts the spirit and counteracts the feeling of abandonment.
These goods works reinforce God’s love for all.
For some victims of flight, there is another challenge: to return to one’s homeland. With the liberation of many villages from terrorists, the displaced, although filled with insecurity and fear about what life will be like, often return to an uncertain future back home.
But they are not alone.
The church is there to walk with them and to accompany them. Through the steady, loving presence of religious sisters and pastors, and with some assistance with basic household needs and healthcare support, the refugees become resettled citizens. The church, with CNEWA at her side, reinforces
the core truth that God loves all of us and wants us to share in his love.
All of these are beautiful forms of evangelization — faithfully transmitting through good works our conviction that the son of God makes all the difference in our world.
We don’t look for credit or seek notoriety for our works. We do this because Jesus has asked us to do so.
We don’t expect everyone to profess his name; we only seek to share his Good News.
Thanks to all of you for your wonderful generosity in helping our CNEWA family make that possible!