Ethiopian Orthodox clergy process in Lalibela, Ethiopia, during Msgr. John E. Kozar’s 2014 pastoral visit.
Two Ethiopian faithful rest against the stones of Lalibela, in 2014.
Youth prepare to receive their first Communion in the village of Ader, Jordan, in 2014.
A church celebration welcomes dignitaries attending a missionary conference in New Delhi, India, in 2012.
By now you have probably heard the news that the Holy See has approved a successor for me, Msgr. Peter Vaccari, currently the rector of St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. We will be sharing more details of this transition and plan of succession as we move ahead on this journey.
Msgr. Vaccari is extremely well qualified and suited to serve in this important leadership role at CNEWA. And he is very excited to begin serving those in need in our CNEWA world.
The plan of succession and an orderly transition to surround it was initiated by myself and was strongly supported by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the Board of Trustees at CNEWA, and all the board members. Even more noteworthy is the full support of the Holy See in approving the nomination and election of Msgr. Vaccari, and the kindness extended to me in including me in this planning process.
Times of transition often make us think about the many changes we undergo in our lives — but at this time, I am thinking in a special way about our work at CNEWA, work that goes on with fervor and joy. Transition seems to permeate so much of what we do and how we do it.
Jesus provides the perfect role model for all time, showing us how a Christian, through baptism, participates in a lifetime of transition. We realize that this life here on earth, for all its joys and sorrows, is only temporary. For a person of faith, it represents a journey, a transition that, through the personal witness of Jesus in his life, death and resurrection, can prepare us for the eternal life that God invites us to share with him in heaven.
Of course, the majority of faithful in our CNEWA world suffer. Many are oppressed, exploited, persecuted or have little or nothing to call their own. Even though so many of these poor souls represent the “have-nots,” they do not complain. They look for a ray of hope in this process of transition; they often find that hope only in Jesus.
I remember seeing displaced people living in misery, who hold high the cross of Jesus and proclaim his cross as a symbol of victory. In their hearts, Jesus holds each of them in his arms and carries them on the journey from this life to an infinitely better one. And the church is there to assist. Religious sisters, priests, lay leaders — and CNEWA — walk with them. We journey together and transition as Jesus has taught us.
Many people are afraid of any transition, as they find no guarantees of security. However, Jesus and his church assure us if we are faithful with him and walk with him, we can possess eternal life and can overcome all adversity, suffering and evil. In our humble service, and in the good works of CNEWA, we are so often edified by the heroic example of those who suffer so much more than we could ever imagine. And yet, they continue on this journey of faith, this lifelong process of transition, following Christ to an eternal reward.
The children I have encountered in my travels often give the most poignant and unadulterated example of not fearing transition to a better life. I recall their prayerfulness, their acts of charity with siblings and other children. Again and again, they share completely what little they have — truly modeling their friendship with our Lord.
So often, they show no fear.
So the transition from this life to an infinitely better one, in an environment of hope, is at the heart of our CNEWA ministry. We walk with the local church, through our prayers and offerings, reaching out to assist with basic pastoral and material needs to make the transition more sustainable and hope-filled.
As I welcome Msgr. Vaccari to join me in a shared role of leadership and service at CNEWA, I am uplifted and encouraged in this journey, this transition we will be making together, knowing CNEWA will not just carry on, but will flourish because our Lord has assured us so.
You join us on this journey and you sustain the many good works and ministries that we are privileged to provide in service to the church universal and in the name of Pope Francis through your prayers and financial gifts. The poor whom we serve are so much better equipped to continue the journey of transition because CNEWA walks with them.
In their name, I thank all of you and invite your prayers as Msgr. Vaccari and I enter into our own special version of transition. May the Holy Spirit always illumine our way.
Blessings to all of you.