CNEWA
ONE Magazine
God • World • Human Family • Church

The Last Word: Perspectives From the President

“Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him … Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they recognized him at the breaking of the bread.” (Lk 24:30-31, 35)

It is all about telling our “story.”

The March edition of ONE magazine marks the anniversary of the founding of CNEWA by Pope Pius XI on 11 March 1926. As we celebrate our 97th anniversary on the way toward our centennial, we continue to reflect on our story. Similar to the famous Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus with the crucified and risen Jesus, the mission of CNEWA is about the “road” we travel with Jesus. As with the disciples, we have been chosen, blessed, broken and given to those we serve throughout the worlds of the Eastern churches.

The March issue of ONE is our Lent-Easter edition! 

On Wednesday evening, 15 February, on the monthly “Connections With Msgr. Peter” program, I anticipated the season of Lent and its call to more intense prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent can be quite challenging. It invites us to take a deep look at our own story and the need for conversion, for a change of heart, a change of direction. Only an openness to change and conversion will bring us to an appreciation for all that God has done for us in the mystery of Jesus’ own Passion, death and Resurrection. 

The Emmaus story invites us to discover the traces of God in the experience of brokenness. The disciples recognize Jesus in the broken bread. In the mission of CNEWA, we encounter stories of human brokenness through natural disasters, religious persecution, corruption, trafficking in human persons, poverty, war, intolerance and harsh sociopolitical and economic conditions. 

In a very real sense, our emergency campaigns and our programs and projects may all be viewed as CNEWA’s efforts — through prayer, accurate information and extraordinary generosity — to assist others to glimpse the possibility of hope in their brokenness. It is a hope found, as with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, in the crucified and risen Jesus! Consider three recent emergency campaigns.

  • Lebanon: The port blast in Beirut on 4 August 2020 is considered among the largest non-nuclear blasts in human history. Long has CNEWA’s story involved Lebanon, and that story did not change on that day. CNEWA’s Beirut team sprang into action and, thanks to the generosity of our donors, CNEWA has distributed more than $3 million in funds toward hospitals, medical centers, food distribution and psychosocial counseling for a traumatized population. Additional grants of almost $2 million assisted more hospitals and 14 Catholic schools.
  • Ukraine: CNEWA has worked throughout Ukraine for many years. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chair of CNEWA’s board of trustees, led a small CNEWA delegation in May 2022 to Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine as a sign of solidarity. CNEWA has distributed $5.8 million in aid through our partners on the ground to both Ukrainian refugees, who fled into neighboring countries, and to those who are displaced and have remained in Ukraine. 
  • Earthquakes in Syria and Turkey: “And it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). Ancient Antioch, present-day Antakya, was destroyed in the earthquake. Through our emergency management team in Beirut, CNEWA immediately contacted partners in Syria. The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control authorized a period of 180 days for humanitarian aid to enter Syria without being in violation of the sanctions imposed on the country. Together with our partners in Lebanon and in Syria, CNEWA has begun to distribute clean water, blankets, food, milk, diapers, medication, mattresses and pillows. 
  • I traveled with a delegation from our Beirut team into Syria before Christmas. I met some of our trusted partners through whom we brought necessary humanitarian relief into Syria before the quakes. Now, they are doubling their efforts to reach those who have survived the quakes and 12 years of war.

These are just some examples of where CNEWA donors have responded so generously to our humanitarian emergency appeals. Thank you!

In the stories covered in this edition of ONE, you will read further about how CNEWA has accompanied the church in Lebanon. The article that identifies Lebanon’s recent collapse on multiple levels also explores the church’s response to this collapse and CNEWA’s own role. 

In the article from Amman, Jordan, you will read the important work being done with migrant workers by the Teresians on behalf of persons who have been victims of human trafficking.

The Letter From Eritrea offers a look back on one Catholic school, now a state school after the government nationalized religious schools, hospitals and other social service institutions. 

The article on Ukraine explores the impact of the ongoing war on the life of the various churches, working to assist people in need. It is important to remember that where CNEWA works, we always remain open to all, in dialogue with people of good will who are people of faith or with no faith. Our goal is never to proselytize. It is to seek ways to cultivate cultures of encounter for the good of the local society. 

And finally, once again, as I have written here on other occasions, in every place we work we encounter the particular imprint of Marian devotion proper to each culture. In this edition, we hear of Mary’s role as nurturer, defender and protector in the Christian East.

Yes, it is all about telling the story and inviting others to recognize the crucified and risen Jesus, often in a moment of brokenness. But has that not been God’s plan with us? Give God your permission to enter into your brokenness and experience God’s healing power! I thank you for your ongoing interest and support, in both prayer and with your donations.

Thank you!

Peter I. Vaccari

President, CNEWA

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