CNEWA

ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

The Last Word

Perspectives From the President

“Mary arose and went with haste.” (Lk 1:39)

In this Perspectives, I appeal to all readers of ONE, in English and in Spanish, in print and online, to cultivate a healthy, wise and prudent spirituality of haste! 

We need more of you who are faithful, dependable followers of the mission of the Gospel to welcome a new, grace-filled time — or “kairos” — to become more engaged in the mission of CNEWA. 

We need you to bring your lives of faith and prayer, wisdom and knowledge, advocacy — but never partisan politics — and sense of mission to a deeper level. 

I have advocated in previous columns for the priorities of prayer, being well informed and a deepening generosity. Permit me to add a fourth priority — it is time to reach out to our youth. Now. Today. “In haste.”

“Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39) is the theme for the next World Youth Day in Lisbon, 1-6 August, where hundreds of thousands of young Catholics are expected to meet with Pope Francis. 

In his message for the gathering, Pope Francis reflects on Mary’s haste throughout her life. In the most significant historic location on the globe, Nazareth, where the young Virgin consents to the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word became flesh, Mary is not concerned about herself. 

Only days after this exceptional experience, Mary goes out “with haste” to help her cousin Elizabeth, whom the angel told her has “also conceived a son” (Lk 1:36).

As Pope Francis writes: “Mary did not remain paralyzed, for within her was Jesus, the power of resurrection and new life. … Mary becomes a temple of God, an image of the pilgrim church.”

Having moved with haste to assist another, Mary in her encounter with Elizabeth receives the grace of joy and an affirmation of her divine purpose on Earth, which we commemorate as a church on the feast of the Visitation, 31 May. 

The pope reminds us: “The grace of the Holy Spirit permits no delay.” 

Mary, whose life on Earth and in heaven is always directed toward others, “is the woman of Easter,” he writes. 

This will be the pope’s first international World Youth Day since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which each in their own way destabilized already precarious situations and aggravated issues of great concern worldwide: mass migration, human trafficking, violence, religious persecution and fanaticism, inflation, poverty and hunger.

The articles in this edition of ONE touch on these issues of concern and confirm the truth, exigency and imperative of the need to move “with haste” in the mission of CNEWA:

• Church leaders who seek to address the concerns of the growing minority of Christians in Israel, including the importance of interfaith dialogue. 

• Under the coordination of CNEWA’s Beirut office, the necessity of collaboration and coordination among lay volunteers, church leadership, and the courage of journalists who desire to tell the story of ongoing relief for earthquake survivors in Syria.

• CNEWA’s own Olivia Poust on the efforts made throughout the regions where we work to erase cultural, religious and artistic sites as a weapon of war. 

• CNEWA’s work in health care issues among the poorest and most marginalized people within the growing instability of Egyptian society.

• Recent street protests in Georgia against proposed legislation to limit foreign funding to those in need.

These stories require that we respond, “with haste.” Your prayers, informed advocacy and donations address these realities on the ground. 

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, was restored in 2021, after being badly damaged by ISIS, and a statue of Mary was placed atop the church tower. (photo: the Rev. Ammar Yako)

There is no region nor culture where CNEWA is present that does not have a great historical, cultural, theological and emotional connection to the Blessed Mother. The Mother of God is present to her children: to accompany them, protect them, intercede for them and guide them through their need to act, like her, “with haste,” on their path of encounter with the crucified and risen Christ. It’s all about our encounter with Jesus, followed by our desire to bear him and to bring him, as with Mary, to others.

Too often, we are fooled into believing we have lots of time — lots of time left to live or lots of time to respond to a situation or a need — and we allow ourselves to be distracted. In reality, our lives are short, time passes quickly and the needs of our brothers and sisters who suffer are urgent. As with Mary, we must act without delay.

I return to my appeal and my fourth priority: together, in every country where our mission is present, let us reach out “with haste” to get more young people involved in the mission of CNEWA. 

Thank you for your prayers, informed advocacy and most generous donations!

With my prayers, gratitude and affection,

Peter I. Vaccari

Read this article in our digital print format here.

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