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Posts Tagged ‘Gabriel Delmonaco’

Resolving conflicts in the Middle East: a Cristian and a Muslim girl playing chess…

I took this picture at CNEWA library in Amman, Jordan. A Muslim and a Christian girl were peacefully playing together. (Amman, Jordan 4/2010)

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Father Guido Gockel and I recently accompanied a group of CNEWA’s benefactors on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and I blogged about it on ONE-TO-ONE. If you’ve never seen the Holy Land, take a look:

CNEWA Staff and Benefactors in Jericho

As if modern Magi, we are looking for the birthplace of Jesus, but unlike them we are not following complicated astronomical trajectories. Our comet and guiding star is a Palestinian named Tony and instead of slow camels we are using a much faster and reliable Hyundai minivan. Read more.

Bedouins in Jericho

The Magi Move On

When the Magi reached the grotto of the Nativity, I’m sure they left their camels just outside it. When our group arrived at Bethlehem’s Nativity Square, a Palestinian policeman asked us to move our car quickly. Our guiding star, Tony, could not hover above the grotto or even nearby. Read more.

Experiencing the Real Holy Land

One has to go through the same checkpoints Palestinians have to cross in order to understand why they feel imprisoned in their own land. And when you look in the eyes of Israeli soldiers, you find out that many of them are young men and women perhaps scared of the huge responsibilities given to them. They wear it like a suit many sizes too large, and it shows clearly.Read more.

Hope and Comfort in a Divided City

Early in the morning, after crossing the New Gate and entering the Christian Quarter, after only a few steps on the uneven cobble stones, we saw the emerald-green iron gates of CNEWA’s office in Jerusalem (known locally as the Pontifical Mission). Read more.

A Trip Cut Short

We waited for Father Guido at the Altar of the Crucifixion and at 7 a.m. sharp he arrived, escorted by a Franciscan priest. This altar is cared for by the Franciscans. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and other Eastern churches care for other sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Read more.

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Better to light one candle…

A man prays in a Coptic shrine behind the Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. I took this picture a few days ago while visiting the Holy Land with a group of benefactors of CNEWA. (Jerusalem, 02/2012)

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A New Home

In October, I wrote to the friends and benefactors of CNEWA with a request: Can you help two Catholic leaders in India build new homes for the poorest Catholic families in their dioceses?

I’m truly stunned by the response my letter received. Hundreds of generous contributions flooded into CNEWA’s office here in New York City. My colleagues and I worked our tails off to rush the money to India. Thanks to the loving kindness of good folks like you, our partners can build 44 new homes!

Just now, I received the first update on the progress of this effort. Bishop Anikuzhakiattil from the Eparchy of Idukki writes that he has finished building 30 new homes in his diocese. Eleven extremely grateful families have already moved in.

I’m still waiting for word from Archbishop Cleemis, who is building 14 new homes for families in the Acrheparchy of Trivandrum. Kerala, a heavily Christian region in India where CNEWA works, is vast and mountainous. Most people are subsistence farmers who live in isolated areas. It can be hard to keep in touch with the parish priests who are overseeing this project.

But I’ve been to Kerala and have seen how families live. I can vouch for the difference your generous contributions are making. Most houses are made of mud and clay. Instead of windowpanes, plastic tarps keep out the weather. Of course, the tarps are next to useless when the rainy season comes.

As you can see, the new homes, built with the help of CNEWA supporters like you, are worlds apart from that. They’re not fancy, but they’re well built, safe and dignified. I’m so grateful to everyone who contributed. Be proud of what you accomplished!

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The Circle Closes

This is the story of three people. They lived in different places. They never met one another before. Yet one day, the circle closed and these individuals connected in the strange way that only God allows.

Baghdad, Iraq
17 June 2010
8:00 p.m.

The darkness of night was slowly painting the buildings and streets of Baghdad. The lampposts on the sidewalks were off. There hadn’t been electricity for days.

Da’ad stood by the window and held the youngest of her three daughters. Her right hand played nervously with the cross on her necklace. Her husband, Sami, had asked her several times to remove it.

It’s not safe to show that we are Christians,” he warned.

Da’ad wouldn’t listen. She had always been proud of her faith, and she had no intention of denying it.

The dark ink of night had now taken over. Da’ad felt certain — something terrible had happened to her husband. The factory where he worked closed at 6:30 for security reasons. Sami was an hour and a half late.

Her phone rang at 10:20. As Da’ad listened, tears ran down her face. Then, she told her daughters — get ready to leave. Da’ad grabbed the small amount of cash she kept in a drawer and a photo of Sami.

The next bus for Syria was at 11:00.

Iraqi refugees in Damascus

Damascus, Syria
19 June 2010
8:00 a.m.

Sister Marie was called in a hurry. Four people had just arrived from Iraq. She opened the convent door and saw a woman and three girls with no luggage. The woman held a photo of a man with a beautiful smile. Sister Marie had seen this before.

“He was shot in the back after work,” explained Da’ad, trying not to sob.

“The man who did it was our neighbor. I know his family. They are Muslims, but we’ve had dinner together. The man shot my husband and then called me to say my daughters and I would be next.”

Da’ad looked straight into Sister Marie’s eyes.

Tell me why,” she demanded. “I can’t understand why.”

Sister Marie hugged Da’ad for the longest time. She could only offer the family accommodations for a few days. The convent was already full of refugees. Nor did Sister Maria have money to rent an apartment for them. Since Iraqi refugees began pouring into Damascus, rents have skyrocketed.

The only option was to call the office of CNEWA.

Wichita, Kansas
13 July 2010
3:00 p.m.

Pauline hadn’t opened her mail yet. She’d spent the morning volunteering at the soup kitchen at her parish, as she has done on many mornings since she retired and her husband passed away. When Pauline finally sat down at the kitchen table to sort through what the mailman had left, one envelope captured her attention. It had the familiar red papal seal.

Pauline opened it and read the story of Da’ad, Sister Marie and the apartment they couldn’t afford to rent. Immediately, Pauline opened her checkbook and wrote a generous check for Da’ad and her children. A sentence in the letter convinced her it was the right thing to do: “Whenever you do for the least of brothers, you do it for me.”

This is the work of CNEWA. Connecting people. Closing circles. In a way that only God allows.

*Based on a story of a family from Iraq and a religious sister in Syria. Names have been changed for privacy.

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‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where –‘ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

‘–so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Do you know where you are going? If you are like me, sucked into the whirlwind of daily routines, occasionally you may stop and ask this question. Where am I going? Why am I running? What is my plan?

During my MBA studies, we placed a lot of emphasis on organizations’ strategies (the combination of competitive actions and business approaches to reach goals and objectives). An important concept I learned was that strategy must always match the situation. There is no winning strategy that can be generally and unconditionally applied across the board to all the organizations.

In order to assess the situation and determine the best strategy for any given company, we learned to use several evaluation techniques (SWOT analysis, value chain analysis, strategic cost analysis, competitive strength assessment, and many more.) Among them, the SWOT analysis was my favorite. In a simple chart it assesses the company’s internal resource Strengths and Weaknesses, and its external Opportunities and Threats.

One day, while playing with charts and numbers, I decided to apply the SWOT analysis to myself. Like an organization, I too have internal strengths and weaknesses; like any company in the word, I too am influenced by opportunities and threats of the environment.

Once I assessed my situation, I was able to make a plan and strategize the right course of action. Still now, when I wonder where I am going, I repeat this simple exercise.

Lent is great opportunity given to us to assess our situation and to refine our plans and strategies in light of our faith. It is a perfect time of reflection and analysis that will lead to renewal and conversion which can change the direction of our lives.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” Maybe rather than accepting any direction in continuing the course of our lives, during Lent we will have the courage to go “against the current, when that current is a superficial, incoherent, and illusory way of life that often drags us down, making us slaves of evil or prisoners of moral mediocrity.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

In that light, is it any wonder that so many of our Lenten promises have to do with luxuries and expenses we can–and maybe should– avoid?

We can instead spend the time, money and energy on devoting ourselves with fresh energy to our spiritual journey. I told you of my sacrifice. How nice that some of you chose to share your own stories with me?

C.C. in Iowa is giving up an indulgence, sweets and deserts, to give the gift of food to a Northeast African family. E.B. in Wisconsin is giving up a vanity, new clothes, to send a gift wherever the need is greatest. And N.C. in Arkansas is joining me as we give up coffee to give to those who could never dream of such a daily luxury.

The Lenten journey is one of mindful, prayerful reflection. A time to assess, restrategize and a find a more successful path to a close relationship with God. Where are you going?

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“I have a confession to make,” I told the almost 400 seminarians at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary.  They looked at me, curious.  Maybe I had sinned so gravely that I needed absolution from 400 future priests.

I confessed that when I was very young, I was a seminarian, too.  But I left after one day!  You see, my pastor talked me into entering the seminary with promises of a beautiful soccer field, cultivated daily.  I guess being a priest requires more than that.

Years later, I asked my son, who is now nine.  He said no, without hesitation. “Priests have to work on Sundays!” he said

But seriously, I don’t want to be a priest because of the all the challenges!  Once, my pastor told me about a man and his daughter at Mass.  The daughter wasn’t feeling well, so the man sent her to find the bathroom.  But when she returned after only a few minutes, he asked if she couldn’t find it. “It’s not necessary, Dad.  I found a box that said ‘For the Sick.’”

All joking aside, I told the seminarians how delighted I was to see so many young vocations before me.   I brought to them the heartfelt encouragement of CNEWA friends, and I ask the seminarians to write their sponsors.  For that fact is, sponsorship is more than material — it’s also spiritual.

If any sponsors are reading, these young men thank you for everything you do.  They’re passionate about their faith and their studies.  And I bet that when they become priests, they’ll be passionate servants of God and his people.

My time in India is over.  Thanks for coming along!  You can read more about the trip on Julie Ratty’s blog:

Catholic Digest Goes to India

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