Program #0085 for Wednesday, July 6, 2011: Catholic Near East Welfare Association

July 6, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Gabriel Delmonaco, National Director and Vice President for Development of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in the United States

Today’s topics: The Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Summary of today’s show: Gabriel Delmonaco talks with Scot and Fr. Matt about the work that the Catholic Near East Welfare Association does with Eastern-rite Catholics in North Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia, helping match sponsors who want to help with important projects for small Christian communities that are often in the minority and under pressure in their own countries. CNEWA helps fund healthcare for refugee mothers in Jordan, formation for seminarians in Egypt, schooling for deaf children in Bethlehem, and more, all under the mandate of Pope Benedict XVI.

1st segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Matt back to the show and asked him how his holiday weekend was. He spent time at a couple of different family parties and caught up with his family. Scot went to a bunch of cookouts on Friday and Saturday and then took his kids to the Boston fireworks on the Cambridge side of the Charles River.

Yesterday, Fr. Matt was on CatholicTV’s This is the Day program to promote the upcoming Witness to Truth high school leadership program next week. It’s not too late for teens from all over the archdiocese to sign up, meet kids from all over, grow deeper in faith, and learn leadership skills that come from the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers,” by Sean Covey. It’s coupled with the theological and cardinal virtues. Find out more at the ONE website or their Facebook page

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Gabriel Delmonaco to the show. He was born in Italy and he worked in the Vatican at the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. They take care of all the Catholic Eastern Churches around the world. In 1999, he came to Boston for a conference organized by Congregation for all the Eastern Churches in the English-speaking world. He met people from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and was taken with their mission. He told his wife that he wanted to move to New York and work for CNEWA.

Scot asked him about the Eastern Churches. Gabriel said there are the Byzantine, Syrian, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopian/Eritrean and Syro-Malankara. Some of these churches are directly linked to the apostles. Over the centuries there were many divisions in the Church, often over politics. The main division was between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. But over time many of these churches reunited with Rome. They are located primarily in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. Scot said the Western Church has three or four rites, including the Latin-rite, the Ambrosian-rite (in Milan). What’s different in these Eastern churches is the form of the Liturgy, but the commonalities are greater.

When we talk about rite that’s mainly about how we celebrate liturgy and pray. In the Latin-rite we have the Latin liturgy in both the ordinary (Novus Ordo) and extraordinary (Tridentine) forms.

Gabriel said the Catholic Eastern-rites include anywhere that there are Catholic Eastern rite churches, such as in India (Syro-Malabar) or in Ethiopia (Ge’ez). Scot said there is a Ge’ez rite liturgy every Saturday in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Scot said in the Eastern churches, there is one particular congregation that serves the needs similar to the different congregations for the rest of the Church such as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Bishops, etc. In the past, there were departments within each of the other congregations to care for Eastern Churches, but in 1926 all those functions were consolidated into one new congregation. One of the reasons was to give more attention to the churches as they are. The churches felt they were being too Latinized, so a new congregation was created to help them maintain their traditions.

3rd segment: CNEWA puts together people who want to help with people who are need. Sometimes the needs of Christians in those countries is overwhelming. “It’s better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.” They light candles every day, saving one life at a time. Not just those overseas, but also benefactors back in the US.

In the Holy Land, Christians are a minority, less than 2%. In Iraq, there were 1 million Christians in 2003. Now, they’re less than half that. Christians are fighting to maintain their foothold in their own countries. CNEWA helps them to thrive in their countries. In the West Bank, instead of giving money to families or just reparing churches, instead they put people to work repairing local churches.

Sometimes their help comes as medical care. For some people, it’s the only health care they get. In a town north of Amman, they provide a clinic for mothers and children and there is no other way for them to get medical care. They serve all faiths, not just Christian. When the clinic was created, before the Dominican Sisters of Catherine of Siena would visit patients, the husbands would accompany their wives and would be the only ones talking to the doctors. When the sisters came to the hospital, this changed the culture and suddenly women could go to the hospitals themselves and talk to the sisters.

One of CNEWA’s missions is to foster interreligious dialogue. They try to promote the many areas in common among the religions. In October 2007, a group of 100 representatives of Islam presented a document to Pope Benedict explaining all the commonalities between Islam and Christianity.

In most of the countries where they work, the Catholic Church is not a “Church of numbers” but a “Church of service”. The Catholic community provides so many schools, hospitals, and more that vastly outweighs their proportion of the population. In Jordan, they are serving more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees and 1.9 million Palestinian refugees.

They help not just individuals, but also the dioceses. They help form seminarians and sponsor religious novices and postulants. The sponsorship program connects people who want to help with people in need. They sponsor children, religious in formation, and seminarians. They allow correspondence between donors and the sponsored individual. Very strong bonds are formed between them, up to the point where the sponsors see them as their own children, even seminarians as their sons.

They work through, with, and for the local Churches as a sign of respect for the people who live there. Twice per year in Rome, there’s a meeting of all the agencies working for assistance to Christians in the Near East. They often meet with Pope Benedict. At a recent meeting, he asked Catholics to help those who wish to stay in their home countries above all, but even for those who don’t to render all possible assistance.

CNEWA’s website has specific opportunities with dollar amounts to support individual projects such as a church in Iraq or a rectory in Damascus. American dollars go much further in these countries. A church in Iraq can rebuilt in Iraq for just $15,000. A rectory could be built for $30,000. A hungry family could fed for $2000 a month.

4th segments: It’s time to announce the winner of the weekly WQOM Benefactor Raffle.

Our prize this week is a Book Pack (3 books): Made for More by Curtis Martin; Spiritual Freedom by Fr. Dave Pivonka and Hiking the Camino, also by Fr. Dave Pivonka

This week’s winner is Robert Romig from Winthrop. Congratulations Robert!

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

5th segment: Every year, through the local bishops they receive thousands of projects and they narrow it down to 200 or. In Bethlehem, the Congregation of the sisters of St. Dorothy have a community for the deaf and mute called Ephatha. Because of interfamily marriage there are many genetic problems that result in deafness. This provides societal shame and the kids aren’t sent to schools. The Sisters go from home to home to teach the children, including teaching them how to speak Arabic using some high-tech computer programs. They also teach the kids to lip read. They show them how to make their way around in the city, including crossing streets. The Sisters’ devotion is unique. CNEWA supports about 100 of the children each year. At an AIDS clinic in India, Gabriel met a religious sister who carried an HIV-infected man on her back to bathe him each day.

Gabriel said the India director of CNEWA proposed $ 2 million worth of projects but they were only able to fund $700,000. They also make ongoing commitments to schools and clinics and hospitals. There is $13 million given directly by donors, another $6 million in wills and bequests, and another $4 million in endowments, so about $25 million total.

Scot said it’s often difficult to make sense of all the different collections they are asked to support. CNEWA is partly helped by the World Mission Sunday collection during October, but it helps primarily Propagation of the Faith, which takes care of mostly Latin-rite areas. 81% goes to Propaganda of the Faith and 19% goes to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in Rome. CNEWA funds come directly from donors. Right now, there are bout 50,000 regular donors. The typical donor is a woman on Social Security who is giving from her want to help a Christian in India or the Middle East or North Africa. Their oldest donor is 98 and she has been giving since 1926.

Their donors are often invited to travel with Gabriel overseas to visit with those they are helping.

Gabriel said his work has affected his faith life. He often thinks of the Scripture: “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do it for me.” He believes all of their donors receive a gift when they support CNEWA recipients. Scot said we often mistake needs and wants in the United States. there are a lot of projects that CNEWA supports that are for true needs of food, shelter, healthcare, and worship. Gabriel is able to tell his son how life is not as easy for everyone as it is for those of us who live in the developed world.

With all the upheaval in the Middle East recently, it is becoming more difficult for those CNEWA serves. Food prices are rocketing upward around the world and projects and families are finding it harder to feed the hungry, for example.

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