9 May 2018
Seminarians browse the library at St. Francis Theological College in Thellakom, India. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
In the current edition of ONE, writer Anubha George visits Indian seminaries where future priests are studying. Here, she offers some personal reflections on the assignment.
Long winding roads; the green of the Kerala countryside; tall coconut trees and a flash of backwaters every few miles.
All this crisscrossing led us to three very different but equally important seminaries in Kerala. It is here that future generations of priests in India are being trained to devote their lives to Christ and community.
We had gorgeous weather on our travels. Kerala gets boiling hot and humid come end of February/early March. But the beginning of February is breezy, comfortably warm and the humidity is tolerable. We needn’t have worried though. The seminaries we visited: Mary Matha major seminary in Mannuthy near Trichur; St Thomas Apostolic seminary in Vadavathoor near Kottayam, and St. Francis Theological College in Thellakom had one thing in common — apart from training priests, that is! They all had lots of trees — coconut, banana, banyan, jack fruit, tapioca plants, to name a few. It was cool in these seminaries.
Another thing that struck me over and over again was the wonderfully positive energy in each of these places. They are all beautiful and imposing buildings, away from the maddening sounds of the city. It’s peaceful and quiet here. You can see why the church has chosen to train future priests here. There are no distractions. Just peaceful buildings located in quiet and small communities, where the young men learn how to support and bring people together.
The chapels in all three seminaries made an impression on my heart. It felt like Christ was present here. The Capuchin seminary chapel was designed by the men themselves. It showed the world turned into one single nest through the Divine.
The seminary chapel at St. Francis Theological College uses images of nature and the branches of a tree in its design. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)
The church respects the fact that an understanding of different religions is needed in this day and age of conflict and controversy. Interfaith understanding is encouraged. Brothers are taught about other religions and are trained in how to have fruitful and positive dialogue with people from other faiths.
The pastoral training is tough. It is long and many people quit. But those who stay are determined to make a difference. We met many such brothers and deacons. They are clear in their purpose — to live their live in the way Jesus did; to make parishioners see Christ in them.
All seminaries run programs to help communities, such as providing support to people with AIDS; helping poor and underprivileged do their school and home work; counseling families to sort out their family problems; and organizing retreats for spiritual guidance. Young people from the local communities are especially encouraged to participate in activities organized by the local parishes.
Visitors are always welcomed in the seminaries. At every seminary, we were offered a delicious lunch cooked with organically grown vegetables.
Three days. Three seminaries. Three villages in interior Kerala. Not once did it feel like a chore. We came away feeling refreshed from each of these places.
Read more about The New Priests in the March 2018 edition of ONE.
9 May 2018
Tags: India Catholic Seminarians Vocations (religious)
Toddler Joao Bento wears a pope outfit during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 9 May. (photo: CNS/Claudio Peri, EPA)
9 May 2018
In the video above, Pope Francis blesses a bus driven by Syrian refugees who will travel through Poland seeking to publicize the plight of Syria. During his general audience Wednesday, the pope called for prayers for peace in Syria and the world. (video: Rome Reports/YouTube)
During audience, Pope calls for prayers for Syria (Vatican News) Pope Francis has urged for prayers for peace in Syria and in the world. His call came during his weekly general audience of Wednesday, where he greeted Arab-speaking pilgrims. “I invite you to cultivate the devotion to the Mother of God with the daily recitation of the rosary, praying in a special way for peace in Syria and in the entire world,” the pope said in Italian…
Israel attacked Syria an hour after Trump ended Iran deal, says report (Time) Syrian state-run media said Israel struck a military outpost near the capital Damascus on Tuesday, saying its air defenses intercepted and destroyed two of the incoming missiles. The reported attack came an hour after President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, calling Tehran a main exporter of terrorism in the region. Israel’s military said Tuesday its forces were on high alert near its border with Syria, and were urging civilians in the Golan Heights near Syria to prepare bomb shelters…
Christian leaders in Jerusalem respond to vandalism (CNA) Church leaders are defending the need for a Christian presence in the Old City of Jerusalem, as some report increased vandalism, verbal abuse, and aggressive property acquisition by Jewish settlers. “Today the church faces a most severe threat at the hands of certain settler groups. The settlers are persistent in their attempts to erode the presence of the Christian community in Jerusalem,” said the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, in an interview with the Guardian…
Taboo puts pregnant women at risk in India (UCANews.com) “It is still considered a taboo in our village to visit a doctor during pregnancy. We are told to work and eat a normal diet even when pregnancy is detected. This is how it has been going on here for years,” said Rubeena Bano, 33, of Pulwama district. Close to 25 percent of women like Bano, who live in village areas of this Muslim-dominated region, believe that supplements like folic acid, iron and calcium tablets are unnecessary during pregnancy, a study found last year. The study by the Food Science Research Journal found village women did not have adequate awareness of the benefits of dietary supplements…
Leader of Armenia’s ‘velvet revolution’ takes power (NPR) On Tuesday, half a month after Serzh Sargsyan stepped down under popular pressure, Armenian lawmakers elected rough-hewn protest leader, Nikol Pashinyan, 42, to be the country’s next prime minister…
8 May 2018
Tags: Syria India Israel Armenia Iran
The Mother of Mercy Clinic provides a wide range of services to as many as 30,000 patients each year, with a special focus on prenatal and postnatal care. It has just been hailed for offering one of the most innovative and successful programs in the world for helping confront the global refugee crisis. (photo: John E. Kozar)
A leading Catholic philanthropic organization, FADICA — Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities — has released a report citing some of the most innovative and successful programs around the world helping to confront the global refugee crisis.
We are pleased and proud to report that one of CNEWA’s programs — the Mother of Mercy Clinic, run by the Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and CNEWA in Zerqa, Jordan — was cited.
As we described the clinic’s work in ONE magazine several years ago:
Established in 1982, Mother of Mercy Clinic offers a wide range of general heath care services to thousands of patients…regardless of creed or origin. The clinic, however, specializes in prenatal and postnatal care, giving priority to needy mothers and their infants.
As the clinic’s head doctor, Dr. Ghabeish has treated mothers and infants for years. “People like to come here because they know they will get quality service, that they will be treated in a clean environment run by good administrators,” said the 59-year-old doctor, a Palestinian refugee.
Though only 20 miles northeast of Amman — the increasingly cosmopolitan capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — Zerqa struggles with a multitude of problems: escalating crime rates, insufficient housing, inadequate infrastructure, pollution and poverty.
…“Zerqa’s Christians provide essential social services, such as education, health care, job training and social assistance,” added Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan and Iraq. “Christians may be a tiny minority, but their reach is significant.”
FADICA partnered with the Center for Social Innovation at Boston College to put together the report, which identified 64 “innovative and solutions-oriented Catholic ministries globally that are accompanying and aiding refugees and migrants.”
The report went on to describe the “social innovation” of this and other successful programs:
Through the Catholic Social Innovation initiative, FADICA has identified Catholic models, approaches and organizations that are responding to the global refugee crisis by putting their faith into action and harnessing innovation.
Catholic social innovation is not new; Catholic priests, brothers, sisters and lay people have been doing this work for centuries, but often under the radar. This study attempts to change that by spotlighting Catholic innovators and innovations. It also illustrates how Catholic social teaching (sometimes called ones of the church’s “best kept secrets”) informs and inspires innovation in Catholic ministries and organizations.
You can read more in the full report at FADICA’s website.
For more on the work of the Dominican Sisters in Jordan, read Finding Sanctuary in Jordan, Overwhelming Mercy and Mothering Mercy In ONE magazine.
We are grateful to FADICA for recognizing the vital and invaluable work of the Dominican Sisters — and we are grateful, especially, to our donors who have made this sort of work possible and successful.
Want to learn how to support these and other programs in Jordan? Visit this page.
8 May 2018
Tags: Refugees Jordan Sisters Dominican Sisters
The Rev. Alan Dietzenbach listens to Adib Kassas, acting imam at the mosque in Dubuque, Iowa, speak about Arabic calligraphy and the decoration around the arch. The artwork was a gift from Catholic parishes in Dubuque to the center as a sign of friendship. (photo: CNS/Dan Russo, The Witness)
Artist Donna Slade had never set foot in a mosque before beginning work on the intricate calligraphy in Arabic that now decorates the arch above the central point in the worship space at the Tri-State Islamic Center.
“I really enjoyed it,” Slade said of the experience. “It was great working with them.”
Slade, a member of Church of the Nativity in Dubuque, collaborated with Fayez Alasmary, a young member of the mosque, and Adib Kassas, a member of the mosque’s advisory board who serves as an imam. The trio perfected the curved lettering that expresses a verse from the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
The artwork was a gift from the Catholic parishes of Dubuque to the Islamic community. Muslims have been present in the city for years, with the first permanent worship space opening in December 2016.
“This is a gift from them expressing their welcome to us, and expressing that they are interested in building a relationship and cooperating together,” said Kassas, a physician who arrived in Dubuque from Syria about 13 years ago. “I really feel it’s a great gesture for them. Muslims have loved this gesture, accepted it and welcomed it.”
Aref Khatib, Islamic Center president, explained that the gift has a deep significance for both communities.
“It means to me bringing everyone together and realizing we should not be discriminating and we should not be judging one another. That’s God’s job, not our job,” Khatib told The Witness, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
“When you look at the universe, everything is different color and different shapes, just like human beings are and that’s the beauty of Allah’s creation. We should embrace the diversity,” he said.
The idea for the gift came from the Rev. Alan Dietzenbach, parochial vicar at St. Raphael Cathedral and St. Patrick Parish.
“I’ve always been inspired by my confirmation saint, St. Francis of Assisi, who during the height of the Crusades, crossed Christian and Muslim battle lines to meet the sultan and seek to be an instrument of peace and understanding in the midst of conflict,” Father Dietzenbach said. “When we look back at the history of Christianity and Islam, we tend to focus on the times of contention and overlook all the times when these two religions coexisted and faithful Christians and Muslims worked and peacefully lived side-by-side.”
The effort grew from the relationships built by John Eby, associate professor of history at Loras College and a member of the cathedral parish, through his work with the Children of Abraham. The organization encourages dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
“This is a great example of how to love your neighbor as yourself and to show hospitality and inclusion,” Eby said. “An important concept in Islam is ‘ihsan.’ It means to beautify your actions and beautify the world. Not only is this [art] beautifying this space, it’s literally taking this action of hospitality and making it the most beautiful expression of hospitality.”
The verse painted over the archway from the Quran translates in English to read, “Oh, people. We have created you from a male and a female and made you into branches of humanity and different gatherings into nations so that you may come to know each other. Behold the most honored among you in the eye of God is the most deeply conscious of him. Truly, God is all-knowing, all-aware.”
Kassas called the Catholic community’s gift “an example and an application of this verse.”
“What this passage talks about is that we all come from one origin,” he said. “People divide themselves into groups and isolate themselves from others, thinking that they are better than them, but the truth is, God said we have made you into that kind of division to get to know one another.”
Father Dietzenbach hopes the art will serve as a lasting symbol of cooperation between the two groups.
“I hope that this gift is a sign of solidarity and love and a reminder that religious freedom is a right we hold together as we strive to make our own community a place of peace, understanding, and kinship,” he said.
8 May 2018
Tags: Muslim United States Muslim Americans
Vladimir Putin is shown during a service at the Moscow Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Annunciation conducted by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia after being sworn in as President of Russia. (photo: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS/Getty Images)
Rebels leave last besieged enclave in Syria (BBC) Syrian rebels have begun withdrawing from the last big, besieged enclave that they held in the war-torn country. Hundreds of fighters have been boarding buses along with their families in a pocket of territory lying in central Syria, between Homs and Hama…
Putin receives Russian Orthodox blessing after inauguration (The Moscow Times) On 7 May 2018, Vladimir Putin was inaugurated for his fourth term as Russia’s president. Following the official state ceremony, Putin met with Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, at the Cathedral of the Annunciation for a prayer service and a blessing…
Hezbollah wins significant gains in Lebanon vote (Reuters) Hizbollah and its political allies made significant gains in Lebanon’s parliamentary election, official results showed, boosting an Iranian-backed movement fiercely opposed to Israel and underlining Teheran’s growing regional clout. The leader of Shi’ite Hezbollah, Mr. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, called the result a “a very big political, parliamentary and moral victory for the choice of resistance”…
Armenian protest leader wins prime minister vote (BBC) Opposition politician Nikol Pashinyan spearheaded weeks of protests in Armenia that brought an end to 10 years of rule by Serzh Sargsyan. Now he has persuaded a parliament dominated by Mr. Sargsyan’s own party to back him as prime minister, only a week after he lost an initial vote…
Children of conflict: growing up in Gaza (As Jazeera) Around the world, millions of children are the unheard voices of war. And the horrors they witness today will inform the adults they become tomorrow. Will they grow up to be the next leaders, teachers or freedom fighters?…
Charity to offer college education to Syrian refugees in Jordan (GulfNews.com) Syrian refugees living in Jordanian refugee camps will be offered university education and vocational training as part of a new programe that was launched in Abu Dhabi on Monday. The initiative is a joint partnership involving Swiss NGO UniRef, The Jordanian Red Crescent and Isra University in Jordan. The signing ceremony for the new project was attended by several dignitaries in the capital including the ambassadors of Jordan, Oman and Afghanistan…
Bogus story about Vatican deal confirms Saudis’ religious freedom headache (Crux) Anyone who’s covered the Vatican for a while knows that a good chunk of the job isn’t so much reporting the actual news, but debunking “fake news” that others have shot out into the ether. We got an example this week, with a bogus story that Saudi Arabia had entered into an agreement with the Vatican to support the construction of Christian churches in the country…
7 May 2018
Tags: Syria Lebanon Russia Arabian Peninsula
Young men crowd around to watch the monthly quiz in the yard at Shano Prison in Ethiopia. To learn how lay people are ministering to these young men, offering them guidance and direction, read ‘For I Was in Prison’ in the March 2018 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
7 May 2018
People sit beside their destroyed homes in Bharatpur, India, following a severe dust storm Thursday. The Catholic bishops of India have expressed solidarity with the victims of the storm. (photo: Vatican News/AFP)
India’s Catholic Church expresses solidarity with victims of dust storm (Vatican News) The Catholic Church of India has expressed its grief at the loss of life and and property, and injury caused by a particularly severe dust storm on Thursday in parts of the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. “The Catholic Church condoles the death of our brothers and sisters who were caught unaware as nature’s fury took hold of large parts of North India,” said press release on Saturday signed by Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, and The Rev. Paul Moonjely, the executive director of Caritas India, the social arm of the Catholic Church in India…
Hezbollah reportedly on track to extend political gains in Lebanon (CNBC) Lebanon’s first national election in nine years could result in a stronger Hezbollah, preliminary results show, following an election marred by low voter turnout amid frustration over the country’s endemic corruption problems. Shia group Hezbollah and its political allies were thought to be on course to win more than half of the seats in the Lebanese parliament, according to preliminary results cited by Beirut’s media on Monday...
‘U.S. Embassy’ road signs appear in Jerusalem (Al Jazeera) ‘U.S. Embassy’ road signs went up in Jerusalem on Monday ahead of next week’s opening of the mission in the city. The signs, in English, Hebrew and Arabic, were installed by workmen close to the south Jerusalem location of a U.S. consulate building that will be repurposed as the embassy when it is officially relocated from Tel Aviv on 14 May, Reuters news agency reported…
Libya says remains of beheaded Copts to be returned to Egypt soon (Egypt Today) Siddiq Assour, head of investigations at the Libyan Attorney General’s Office, said that he ordered that the remains of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS in Libya in 2015 to be transferred to Egypt…
Remembering the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, Africa’s unfinished conflict (BBC) Two decades have passed since two of Africa’s poorest countries began the continent’s deadliest border war. The conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia left tens of thousands dead or injured in the space of just two years. But despite a peace deal signed in December 2000, the two sides remain on a war footing — their massive armies still facing off…
Did Syria create the world’s first song? (BBC) In Syria, music runs deeper into the fabric of the place than anywhere else in the world. Long before the modern state was formed in 1946, Syria had developed rich musical traditions over thousands of years. The diverse religions, sects and ethnicities that inhabited and travelled across the country over the millennia — Muslims, Christians, Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians and Kurds, to name but a few — all contributed to this eclectic musical heritage…
4 May 2018
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Jerusalem Horn of Africa
Sister Femily of the Sisters of the Destitute in Marayoor, India, leads a self-help group for adults. Discover how she and other sisters are Breaking the Cycle of addiction and alcoholism in Kerala in the March 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)
4 May 2018
Tags: India Sisters
Posters of candidates for the upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections hang on the walls of buildings in the northern Lebanese city Tripoli's Bab al Tabbaneh Sunni neighborhood on 3 May. (photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)
Lebanese voters want change; few expect it (New York Times) Voters across Lebanon will vote in parliamentary elections on Sunday for the first time in nine years, and many of them are fed up. The country’s crises are many: a million Syrian refugees are straining public services; a shaky economy is increasingly teetering; garbage is piling up; fear is spreading of a new war between Hezbollah and Israel; and the political class has failed to find solutions…
UNICEF: Children bear the brunt as violence escalates in Gaza (U.N. News) Highlighting the devastating impact of the humanitarian crisis and increasing violence on Gaza’s children, the United Nations Children’s Fund has called on all parties with influence on the ground to prioritize their protection…
Gaza protests: Latest updates (Al Jazeera) Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip are protesting for the sixth Friday in a row as part of the Great March of Return movement. The rallies are part of a six-week protest that will culminate on 15 May to mark what Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” — a reference to Israel’s establishment in 1948 and when 750,000 Arabs were forcibly removed from Palestine. Since the protests began on March 30, at least 41 Palestinians in the coastal enclave have been killed by Israeli forces and more than 7,000 wounded…
In rural Jordan, pulling power from the wind to make change on the ground (Christian Science Monitor) In a troubled tribal town in Jordan, residents are turning to wind energy to lift the region up from underdevelopment, unemployment, and unrest, and as a model for green energy…
‘Anti-conversion law’ approved in the state of Uttarakhand (Fides) Uttarakhand, in northern India, has become the seventh state of the Indian Federation to have approved an “anti-conversion law,” a tool often used by Hindu extremists to accuse Christians of “forced or fraudulent conversion”…
Syria rebels hand over arms in new deal with government (Al Monitor) Syrian rebels on Friday were surrendering their heavy weapons for the second day after agreeing with the government a new deal to withdraw from central towns, a war monitor said…
Tags: Syria India Lebanon Gaza Strip/West Bank Jordan