Cardinal Dolan and I began the first of our three-day visit to Amman, Jordan, by focusing on health care. He, as President of CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association), and I, as a member of the Board, joined the director, Msgr. John Kozar, for on-sight visits to the many projects that help the poor, the sick and the needy in Jordan. CNEWA work stretches from the Middle East as far north as Armenia and east into India. Supported by the generosity of Catholic Americans and Canadians, these projects are extraordinarily impressive.
Monday morning we set off for Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa. Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena from Iraq are serving refugees from Palestine and Iraq and now, recently, from Syria. To a great extent it is clinic for mothers and children. Pre- and post-natal care is a large part of its work. The sisters, the doctors, four men and one woman offer such loving and competent care. Mothers sit quietly with their children. Elderly are helped by the sisters and others who volunteer. Much is done by very few and everyone who comes is cared for.
Most of the patients are Muslim. However I entered a room where an elderly man was on a respirator and near death. He and his wife are Christians. When the wife, praying there for her husband, saw my cross she kissed it. I took it off my cross and she touched it to her head and then proceeded to touch the cross to her husband’s head and arms and mouth, praying as she did so. It was a very humbling moment for me to be able for a few minutes to serve this woman and her husband who spoke only Arabic which I do not speak. Yet it was The Lord who brought us three together and with deep emotion I left her and him to The Lord.
The Italian Hospital was founded in Amman in 1925 by the Comboni Sisters. It is one of the largest general hospitals in Amman now run through the auspices of CNEWA and the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. The Dominican Sisters of the Presentation are the heart and the spirit of the place. Very competent doctors and nurses have given their lives to service of the poor. CNEWA subsidizes a day clinic for the poorest of the poor, again so many of them refugees.
In addition there are thousands who come from all over the country to receive free care and the best of care thanks to this extraordinary institution. Our little group celebrated Mass with the sisters and the parish priest and then had a meal prepared by a lady from Sardegna who had come to work there in 1955. She told me she has forgotten most of her Italian but not her skills as a cook.
We ended the day with a visit to the offices of the CNEWA which is called there the Pontifical Commission for Palestine. A small but dedicated staff run a library which is really a cultural center where all ages come not just to read but to converse and share ideas. Three members of the Lay Institute, the Theresians, are the heart of that program. They come from other countries but have spent their lives reaching out to residents of Amman, sponsoring interreligious dialogue, providing catechesis for young people and being a center for Muslim-Christian dialogue in the local neighborhoods. There too Msgr. Kozar (Msgr. John Kozar, CNEWA president) has a small staff headed by a Jordanian Christian who has served there for more than 22 years. A day of discovery and a day of inspiration brings me back now to the small hotel where we are staying. It is time for me to pray with great thanksgiving for the witness of these wonderful persons who love the Lord and His Church and make the Church such a beautiful instrument of God’s love and care for all, especially the poor and the sick.
Photos courtesy John Kozar/CNEWA.