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Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria

The U.S. Catholic Church will focus attention on the plight of persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria with a day of prayer Nov. 26 and a weeklong observance to raise awareness and educate people about their situation.
 
The effort is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need.
 
A Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians Nov. 26 initiates "Solidarity in Suffering," a Week of Awareness and Education that runs through Dec. 3.
 
The prayer day falls on the feast of Christ the King, which "is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and Christians around the world who are being persecuted in unheard of numbers," said a USCCB announcement.
 
"To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president. "Rather by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all."
 
He made the comments in his presidential address Nov. 13 during the bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore. He asked the U.S. church to "come together in a special way for a day of prayer for persecuted Christians to express our solidarity with those who are suffering."
 
The special awareness week "is an opportunity to inform people about the dire situation facing Christians in places like Iraq and Syria where our faith has been present since the time of the Apostles, but could soon disappear," said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. "It is a time to pray, and to offer help and crucial hope to those who have lost everything but their faith for their faith."
 
To help educate Catholics and others about the persecution of Christians, the Knights have organized several events during the week, including a roundtable discussion and talks in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
 
The Knights also are sponsoring an evening memorial Mass for victims of Islamic State genocide to be celebrated Nov. 28 by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington. The archbishop, who will be in the United States for the week, also will hold a morning news conference Nov. 28.
 
On Nov. 30 Archbishop Warda will speak at a conference at the United Nations on "Preserving Pluralism and Diversity in the Nineveh Region," sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Vatican's Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.
 
Since IS invaded Northern Iraq in 2014, the vast majority of Christians in that country have resided within the Archdiocese of Erbil, where Archbishop Warda has overseen a massive humanitarian operation to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and care for this displaced community and those of other faiths also in the church's care.
Since the defeat of IS in the Nineveh region of Iraq earlier this year, Archbishop Warda has helped oversee the return of displaced people back to their recently liberated homes.
 
During the awareness week, Knights of Columbus councils throughout the country will work with their parishes to share information about persecuted Christians and the Knights' efforts on their behalf, including a $2 million initiative to rebuild Karamles, a predominately Christian town in Nineveh that was previously under the control of IS.
 
A section of the USCCB's website -- www.usccb.org/middle-east-Christians -- has a wide array of resources available to assist parishes, schools and campus ministries related to the Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians and Week of Awareness and Education.
 
Resources include homily notes, intercessions, education materials; background on Catholic Churches in the Middle East and on Christians of the Middle East; a video titled "Religious Freedom and Christians in the Middle East": and logos for the observance in English and Spanish.
 
For social media, the hashtag is #SolidarityInSuffering.
 
  • Published in World

Knights of Columbus from Norwich University find fraternity, opportunities for service

NORTHFIELD—Norwich University sophomore Brian Stringer is a busy young man: The cadet corporal is majoring in computer security and information assurance with a minor in criminal justice and serves as a college chaplains’ assistant. He’s also a bagpiper in the school’s pipe and drum band.
 
But he’s not too busy to be a Knight of Columbus.
 
He is the chancellor of the Msgr. Edward Sutfin Council #9146.
 
There are about 20 active Knights from the university with another 40 on the roster.
 
“We have unity in the corps” at the oldest private military college in the United States. “But we have brotherhood in the Knights,” Stringer said.
 
The Knights undertake a variety of projects including helping at parish dinners at St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield -- where they have their degree ceremonies -- and assisting other councils with fundraisers, parades and recruitment.
 
“We’re trying to increase Knights’ participation in civic engagement projects,” said Grand Knight Alexander Derosa, a junior from Revere, Mass., majoring in business management.
 
The council also shares funds from its treasury for the education of seminarians for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
Members of the student Knights of Columbus council pay $15 in dues their first year and $12 for subsequent years.
 
Michael Carrara, a senior construction management major from Ocean, N.J., is past grand Knight and past worthy chaplain of the council. His paternal great grandfather passed on to him his Knights of Columbus ceremonial sword, and that drew him to join the organization before coming to Norwich University, where he helped reinvigorate the council his freshman year.
 
Derosa decided during his freshman year that he wanted to “get deeper” into his Catholic faith, and when he heard of the Knights’ council decided to “jump right in.”
 
A former deputy grand Knight, he said the fraternal organization is a place he can share his faith. “When you experience something as deep as your faith with a group, you get something deeper out of it,” he said.
 
Carrara appreciates having a place to express his faith and be a spiritual leader: “To teach is to learn again,” he said.
 
He recalled one evening when about 15 cadets in uniform walked together to St. John’s for a degree ceremony; they prayed the rosary together then still had time for camaraderie before they got to the church.
 
Derosa hopes to get members to the highest Knights of Columbus degree possible before they graduate and then see them participate in other councils. Asked if they would continue to be Knights after college, the three men enthusiastically said they would. “Yes!” “Absolutely!” and “Yes ma’am!” they replied to the query.
 
Stringer, of Jackson, N.J., a former council recorder, plans to go into the Air Force Officer Training School. Carrera will be commissioned in December for the Army, and Derosa expects to be commissioned in the Army in 2018. They are all in The Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
 
They understand the seriousness of their commitment and have struggled with the idea of war. “Our goal is to protect,” said Derosa who is a confidential advocate for victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape and a volunteer at a soup kitchen in Barre. He is also in charge of supplies and logistics for the Norwich University Corps of Cadets.
 
Carrara is an emergency medical technician with the Northfield and Norwich University emergency medical services, participates in the Mountain and Cold Weather Company (military mountaineering) and is a resident advisor.
 
“An important part of being Catholic is not being an a la carte Catholic,” said Stringer, an altar server and lector at campus Masses who helps at St. John’s as needed. “Your life needs to reflect your faith.”
 
The Knights of Columbus, he said, “are a close-knit group of guys that wants to help each other and others.”
 
Father James C. Dodson, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield and St. Edward Church in Williamstown, said the Knights of Columbus from the university “have done and continue to do a lot of work in the parish and in the community at large,” and he encourages more Catholic young men to get involved with that “wonderful organization.”
 
  • Published in Diocesan
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