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John Feister begins his tour of the Middle East in Amman Jordan, visiting with Christian refugees from Iraq.

Special Features
Day 1: Amman, Jordan
After traveling for a day and a half, we got off of a bus the Amman West hotel, in Amman Jordan, at 4 a.m. and were told to be ready to roll by 10. It’s going to be that kind of trip! We went from 10 a.m. today until about 9:30.

If there were a theme for today it would be Iraq. Thousands of Christians escaping the violence of Iraq have landed next door in Jordan. Many of those who had to flee—5,000 by a count we learned today—are Christians, whether Orthodox or Catholic, who have no place now in a society that struggles between Sunni and Shia Muslims. They have fled persecution. Today we heard firsthand accounts.

Dawood Salim Matte and his family, refugees from Iraq, wait in Amman for the chance to move to North America. They've been here for a year, cared for by the Franciscan sisters. (photo by John Feister)
We visited the Franciscan Sisters of Mary convent here in Amman to learn of their presence among the refugees. Actually there was a group of refugee families who had come to the convent to meet us and tell their stories directly. There I met some amazing families who are stuck in Jordan, waiting to see what might happen next. They all seem to want to get to the U.S. or Canada, where some family members are already (though some seek Europe). Nothing is simple, though. Visas are required. They suffer the plight of refugees everywhere: No one really wants them, unless they can prove their case of need beyond a doubt. I interviewed and photographed some families, and recorded by Flip-video some of the conversations. We’ll try to get some of that online to share with you—kind of a sneak preview to what I’ll be writing for St. Anthony Messenger.

After an incredible Jordanian lunch, we piled in our tour bus and headed across town to meet with Father Raymond Massouli, a Chaldean Catholic pastor who started a parish to serve the Iraqi refugees back in 2003. Our group of journalists sat and talked in-depth in his tiny office, then we met more families. Some of the stories were horrifying—the woman whose family was in a terrorist explosion is one I won’t forget. They hope to all move to Detroit—if they can get their visas. They’ve been waiting a year already.

Back at the hotel, now in the early evening, we had a dinner with two bishops, one a Latin-rite (Roman) Catholic, the other a Melkite Catholic. They answered many questions informally over a dinner with our journalist group. One, Bishop Selim, told us about the forthcoming papal synod on the Middle East. It’s not about Christian-Jewish, or Christian-Muslim relations. “Rather,” he said, “it’s about how to build one heart and one mind among Christians.” 



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Angela Merici: Angela has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. 
<p>As a young woman she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order), and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like St. Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among poorer children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s charming manner and good looks complemented her natural qualities of leadership. Others joined her in giving regular instruction to the little girls of their neighborhood. </p><p>She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals. </p><p>She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost. </p><p>At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.</p> American Catholic Blog I hear far more people discuss the presence of evil in their lives than they do the supreme power of grace. God is bigger than evil!


 
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