CHICAGO — Abin Kuriakose was heading towards Mount St. Thomas in the southern Indian state of Kerala when he spotted a sign inconspicuously positioned near a small desk that piqued his curiosity.
To find out more, he did what all curious millennials do: he Googled it.
“And that’s how I found out about CNEWA and the amazing work that’s being done,” Kuriakose, 31, said, referring to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, “and how much of that work, from my perspective view, supports the best that is happening in the Syro-Malabar Church in India, our religious congregations, our missionary work and our social services.
Mount St. Thomas is the site of curial services of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church worldwide. Kuriakose, a Syro-Malabar Catholic from Chicago, then in his twenties, was in Kerala for a family occasion.
Kuriakose immediately began following the work of the papal agency, signing up for its newsletters and quarterly magazine, ONE. Upon returning to Chicago, he also wondered what more he could do to promote peer support for the flourishing of Eastern Catholic churches.
“We now have this growing and rising generation of young Eastern Catholic professionals who grew up in their churches, who care deeply about their churches and want to use their skills to better support their churches,” he said.
With the lull created by the COVID-19 lockdowns, Kuriakose decided the time was right to present what he’s been thinking about for almost five years.
In August 2020, he contacted CNEWA through his website and presented the idea of an associated council of young Eastern North American Catholic professionals who would engage in the work of the papal agency in support of the churches. Eastern Catholics.
Kuriakose, currently Executive Vice President of World Business Chicago, the city’s economic development organization, met with CNEWA President Msgr. Peter Vaccari, and other top executives falling, and the wheels were set in motion.
Vaccari invited all Eastern Catholic bishops across the United States and Canada to appoint a young professional from their church to the council, and Kuriakose drafted the council’s bylaws. The Associate Board held its first meeting last December.
The council currently has seven members, ages 25 to 40, from across the United States and Canada, representing the Maronite, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and Ukrainian Catholic churches. Kuriakose said the goal is to have every Eastern Catholic eparchy in North America represented.
He sees the board’s role as raising awareness and funding CNEWA’s work for Eastern churches around the world.
The council would also facilitate collaborative partnership opportunities and form a community for young Eastern Catholic professionals in the United States who could “learn more about each other’s churches, but also support each other,” he said. declared.
“What is at the heart of this platform is what I would call ‘pan-Eastern Catholic collaboration,'” he said.
“It is important that people know about us, that we are a powerful presence within the Catholic Church – and ‘we’ are the Eastern Catholic Churches,” said Mariya Kokor, development director of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago.
“The other important reason is networking. It’s important, especially here in the United States, for us to get to know each other, to understand each other and to share our experience,” she continued. “It always helps. You get ideas from other churches, how they do things, and you try to make things better in your own church.
“The third, and perhaps the most important, is to continue to do the mission of the Catholic Church,” she said.
Sandy Risha is a mechanical engineer and parishioner at St. George Maronite Catholic Church in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
She decided to accept the invitation of her bishop, Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn New York, to join the board of trustees when she realized how “the mission of CNEWA is essential for the community of the Middle East, which is important for me since my Maronite roots come from this region.
“I appreciate that at the heart of CNEWA’s mission is their rootedness in the Catholic faith,” she said. “Their work is a great way to show Christians and non-Christians alike that we are doing great things in the world by helping those in need.”
“CNEWA is…physically out there with ‘boots on the ground,’ helping out, showing the world that we love our neighbors,” she said.
Risha and Kuriakose agreed that CNEWA is not very well known in their religious communities, especially among their peer group.
Chris Kennedy, development officer for CNEWA, accompanied the young professionals in the formation of the associate board of directors. He applauded the establishment of the council as an important grassroots initiative.
“They are young leaders in their Eastern Christian communities and they know how to be heard by Eastern Catholics, especially young Eastern Catholics in their own local parishes,” Kennedy said.
“They are genuinely interested in the mission and health of Eastern churches at home and abroad,” he added.
“I think most people would be very impressed and inspired by the work CNEWA has been doing for decades,” Kuriakose said.
“The reason CNEWA stories are so important,” Kuriakose said, “is that sometimes in different communities in the East, we are concerned about our own internal politics. Many people forget that the real face of the church is tied to stories of service and that they are beautiful.