Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hana at Carey

 The Lamb Catholic Worker
Fall 2014 Newsletter

"We Want Peace! We Want Peace!" 
             -An Iraqi-American Catholic woman at the Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation, Carey, Ohio August 14, the Vigil of Feast of the Assumption of Mary
                                                                   By Monica Siemer

Chaldean Masses (about 10 in one day) at Our Lady
of Consolation Shrine in Carey
Beautiful "halo" around Fr. John Stowe and my friend, Hana,
not seen through the lense, but appeared in the picture
     I had the priviledge of accompanying a dear Syrian Muslim friend, Hana, who has lived in the United States for 20 years (and was my former instructional assistant in my ESL classroom) to the Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio on the vigil of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 14.  This was a very special day, a day of the "Chaldean masses," about 10 masses in the upper and lower chapels, to celebrate this special Marian feast day vigil for the Iraqi and other middle-eastern Catholics that live in several states nearest to this most holy shrine to Mary.  They have a special love and affinity for our Lady and I am amazed at the outpouring of love that the Franciscans there extend to this most beloved community, especially in light of the heavy persecution going on in parts of Iraq right now. 
       I took my friend, Hana, because she is a walking miracle, attributed to the heavy-duty intercessory prayers of Mary, or "Mariam" to the Muslim world, Jesus' mother, Dorothy Day, and Peter Maurin. She was told two years ago, August of 2012, by Mt. Carmel doctors (a Catholic hospital) that she could have no more chemo and radiation and to make her [final] arrangements.  Previously, at about 35,  she had had breast cancer, surgery, radiation, and chemo, and went to Haj at Mecca (because her case was so serious).  Approximately 1 and a half to two years passed where she felt she had been healed. 
      In late 2012 though, it had come back with a vengeance, to her brain (paralyzing half of her face so that she could not consciously shut her left eye nor smile with the left side of her face), her bones, her liver and her thyroid glands.  This was very late stages cancer, and once it gains in the soft tissue of critical areas, it grows quickly.  At this time I asked her to ask Mariam, or Mother Mary, for help to bring it before God (our Catechism teaches that it is the same God as Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc.  Also, "Allah" is simply the word for "God"), and to ask for Dorothy Day's prayers as well, to help attain her canonization.  I asked her to go to Carey then, but she had switched doctors to Ohio State University cancer hospitals and was given new chemo (even though they said the same thing). 
Coworkers from Cranbrook Elemen at chemo with Hana
Dec. 2012,  Face half paralyzed, I am at right
      Finally, by December of 2012 when Hana  could not go to Carey after repeated attempts, I went in proxy for her and Fr. John Stowe prayed over my body in place of hers for her healing, and involved the other Franciscans in praying heavily for her, asking Mary and Dorothy Day's intercessory prayers.  They have a lot of time to pray (seven times a day!).  I also obtained the amazing holy water from Carey too.  She used it every day, and in five months, she was still alive, her liver cancer had shrunk in half, and her face was no longer paralyzed.  She could shut both eyes at will and with effort, smile, although the paralysis had caused some permanent damage so it was with difficulty.
      Satan had continued to bite at her heals, as he has all along (to mine as well), and a spinal tumor grew and paralyzed her whole leg in June of 2013.   She and I had lulled a little in daily pleading her case to Mary and Dorothy, and she had run out of holy water and did not tell me.  I raced to get more holy water (this time from Christ the King), and we asked Peter Maurin's intercessory prayers as well.  Msgr. Mottet, overseeing this community, has always prayed that Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, co-founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, would be canonized together.  Dorothy always said that Peter founded the Catholic Worker, not her, and that it was his vision, his ideas, his everything.  He only lived to see it take off for 15 years while she did for almost 50 (and as a prolific writer).  People attribute the Catholic Worker solely to her, but both need to be honored for their holiness.
       The doctors have been saying for that past year or so that my friend still has the cancer but that she is a "Mystery," a "Mystery..."  Why will this woman not die, really!  I said, "You are another "M" word; you are a MIRACLE!"  
       The beauty in all of this is that while she is a practicing Muslim, Our Lady, "Mariam," has looked down upon her with great love just as she is, as she does to all in the world.  All can come to this most amazing vessel of love and motherliness.  In fact, Fr. Emmanuel Bertrand, a Dominican missionary to Pakistan (for over 40 years) in community with the Dominicans at St. Patrick and St. Thomas Aquinas in Zanesville has visited nearly all the mosques in Pakistan and said that 100% of them have a statue to "Mariam," or Jesus' mother.  They honor and revere her sometimes more than Catholics do!  It is also moving that Mary chose to visit, or God chose to send her, to a city named after a very holy Muslim woman, one of Mohommed's daughters, Fatima.  Interestingly, Mother Mary was once quoted at Medjugorie as stating: "The holiest woman in this city is a Muslim.  She gets down on her knees every day in humility, ...." Finally, it is exquisite that Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, genuine peacemakers who TRULY believe in the sacredness of ALL human life and lives are to be possibly canonized in part by a miracle of a practicing Muslim woman.  It is beautiful, then that my friend wants to tell people about "this place."
       The first thing greeting my friend as we approached the actual basilica was the most, most beloved Fr. John Stowe who has prayed for her ceaselessly.  
      While she did not want to go into the upper church during a mass, she wanted to go into the basement to see evidence of the many, many miracles that have happened through Mary's intercession.  When I was a child, the large basement was overflowing with these, but they  have limited them to a few cases.

          Outside, she witnessed gentle, holy older Franciscans, mostly with grey beards, hearing confessions and giving council to people in numerous stations around the lawn.  She rested on the bench outside, having undergone hours of chemo that morning, to the powerful and booming voices through the windows, of the Chaldean Catholics inside singing praises.  She witnessed another religion not her own, that also ministered and guided people.  
           We had been approached at one point, in the midst of the Arabic being spoken all around her from approx. 20 van lines of out-of-state middle-eastern Catholics, by an Arabic-speaking woman.  She stated emphatically and almost woefully, "We want peace!  We want peace!" It was probably the fervent prayer inside as well. I am thinking this may be because the U.S. is sending more troops into Iraq and planning to bomb certain places.  She seemed desperate to say not to have that war mentality again that desecrated their home country once.
          Her desperation reminded me of a conversation my father, Tom Siemer, had with Archbishop Oscar Romero less than a year before he was assassinated. We were at a synod of all of the cardinals and bishops of the world in Mexico City, I believe it was in 1979 when I was 16 yrs old (and I was there but standing away from him). We were appealing to Pope John Paul II for Catholics to be told to have no part in weapons of mass destruction (manufacturing, handling, potential use, etc).  Archbishop Romero thought my father was from the press (with his "Press" badge) and begged and begged him to go back and tell the president (Carter at the time, who gave $5 million per year in "military aid") to stop funding the government with military money, which was being used against the people. 
       He explained that the money went into armaments and training of the soldiers in the military and in the juntas of the oligarchy who were terrorizing the campesinos, killing and mutilating many of them. 
        My father called over both Roy Larson, of the Chicago Sun and Ken Briggs of the New York Times to talk with him.  Ken told my father later that Romero would not live long by talking like that, and my father replied, "They would never kill an archbishop!"  Our government not only did not listen, but when President Ronald Reagan became president, shortly after, he quintupled the funding, giving a huge green light to those committing atrocities.  Archbishop Oscar Romero was martyred within a year. The U.N. reports that over 75,000 people, many poor women and children, were killed over the course of the next decade or so in El Salvador.   
In front of the Synod, Mexico City, 1979, with a group of protesting mothers of the "Disappeared" in El Salvador.  I am at the right and my mother, Dorothy Siemer, at the far right in red pants.

Salvadorean mothers of the "disappeared," those whose tortured bodies were never found.  I am on far right, with literature for the Pope, cardinals, bishops, and press against weapons of mass destruction
Mothers of the "disappeared" (sons, husbands, brothers, etc) desperate for help from the Church.

My father, Tom Siemer, and I in Mexico City, 1979
         A few years later I worked at the Center for Peace Studies at Georgetown University with Fr. Richard McSorley, S.J.  At that time another Georgetown professor, Dr. Jean Kirkepatrick, who was a campaign advisor to President Reagan then cabinet member, blamed the murders (Dec. 2, 1980) of the three religious sisters and an American lay worker on themselves for even being there with the poor: Jean Donovan, Sr. Maura Clarke, Sr. Ita Ford, and Sr. Dorothy Kazel.  Kirkpatrick believed that, according to Noam Chomsky, "traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies," and so her views were put into practice "most clearly in Central America, by supporting the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, and the military juntas in Guatemala and El Salvador, all of which perpetrated massive human rights violations while countering a perceived communist threat." (Chomsky, Turning the Tide, 1985).  She was not too thrilled when the United Nations Security Council came down on the United States and she talked of withdrawing much of the monetary support to the U.N., as well as for the United States to withdraw completely. This would have been quite a role model of genuine virtue, Christian values, and peace to the world.
       I witnessed firsthand large graphic close-up pictures being sent to the Center for Peace Studies at Georgetown University (that I helped Fr. Richard McSorley, S.J. run in the 80's) from El Salvador.  Neutral brave witnesses and groups were trying hard to document the atrocities and sent these pictures to several places as documentation, including to ours.  Prior to the Reagan Administration, the bodies of the dead at the hands of the military and juntas had one form of killing done to them (besides the women always having been raped).  As Fr. McSorley always said, "When you choose the lesser of two evils, you soon forget you chose evil in the first place."  There is always a third choice.
       When Ronald Reagan became president, and particularly after the stepped-up "anti-communist counterinsurgency training," or terrorist/guerilla warfare training ("terrorist" in the true sense of the word) at Ft. Benning of "Latin American personnel" from El Salvador at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now called Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), things drastically changed.  To describe,  murdered victims appeared with three or four forms of torture performed, acid in the eyes being one of the favorites.  This spilled over to Honduras and Nicaragua as well, sadly. 

        Many Americans turned a blind eye to all of this because of the fear whipped up by those who would even sell their soul to the devil against the "Communist scare."  The same whipping up of hate and suspicion, and angst has been set in our country against African Americans after the Civil War, Irish Catholics in the early 1800's, and now, against Muslims both living in our country and beyond. 
       Most of the refugees at our Catholic Worker in D.C. witnessed much of this firsthand, and yes, it was the country's military doing much of it. Huge Carlos witnessed a savage group murder from a corn field, and when he tried to run, they caught a visual of him and hunted him down.  He and his wife Maria (pregnant) got their six other children to another part of the country and ran to the U.S. where they were the first Salvadoreans to be granted political asylum.  Their baby Leonardo was baptized with my first son, Shamus, at our Catholic Worker, St. Francis Catholic Worker, in Washington, D.C. (now the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker), in a Catholic worker soup pot.  It had been the former mother house of the Trinitarian order, and they had a fully functioning chapel in the basement.
     Very sadly in parts of Iraq right now Christians being severely persecuted.  They are "marked" on their doors or gates as Christian and are given time to convert to Islam or be forced to leave, or even killed.  More than 500 have been killed so far. Many must take only what they can carry or what they are wearing.  The following is a recent prayer written by Lous Rafael Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, and read last Sunday across the United States according to directions from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops :
"Lord, the plight of our country is deep
and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening.
Spare our lives and grant us patience and courage 
to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.
Peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will
enable us to live with each other ... with 
dignity and joy.  
Glory be to you forever."
     At the Lamb Catholic Worker, our prayers are for the Christians and for the Muslims of Iraq, both at great danger right now, for the love and peace of God to reign in their hearts as brothers and sisters of one God.  We pray for the persecutors, for their salvation and for an open heart to respect and love those of another religion who nevertheless are as made in God's image and likeness as they are. May all of us intervene in our prayers and in moral responses, pleasing to the Lord.  May we, as Pope Francis has preached so passionately about, not be a part of two great evils in the world today:  "the culture of indifference and the culture of distraction."  May we set aside our computers and cell phones for much more time spent in prayer and meditation.  They say, "Satan doesn't make you bad, he makes you busy." 
      I pray that we not ignore the pleas for peace of this desperate Iraqi-American Catholic woman, who could possibly have Christian relatives still there, yet who knows the sick and hideous bloodiness of bombings and war.  She is more worried about the U.S. response than even the persecution by extremists in a remote pocket of Iraq. I pray that we listen to this pleading, holy woman at Carey.  Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us and for Iraqi people of all kinds!  Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, please pray for them!   
My Father, Tom Siemer, and Dom Helder Camara, 1978
  • Our greatest need is prayer and thankfulness for the more than 22,000 views on this site from over 80 countries.  Interestingly, the highest numbers are coming from the Ukraine right now.  God be with them all.  Please read our article about becoming a "sick and suffering co-Catholic Worker."  We need that level of prayer and sacrifice to get this off of the ground, like Blessed Mother Teresa whose ministry could not start without those valiant ones who offered up their physical, psychological or emotional suffering for her and her ministry.  Please consider this! :)  We will in turn pray for you as well.
  • We need workers in the field, those who feel they are at a point in their lives to make a life change completely, to throw off their old life and live as the early Church in "profound poverty, profound joy," and solely being instruments of God's love and peace to the world.  Eventually we will have community members of varying degrees of commitment, but for now, we need full-time ones
  • We also need funds to buy the properties in order to help us get started.  This is a huge task.  Any way that you could help us would be greatly appreciated, even simply praying and spreading the word!  We have a fully approved 501c3 nonprofit number if you feel you need this.  Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin encouraged all giving though to be a full sacrifice with no strings attached for the giver.  It is still a sacrifice though, even if part can lower ones taxes a little.  
     One last note is that we have a potential "relic" given to us by Dorothy Day's grandaughter, Martha Hennessy.  It is a part of a blue blanket she had crocheted for a grandson.  Martha placed it inside a seashell, which is touching because Dorothy so loved and meditated while on the beach.  Dorothy and Peter, please continue to pray for us. 

   One final note is that Bishop Richard Pate of Des Moines, Iowa and a contingent of 11 other bishops are going to the Holy Lands to pray and be a presence for peace in the Middle East.  This is soon to be announced nationally.  Pray for them!  Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for peace, for these most dear peacemakers, and for all peoples of Iraq.