*This article was originally published on CNEWA on November 22, 2016.
Readers of CNEWA’s materials — magazine, blog, social media and appeals for help — are aware that this special agency of the Holy See depends on its partnerships with men and women in all walks of life to carry on its mission of service to the Eastern churches. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.
Without these relationships, Catholic Near East Welfare Association would be merely an idea, not even a vision.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is one of those partners, a companion committed to the mission of CNEWA who in a very real way works “to connect you to your brothers and sisters in need.”
Born, reared and educated in Rochester, New York, Father Tom entered the Congregation of St. Basil and was ordained to the priesthood in Rochester in 1986. It was during his years of advanced studies at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem that Father Tom became well acquainted with the work of CNEWA and the staff of our Jerusalem office, then led by Brother Donald Mansir, F.S.C., and (then) Father Denis J. Madden. These were hopeful and exciting years in Jerusalem, with peaceful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians making headway — invigorating CNEWA’s outreach to the poorest of the poor through the local churches — and dialogue among the Holy City’s church leaders, coordinated by CNEWA, that would eventually lead to the restoration of the great dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In a very real way, Father Tom began connecting the people served through CNEWA with hosts of concerned men and women after he founded in 2003 Salt+Light Television, Canada’s first national Catholic television network. A fruit of World Youth Day and the visit of St. John Paul II to Canada in 2002 (which Father Tom directed at the request of the Canadian Catholic bishops), Salt+Light has become a major resource for Catholics not just in Canada, but throughout the English- and French-speaking world.
Millions of homes have learned about the miracles of Bethlehem University, the hopes of Pope Benedict XVI’s special assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, the challenges of the churches in the lands made holy by the blood of martyrs, and the crises in Ukraine and the role of the churches there in healing a people scourged by war.
In televised features and interviews with CNEWA president Msgr. John Kozar and staff members, such as Canada’s national director Carl Hétu, Father Tom has explored what makes CNEWA tick, revealing CNEWA’s love for the poor and passion for the truth.
In these times of fear, trouble and uncertainty, Father Tom has been a clear voice of reason, serving the Holy See as a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, media attaché for synods and papal transitions and as an English-language assistant for the Holy See’s press office. An engaging man with a lively wit and a clear understanding of the church’s role in engaging and transforming rather than condemning society, Father Tom is, nevertheless, critical of those instruments used to divide the people of God. The Internet, for example, “can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space,” he said upon accepting the St. Francis de Sales Award given by the Diocese of Brooklyn earlier this year, describing it as “an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties.”
“The church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who — even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation — often find themselves afraid and wounded by life,” he added.
“The light of Christ reflected in the church must not become the privilege of only a few elect who float enclosed within a safe harbor or ghetto network of communications for the elite, the clean, the perfect and the saved.”
CNEWA is grateful to Father Tom for his heroic work to help us reflect “the light of Christ” — and spread that light around the world, especially among those most in need.