A few years ago, parishioner, Nancy Hemminger approached me asking if I would help in some capacity on the HOPE Project (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education). For those who know Nancy, it is difficult at best to turn her down! She mentioned co-hosting a Farwell Dinner for the teachers and administrators coming from the Holy Land. I agreed! HOPE was an extension of the twinning between the Annunciation Church in Beit Jala, Palestine and St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Milford, both of whom celebrated their 150th anniversary the same year. I told her I would be happy to assist in any way possible. I did not know at the time, but this is like an open door for Nancy to run through and ask you for more. Soon, I found myself hosting a professor from The American University in Madaba, Jordan who was coming with the teachers. It seems that Dr. Hanan Madanat had recently lost her mother, as had I and Nancy felt we could console each other.
As the day approached, I was getting more and more anxious. Even though Hanan and I had communicated by email a few times, I was nervous about how this week would go. When I met Hanan at the airport, it was late at night, she looked very tired from the long flight and as we rode home, she informed me she didn’t care for dogs. I had two! I knew then this would be a very long week. But, God surprises me unceasingly and this visit was no exception. The next day, Hanan asked if she could walk the dogs, as well as take pictures with them to send home to her family. She knew her family would be amazed!
Each night, when she returned from her meetings with the Archdiocese teachers and administrators, we would prepare meals, pray, walk the dogs, talk, and laugh into the early morning. We had so much in common, I was phenomenal. We were both single, both teachers, she had recently finished her doctoral degree and I was just beginning classes at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Lay Pastoral Ministry. As a matter of fact, Hanan went with me to my very first class at St. Mary’s Seminary. Imagine sitting in an Old Testament class with a direct descendent of one of the twelve tribes of Israel seated next to you! What a great start!
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Jn. 13:35
Hanan and I have kept in touch over the years. I have visited The American University in Madaba and I still smile when I make my Arabic coffee in Hanan’s coffee pot that she left me when she went home. I thank God for this beautiful gift of friendship He presented me with and I will never say no to Nancy Hemminger if she asks for something. Just don’t let her know I said that!
Dear Lord, open our minds and hearts to new and different opportunities. Let us share ourselves with others so that we may learn more about you and your gift of love for us.
Cathy O’Toole has been a member of St. Andrew Parish for 22 years. She has been on 4 pilgrimages to the Holy Land which has given her several opportunities to visit with Hanan in Amman, Jordan. God blesses us with friends across the globe, if we are open to that call.
Dr. Hanan Madanat and Cathy O’Toole at the Athenaeum of Ohio.