Henry Cappello travels to places most people will only see on the news. From the shambles of an earthquake-shattered Haiti to a tsunami-battered Indonesia and the devastation inflicted by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Cappello has seen human suffering up close.
Parish: Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Apostolates: Caritas in Veritate International, Youth Arise, Knights of Malta, Oikos marriage ministry.
What he loves about his Catholic faith: Our faith is very much based on the encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. It’s a faith that is so rich and is also witnessed by so many martyrs. Our faith gives us not only the theology, but also the experience of God…the real presence of Jesus. It offers to us an array of saints as models so that we can fashion our life on their principles.
What keeps him going when he’s feeling discouraged: It wouldn’t be possible to do this work unless I went to Mass every day. For me going to church every day is not a luxury. It’s my absolute need. And many times when I travel and I see disasters I say, “God, this is beyond what we can do. Lord, help us.” It’s an absolute necessity to have the Eucharist every day and adoration every day.
He’s taken that suffering to heart, but more importantly, he brings the heart of Jesus Christ to the thousands of lives touched by Caritas in Veritate International, the organization he founded.
Cappello, who is also Arizona’s Consul for Malta, launched CiVI, a federation of Catholic organizations from 25 countries, to bring humanitarian assistance and the Gospel message to the poor in 35 developing nations.
Meeting the dire physical and material needs of the impoverished is a key way to share the love of God with others, Cappello said, but the work shouldn’t end there.
The corporal works of mercy must “ultimately lead to the greatest love which is giving the person the truth that Jesus is the way to the Father and the Savior. This is the mission of the Church — the Church exists to evangelize,” Cappello said.
Without this emphasis on the Gospel message, the Church would simply be a Non-Governmental Organization, one of the myriad NGOs that provide material assistance around the world.
“You can provide a job and home, but unless you minister to that person’s heart and spirit, he remains wounded,” Cappello said. “If we ignore that, we build on the wounded. If you multiply this by numbers, you build a nation of wounded people. Only God can bring this healing that can meet the inner needs of this person.”
In one trip to Haiti, Cappello remembered meeting Naomi, a 13-year-old girl who lost her entire family and all her friends in the 2010 earthquake that in 40 seconds killed more than 250,000 people. CiVI helped Naomi with food, water and shelter, but provided something else too: hope.
“We prayed with her,” Cappello said. “Five years later, she looks back and sees the loss but she is not crushed by it.” Naomi, he said, now knows that Jesus is her Consoler and Savior.
Nothing else could begin to address her wounded heart. No money, no words — the loss is so deep,” Cappello said.
CiVI’s mission, he said, is not merely to connect a person in need with the local church — it’s about helping someone to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Many Catholics, he emphasized, know who Jesus is, but they’ve never actually met Him.
“There is a huge difference between knowing about a person and knowing the person,” Cappello said. “We cannot introduce Jesus to others unless we know Him personally.”
Youth and young adult volunteers for CiVI go through a formation process and their work flows from a life of deep prayer, as does Cappello’s.
“Our objective is to build faith-based Catholic communities,” Cappello said. In Haiti that includes building Caritas in Veritate Village and an institute for economic development.
Interested in a mission with CiVI?