By Ashourina Slewo
Inspired by their strength and efforts to give back and help the community, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce has chosen to recognize John and Ann Mansour as the Humanitarians of the Year at this year’s Chamber Awards Gala for their work within the community. The 16th Annual Chamber Awards Gala will be hosted at the Shenandoah Country Club on Friday, May 3.
“On behalf of my wife and I, it’s bittersweet to be receiving this honor. It’s been a long road and the real humanitarians here are my children,” said John Mansour. “They’re the ones that are driving all this, they’re the ones that have made the impact.”
Following the tragic loss of their children Alexander, 11, and Gabrielle, 6, in July of 2013, the Mansour family found great peace in their faith as several Chaldean seminarians from Sacred Heart Major Seminary offered their love, prayers and understanding. In addition, Father Andrew Seba was with the family from the onset. “We are grateful to our diocese, the wonderful priests, and to Bishop Francis for his support of my family and our mission,” said John Mansour.
“If you asked me who a seminarian was or what that meant in early 2013 before the accident, I wouldn’t know how to answer that question without going to the dictionary,” Mansour said. “When the accident occurred, we were in the hospital and a family member of ours connected us with one of the seminarians and that was at the time Fr. Patrick Setto.”
Then a seminarian, Fr. Patrick would join the Mansours at the hospital every day, offering to pray with them. Not long after accepting Fr. Patrick’s offer, other seminarians followed suit.
“All the seminarians were at our doorstep from the start and they’ve continued to be at our doorstep since,” said Mansour.
Grateful to be enveloped by this great love, the Mansour family wanted to give back to those that helped them. Consulting with their church, John and Ann were curious as to how the seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary were being financially supported.
“We were told that there was one offering a year and that’s kind of how they fundraise, among other community events,” explained Mansour.
From that point it became clear to the Mansours that the best way to give back would be through financial support for the seminarians. Stride for Seminarians was born.
“It was then that we thought it would be a great idea to put them on the map and create awareness about who they are, not just because of who they are or what their mission is, but for what they’ve done for my family and what they can do to serve others in the community,” said Mansour. “…there was a need to support these guys financially in their endeavor to become priests.”
Since its inception, Stride for Seminarians continues to see great success, furthering the Mansours’ mission to support the very seminarians that supported them. In addition to aiding the seminarians, John and Ann found they had a calling to help others as they grieved.
“Unfortunately, following our tragedy, there were many others that followed suit,” Mansour explained. “We had folks knocking on our door, asking us for support behind the scenes and I think it was soon realized that this was a calling we have to serve others in need like we are in need.”
As people came to them for support, John and Ann knew the only way to help anyone through the grieving process was to come together and lean on each other.
“Those that have been there, that have lost a loved one, there is a true connection,” Mansour said. “We felt in our heart that we had an obligation to be able to help these people in any way we can and just understand that first and foremost we must preserve our faith. We have to continue to believe and trust in God.”
With the help of Fr. Pierre Konja and the Chaldean Sisters, John and Ann were able to coordinate with the church to launch the Grieving with Faith and Hope support group. Initially, meetings were hosted at the Chaldean Sisters’ convent, but as more people came to the meetings, we felt the need to create more awareness and formally become part of ECRC. The support group has been in existence since April 2016.
“It has now moved to ECRC because over time, unfortunately, this group has continued to grow and we just want to ensure that we create the awareness through ECRC, a center we are blessed to have in our community and with the support of Patrice Abona and others at ECRC,” Mansour explained. “It’s an honor to be an addition of ECRC – this went into effect last year.”
These efforts to help others have proven to be beneficial to the Mansour family’s own healing as well, says Mansour. “Our group, filled with many incredible individuals, have gone promoted our support group and created awareness and united people through these efforts, but most importantly they have been one component of our healing at home. It’s helped us as much as it has helped our church and our community to not lose sight of God and to continue to strengthen our faith.”
While the Mansours are honored to be recognized by the Chamber, they feel the recognition goes beyond them. From their children to the community members that helped them heal and pursue Stride for Seminarians and the grieving ministry, the humanitarians are not just John and Ann.
“There are many other humanitarians behind the scenes that I believe also deserve the recognition; our seminarians, our diocese our incredible Stride committee members, and our entire community who supported my family and have continued to do so,” Mansour said. “We are grateful for the support. In my mind, everyone who has had a hand in all of this, is a humanitarian.”