Over 250 friends and benefactors of the Holy Land Franciscans and the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C., came together at the Monastery on Saturday, November 9, for the annual Mass and Gala. Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, presided at the Mass in the Monastery church, and shared his reflections on the friars’ mission during the evening program. Father Custos set his remarks in the context of the 800th anniversary celebration of the encounter between St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil.
Once again, Father Custos presented the Grato Animo Medal, an honor given by the Custody to those who have demonstrated a commitment to bettering the lives of Christians and all peoples of the Holy Land in support of the mission of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
Appropriate for this anniversary year, the Grato Animo Award honored the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, through its ambassador to the United States, for the efforts of the His Majesty King Abdullah II and the people of Jordan, in promoting peaceful coexistence among people and inter-religious dialogue. The Kingdom has long welcomed the Franciscans and recognized our work on behalf of its people. Many friars have been privileged to minister in Jordan or guide pilgrim groups there, enjoying the friendship and hospitality of its people, its natural wonders and historic sites so important to the story of believers of several faiths.
Accepting the award was Ambassador Dina Kawar, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States of America. She has served in that post since June 2016. Previously she was the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations (August 2014 to June 2016). During that time, she became the first Arab woman to ever preside over the United Nations Security Council, during Jordan’s non-permanent membership of the Council.
In her remarks, Ambassador Kawar commended the work of the Custody at Terra Santa School, Amman, and at the Shrine of Moses on Mount Nebo—emphasizing the archaeological work there of Father Michael Piccirillo of the Custody. She also noted that His Majesty, King Abdullah, received the Lamp of Peace Award in March of this year at the Basilica of St. Francis, in Assisi, Italy. On that occasion, the King referred to how St. Francis, “…is known throughout the world for his compassion toward every person and all living things. Such love is an important guide for us today.”
The guests at the dinner viewed a video which depicted the story of the encounter of St. Francis and the sultan and highlighted the Franciscans’ work in Jordan.
Rev. Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, rector of St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington, D.C., and a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, gave the invocation for the dinner.
The guests enjoyed music offered at both the Mass and the dinner by mezzo-soprano Jessica Renfro, who has performed with Maggio Musicale di Firenze, Opera Tampa, Opera Delaware, Dicapo Opera, St. Petersburg Opera, and others. She was accompanied by pianist Lynda Saponara.
Also making the journey from Jerusalem was Father Ramzi Sidawi, economo of the Custody. The guests were welcomed at the Mass by Franciscan Father Larry Dunham, Guardian and Commissary of the Washington Monastery.