They are dedicated to children in difficult situations, to the education of young adults and to the care of the elderly. The nuns, lay people and religious serve different realities in Bethlehem. Taking this as an opportunity to send his Christmas wishes, last January 5, the Custos of the Holy Land visited some of these communities. On an afternoon full of appointments, he visited ten different institutions, with Br. David Grenier, the Secretary of the Custody, including Br. Rami Asakrieh, the new pastor of St. Catherine’s, and the new vice-parish priest, Br. Emad Rofael. With all of the people he met, there was time for personal dialogue, in addition to learning about the news regarding the latest activities and exchanging greetings in an informal atmosphere, with sweets and liqueurs offered.
The Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from the Milk Grotto Shrine met the four friars first. This shrine is famous for being a place of miracles for those who are praying for children. In their home, where the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament pray and live, the Custos thanked them for the work that they do, and shared his Christmas wishes with them. Not far away from there, are the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who run the Boys’ Home. “These sisters do a great job,” said Br. Rami, during the visit. The next meeting was with the Dominican Sisters, who are responsible for a nursery with 40 children, who are from three months to three years of age. Two of the sisters present are of Iraqi origin and thus the situation in Iraq was the focus of the dialogue.
The large group of Scouts from Bethlehem was waiting for the Custos’ visit with anticipation. The Scout leaders greeted the Custos: “It is a pleasure to have you here. We are all new: there is a new Custos, a new pastor and there is also new leadership here with the Scouts.” Br. Francesco Patton, among other things, spoke about the role of the city, “Bethlehem continues to be the place that keeps this light, which is the living person of Jesus. Christians in Bethlehem have a mission that concerns the whole world, because it is important that from here Jesus’ light may reach the world.”
Later, at the Antonian Society, the Custos of the Holy Land met with the elderly of the senior citizens’ home and brought them chocolate as gifts. He then spoke with those who manage the center.
At the next meeting, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth, who work at the Caritas Baby Hospital, explained the type of work that they do with children.
The Custos, the Secretary, the pastor and associate pastor of Bethlehem then went to visit the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who serve children at the Aida refugee camp. Two of them, after moments of cheer, also wished to share their stories of hardship of when they were abducted by a terrorist group in Syria.
From war stories, the friars were then catapulted into the fervent sports and spiritual life of the youth of the Azione Cattolica group. There was talk about the importance of sports in training kids and families to be connected to the parish and to have a sense of belonging.
In the late afternoon, the friars also visited the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, who manage a school. Finally the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa welcomed the Custos. Br. Rami explained the situations that the sisters encounter on a daily basis: broken homes, often by infidelity or other problems, the suffering of children and of women who are forced into prostitution. But with the sisters’ example of poverty, they bear witness to the faith, which is stronger than any hardship.