Archive | October, 2011

You Raise My Head

4 Oct

On this date eight years ago I first met Issa, Tamer, Tamara, Ranim and Mary in the schoolyard in Beit Jala. I had gone to the Bethlehem-area school to meet their families to give them my assurance that we would take care of their children. I thanked the five sets of parents for trusting me with their 8th graders, the youngest of them just 12 years old.

The Palestinian Christian children left their homes in the West Bank, came to Milford, stayed for just six weeks, and changed my life forever. They are all now back home, in their fourth year of college. I am as proud as any grandparent could ever be.

Happy anniversary, kids. I wish that I could say it to you in Arabic, but this is the best that I can do …. You raise my head!

Halo Around the Moon

4 Oct

photo credit: Mark Bowen/HOPE

During the preparation of the gifts at Sunday Mass at St. Andrew, our music director, Dovile, came down from the choir loft to take Hala by the hand. Like sisters, they walked, hand in hand, to the piano upstairs. Hala, a school counselor in Nazareth, sat down and played a calming and peaceful melody, as her Jordanian and Palestinian colleagues in the front pews of our church sang a song in Arabic. They told us it translates into something like, “God, come to us. Make your home in us, in our hearts. Stay with us.”

Hala’s name means, “halo around the moon.” Because of her visit with us and the melody she played in our church and the song she left in our heart, the moon itself will now be more lovely in Milford.

Suheil Carries His Cross

3 Oct

photo credit: Mark Bowen/HOPE

Suheil was standing out. In the East believers stand at some times during the Mass when we in the West normally kneel. At the Mass at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity he was standing up and standing out.

Notice what is above him. It is the second of the Stations of the Cross: Jesus carries his cross.

Living in the small town of Zababdeh in the West Bank, Suheil, his family and his students carry the cross in a way that those of us who live in Milford find difficult to imagine. “These people carry the cross,” is often the response of those who meet and speak with the Christians who live their faith in the Holy Land.

Suheil and his people are at Station II. We can only hope to lift them up, as they meet us at Station V. Like Jesus, they carry the cross. Like Simon of Cyrene, at least with our affection and attention, we can help them.

Ut Cognoscant Te

2 Oct

photo credit: Mark Bowen/HOPE

It was part of the prayer of Jesus: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).

The teachers and administrators from Jordan (Yousef, Suha and Suhail) presented to Nancy Hemminger a banner bearing the motto of the Latin Patriarchate Schools: “Ut Cognoscant Te.”

“That They Might Know You” is the mission and goal of all who teach and pass on the faith. It is the mission and goal of every Christian household. It is the goal and mission of every Catholic school and every Catholic parish throughout the Holy Land and, yes, in Milford, too: that all will know the only true God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

“That they might know you” is why Yousef, Suha and Suhail teach their students.

“Faithful” and “Handsome”

1 Oct

photo credit: Mark Bowen/HOPE

Iman teaches Arabic to her second and third graders. Waseim is the technology teacher for the school. They are from the Latin Patriarchate School in Beit Jala, in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank. They are Palestinians. They are Christians. They are Catholic: Iman is Greek Melkite Catholic; Waseim is Roman Catholic.

Tomorrow Iman and Waseim will come to St. Andrew, with the other nine teachers from the Holy Land, to the 11:00 a.m. Sunday Mass, and will give a presentation after Mass during a luncheon in their honor. On Wednesday, they will come to our St. Andrew-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School to meet all of our students and teachers, and to take some steps toward creating a partnership between our two schools, joining the little town of Bethlehem with the little town of Milford.

We already have a history with the Catholic School in Beit Jala. In 2003 Issa, Mary, Ranim, Tamer and Tamara came as 8th graders from that school to spend six weeks studying in our school and living with our parish families.

Iman told me that her name means “faith,” as in “faithful to God.” I could see her name in her. But then, with an impish grin, Waseim said that his name means “handsome.” We laughed together as I said that, in his case, something obviously gets lost in translation.

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