This week my friend, and friend of HOPE (Holy Land Outreach for Peace Education), is with me (and us) in Milford.
In the days ahead there will be photos of his visit. As he stirs upstairs in my rectory, after his first ever sleep in America, a very long sleep indeed, I post a few photos from when we met.
Back in June 2012 then-deacon Sleman (Solomon) helped our group of teachers and pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati celebrate Mass in the olive grove of Cremisan valley on the edge of Beit Jala. That is when we first met him.
You see in the photo above that I am using a ceramic chalice. This chalice was signed on the bottom by all the teachers and pilgrims who attended that Mass.
That same evening I presented that chalice to Deacon Sleman.
To this day that chalice is used every Friday afternoon, when the parish priests of Beit Jala celebrate Mass at that place in the Cremisan valley.
In June 2013 I went to the Holy Land, this time by myself with no pilgrims or teachers in my care, thanks be to God. The purpose of this trip was to attend the ordination of Sleman in his home parish of Fuheis, Jordan. During the ordination ceremony, after the bishop, in his case the patriarch, lays hands on the deacon being ordained a priest, all the priests who are present process to the man and lay hands on him as well.
A little later in the ceremony all the priests return to the newly ordained priest to offer him a sign of Christ’s peace. As I watched the Latin patriarchate priests approach him, I saw that they were kissing his newly ordained hands. I found it to be a lovely custom, and did the same after I said, “Peace, Abouna (Father)”
After the ceremony the newly ordained does not walk to the dinner-reception. He is carried, as seen in this video. Notice the fire works going off.
The next day he returned to his home parish, in which he was ordained the day before, to preside at his First Mass of Thanksgiving. What a surprise for me to see him riding into the courtyard of the parish grounds on a white horse! He told me just yesterday that it was a surprise for him, too, and that he had never been a horse before that ride.
This is probably my favorite photo of the day of his first Mass.
Welcome to Milford, Abouna Sleman (Father Solomon).