Tag Archives: Annunciation Church Beit Jala

it was a Saturday

4 Oct

On this day in 2003, October 4, I met Issa, Tamer, Tamara, Ranim and Mary at their Latin Patriarchate School in Beit Jala, West Bank, Palestine. It was a Saturday morning. It was a blessed event for me!Kids and Rob 1a

 

واحد, إثنان, ثلاثة , waaHid, ithnayn, talaata (left to right read)

24 Dec

Sitting in my den at 8:21 a.m. on what my mother called “Christmas Eve day,” my mind and my heart, my thoughts and my prayers wander to the Middle East, and more specifically to Palestine, and more specifically to Bethlehem, and more specifically to Beit Jala, adjacent to Bethlehem.

It is Beit Jala that warms my Christian heart and sustains, what others have called, my Palestinian soul. I have fallen hopelessly in love with Beit Jala with a love full of hope which longs for peace for my friends, no, my family, in Beit Jala.

On Facebook I found a post by my (our) friend Waseim. From Arabic his name translates as “Handsome,” which has given the two of us many smiles since I first teased him, “Something certainly gets lost in translation!” I asked him to post it on YouTube, so that I could copy it and embed it here. Within hours of his waking in Beit Jala on Christmas Eve, he honored me and my request, as he always does, and so it appears below.

The countdown is obvious to our ears, however different the sound of the numbers. The feel of Jingle Bells is the same, no matter the language. And we join in singing the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” like we (and they) will sing those words in our hometown churches, here in the little town of Milford and there in the little town of Bethlehem.

Fireworks, of different kinds, are a common occurrence in the area surrounding Beit Jala, some set off in celebration and some set off in conflict. On this occasion, however, as during the celebrations of weddings, graduations and baptisms, the fireworks are explosively joyous. At the end of the video the noise of the fireworks overtakes the singing of “Glory to God in the highest.” We all live in hope that one day soon the song of the angels will overcome all military firing, and Beit Jala and Palestine and all the region will live in peace with justice with all her neighbors who deserve and long for the same freedoms and rights.

May Beit Jala know the peace the angels sang about during that mid-night on which Christ was born.

Twice Waseim turned the camera toward his parish church, Annunciation Catholic Church in Beit Jala, where I first met “my five (grand) children” – Issa, Mary, Ranim, Tamara and Tamer – back in 2003, and where Waseim worships every Sunday with Father Faysal, the parish priest, with the families of Beit Jala, with Suhail, the principal, with the teachers and students of the Latin Patriarchate School, and with the seminarians of the attached Latin Patriarchate Seminary. To all of them my heart will turn, as I turn my prayers to God at Midnight Mass for them.

with a feeling of despair and urgency

30 Apr

Father Ibrahim Shomali, pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Beit Jala (Bethlehem) emailed to me this scanned copy of a two-page letter written to Pope Francis by the Mayor of Beit Jala.

“All the Christian community, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran, we cry to your Holiness with a feeling of despair and urgency in order to keep alive our hope that justice and peace is still possible.”

Beit Jala letter to Pope Francis 01

“Your holiness, we have been left alone facing Israeli aggressions against our defenseless people.”

“Your holiness, your election brought us hope that things would change. We are still hopeful.”

We are a community of faithful, the mother church that still refuses to die and keeps bringing a message of hope when there is no hope.”

Beit Jala letter Mayor of Beit Jala to Pope English 02

May this letter find its way to the eyes and the heart of our beloved Pope Francis.

Click on letter to enlarge and read.

How can this be?

8 Apr

Beit Jala jen holy land 964 (237)

Our sister parish of the Annunciation, located in Beit Jala (Bethlehem), West Bank, Palestine, celebrates her feast day today: the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Here in Milford at St. Andrew we will pray in our evening Mass that, through the intercession and care of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and woman of Palestine, God will make good on His every promise to His people in Beit Jala and full their every hope in Him.

On Easter Sunday morning one of our teenagers asked me, “Father, which is the more important day for Christians: Christmas or Easter?” How would you have answered her? She picked Christmas.

On this day, I ask myself, “Which is the more important feast: Christmas or the Annunciation?” I pick the Annunciation. Here is my reasoning. When did God become one of us and one with us? Not when He was born. When He was conceived! The English translation of the Nicene Creed used to be: he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. Now we say: he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. The word incarnate replaces born. To be born describes the moment of birth. To be incarnate describes the moment of conception. The Word became incarnate – became flesh – in Mary’s womb. All of us – you and I and Jesus – were born. But God took on human flesh; God became human; God was incarnate. And the “incarnation” took place at the moment of conception in the womb of Mary, at the moment when Mary accepted God’s will and desire to become human. On Christmas we celebrate His birth among us. On Annunciation we celebrate His incarnation.

For me, the Annunciation feels like Christmas. It takes me back to Beit jala, and seeing that painting over the altar in their Catholic parish church, dedicated to the Annunciation. It takes me back to meeting Deacon Sleiman (Solomon) Hassan in that very church. It will be his ordination to the priesthood in June that will take me back to my next visit to Beit Jala.

Beit Jala ohio_2012%20(30)

“expectant Father” Solomon

2 Apr

Deacon Suleiman ordination 07

Yes, that is genuine. He is that prayerful and sincere.

We met “Deacon” Sleiman Hassan when we came to Beit Jala to prepare to celebrate Mass in Cremisan Valley. He had packed up everything we needed for Mass, led us to the spot where he set everything up for us, explained the significance of praying in this spot where we were, assisted me at the altar for the entire Mass, packed everything up and took us back to the parish church. He won our hearts, our admiration and our affection. He is a good-looking fellow, a prayerful man, a worthy representative of our Catholic Church and an engaging spokesperson for Annunciation parish and the Palestinian people of Beit Jala.

On March 19, 2013, the feast of St. Joseph (and his birthday), he was ordained a deacon during a Mass at Annunciation Church in Beit Jala.

lying prostrate during the Litany of Saints

Deacon Suleiman ordination 01

laying on of hands by the bishop

Deacon Suleiman ordination 04

vested in the liturgical robes of the deacon

Deacon Suleiman ordination 08

under the eyes of an admiring little girl

Deacon Suleiman ordination 06

Deacon Sleiman (Solomon) will be ordained a priest on June 20, 2013 (my birthday) at his parish church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in his home village of Fuheis, Jordan.

And I will be there. I am flying to the Middle East to be among the priests who will lay hands on his head during the ordination ceremony. What a treat and an honor it will be for me!

You are most welcome

31 Dec

While on pilgrimage in the Holy Land in June 2012 with a group of teachers from various schools in our Archdiocese of Cincinnati we celebrated an outdoor Mass in Cremisan Valley in an olive grove. It was then that we met Deacon Sleiman (Solomon), a student at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary who is serving as deacon at Annunciation Church in Beit Jala.

In his car Deacon Solomon led our bus on its way through the village of Beit Jala, up over the hill and around the winding roads, to the Cremisan Valley. In the open trunk of his car, he brought along an altar table, and inside the car he had everything we needed for Mass. He was the perfect host and gentleman. He is, in the words of one of our pilgrim-teachers, a holy man – and he will be a good and holy priest.

As you see him and hear him in this YouTube video, enjoy his smile and his obvious love for the Church. We can assure  y0u that he means it when he says, “You are most welcome to be here with us in our Annunication Church in Beit Jala.”