Tag Archives: Annunciation

hoping Francis will help

28 Apr

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Last Wednesday, April 24, the people of Beit Jala (Bethlehem) – and the few people in the rest of the world who are paying attention – heard the decision of an Israeli Appeal’s Committee that “the Wall” can be built right through another section of Palestinian land: their Cremisan Valley.

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Today, April 28, is Palm Sunday in Beit Jala. They begin Holy Week, and will celebrate Easter with the Orthodox Christians on May 5. 

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This coming week Pope Francis will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was invited by the Holy Father for a visit to the Vatican, among the first of the world leaders who will meet with the new Pope.

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This all comes together in these photos, taken today in Beit Jala. The people of Annunciation Catholic parish gathered today, on Palm Sunday, outside their church after Sunday Mass to sign letters to Pope Francis, pleading with him to keep Cremisan high on his agenda when he meets with the Israeli president.

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You might find this April 24 article  in the Washington Post, “Palestinian Christians hope new pope will help in battle against Israel’s barrier route,” helpful for understanding the present state of the situation.

How can this be?

8 Apr

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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.

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8:30 am Milford – and – 3:30 pm Beit Jala

8 Feb

Mass has been celebrated in Cremisan valley every Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in a prayer-protest of a proposed new section of what is called a separation wall by the Palestinians and a security fence by the Israelis. Whether it is for separation or security, it is definitely a wall, and not a fence, in this section of the structure that divides Beit Jala and Jerusalem.

Earlier in January Father Ibrahim Shomali, the pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Beit Jala, celebrated the Mass in the cold and snow, after an unusual snowfall a couple days before.fr_ibraheem 2

We see on the altar a blue-green pottery chalice. Father Shomali has used this chalice for the weekly Mass ever since June.

We brought it from Cincinnati as a gift to him and the parish. So, after we used it when we celebrated Mass in that olive grove in Cremisan valley on the edge of the town of Beit Jala in the Bethlehem-area, we left it behind, so that they might remember us in prayer as we remember them in prayer. ibrahin snow bend over 7

Today – Friday, February 8 – will be the last day that Father Shomali will celebrate Mass in that olive grove before the final decision of the Israeli government.  A final decision of the Israeli Court will be handed down on February 12. Will Israel take control of the Cremisan valley? Or will the Cremisan valley remain in the hands of the Palestinians?

PRAY. At 8:30 a.m.(Milford time) pray in solidarity with Father Ibrahim and the people of Beit Jala as they celebrate Mass at 3:30 p.m. (Beit Jala time).

ACT. As urged by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, sign the petition that will be taken to Israeli authorities in protest of the proposed building of this section of the wall.

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.”

“We are not killing, fighting, just praying”

27 Feb

One day I will celebrate Mass on a Friday afternoon in an olive grove in Beit Jala with Father Ibrahim Shomali in prayerful protest of the land confiscation and the building of the separation wall at the Cremisan monastery, ensha’allah (God willing). 

Father Shomali is the parish priest of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation, in which I have celebrated Mass on several occasions. I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Latin Patriarchate seminary, which is connected to the parish church in Beit Jala, and at which I have been honored to speak to the new seminarians under the care of Father Faysal Hijazeen shortly after their arrival for the new school year. I have visited the children and teachers at the Latin Patriarchate School on numerous occasions, and in 2008 I was humbled and delighted with an invitation to address the high school graduates and their families at the graduation ceremony on the outdoor plaza overlooking Bethlehem. I have walked from the Beit Jala parish to the Cremisan monastery to buy wine to bring home with me. I know Beit Jala. I know the people of Beit Jala and I know Father Ibrahim, and am blessed to be able to call them my friends.

They need my prayers – and yours! They deserve my attention – and yours! 

At the Friday afternoon Mass they are not killing, fighting – just praying.

at station #5 and #12

23 Jan

In honor of our partnership with the Holy Land, our St. Andrew Welcome Connection – the committee of parishioners who welcome new parishioners – gives to every new member an olive wood rosary. In our partnership and in our prayer we hope to help the Christians in the Holy Land, so that they will know that they do not carry their cross all by themselves.

This message is with the rosary:

This rosary was made by the Rosary Makers of St. Andrew Parish using olivewood beads from the Holy Land.  The beads were shaped by Palestinian hands in and around Bethlehem.  The knots tied in the cord were made by the hands of a member of St. Andrew who lives in or around Milford.  This rosary is a symbol of the partnership between the Christians of St. Andrew Parish in Milford and the Christians of Annunciation Parish in Beit Jala, Palestine.

We hope that every time you use this rosary, you say a prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters in Beit Jala.

“We notice around your church the Stations of the Cross…You are at station number 12 – you are being crucified with Christ.  We are at station number 5 – we can be Simon of Cyrene for you to help you carry your cross” (from a homily given by Father Rob Waller at Annunciation Church, Beit Jala, Palestine, July 18, 2005).

Women of Nazareth, Women of Hope: Basma, Hala and Mary

9 Dec

On yesterday’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception we heard Luke’s proclamation: “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth …”

Hearing Gabriel’s greeting to Mary of Nazareth, I cannot help but send a greeting to two other women of Nazareth: Basma and Hala. These two extraordinary Christian women are counsellors in Catholic schools in Nazareth. Hala and Basma visited Cincinnati with other teachers from Latin Patriarchate schools from the West Bank and from Jordan, as part of a project called HOPE: Holy Land Outreach to Palestinian Educators. They are pictured below receiving gifts at the Farewell Dinner, in a photo taken by Mark Bowen.

Mary of Nazareth, responding to God’s desire and invitation to enter our world as one like us, brought Hope into the world, translate, brought Jesus, who is our hope, our only hope, into the world.

Basma and Hala, women of Nazareth, responding to God’s desire and invitation to bring reconciliation and justice into our world, bring hope to their students and build opportunities and dignity into their lives.

Beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, in their beloved hometown of Nazareth, Basma and Hala visit often the grotto of the Annunciation, the very place of the conversation between God’s angel and God’s mother.In this place, as Mary did, so Hala and Basma respond with, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Greetings, Basma and Hala. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. May the angel never depart from you.