Tag Archives: Beit Jala

“starring” the prayers of others

24 Jul

Before we left on pilgrimage we gathered prayer petitions from parishioners, families, students, friends, co-workers and classmates. Yes, I said “classmates.” One of our pilgrims is a student in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program of our Archdiocese. From her classmates she collected a huge stack of prayers, many of which were written in Vietnamese.

Mary Jo, a teacher at our SASEAS School, and her daughter Bridget, just weeks away from her wedding, cut and pasted all the prayers on heavy paper and created a real work of art.

All the prayers were folded into a book that was easy to pack and carry.

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The book opened up into a star shape that could rest right on the corner of the altar whenever we prayed.

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Cathy, the lay ministry student, kept the prayers with her at all times. Here she touches the prayers to the rock of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, joining the cries of many to the cry of Jesus to his Father.

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The prayers rested during Mass on the altar over the stone of the holy (and empty) tomb of Jesus.

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The prayers were with us as we celebrated Mass with the local Christians in the olive grove of the Cremisan Valley near Beit Jala (Bethlehem).

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On the Sea of Galilee we celebrated Mass at an outdoor altar on the edge of the water near the home of Peter and Andrew in Capernaeum. We opened up the prayers to God there as well.

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And the prayers were with us for the last time at Mass on the Mount of Beatitudes.

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We left all the prayers that we brought with the Sisters who live in the convent on the Mount of Beatitudes. Cathy and I were just starting to explain to one of the Sisters what we wanted to do, when she scooped them out of Cathy’s hands, “Tell the people that the Sisters will continue to pray for their intentions.” Sister knew what we wanted – and what our parishioners, families, students, friends, co-workers and classmates wanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

celebrating Jesus in green, red and white

23 Jul

One of the good things about “having a priest” on a pilgrimage is that you get to celebrate Mass every day. One of the good things about “being a priest” on pilgrimage is that I get to celebrate Mass every day, each time at a site that was significant in the life of Jesus or is significant to the local Catholics today, and thus are significant to us.

The color was green when I concelebrated with Father Ibrahim, the parish priest of Beit Jala (Bethlehem) and Father Faysal, the General Director of the Latin Patriarchate Schools of Palestine and Israel.

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At Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee we celebrated in red, in honor of the Apostles Peter and Andrew.

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In the olive grove of the Cremisan Valley, Father Ibrahim and I wore white vestments.

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In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, if we had been on Mount Calvary, I would have worn red. But since we had Mass at the Holy Tomb, the color was Easter white.

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At the Milk Grotto shrine in Bethlehem the color was, well, you can see for yourself.

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my three teachers

21 Jul

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Abby, Christy and Sharon, you honored me by accompanying me to Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Having known you as teachers in our parish school, it delighted me for these fourteen days to travel, eat and pray with you in the Holy Land. It was like I was taking you home to meet my people, especially in my beloved Beit Jala, and to see the land in which I grew up, in Christ, that is. I wanted you to have an experience as life-giving as I have had. I wanted you to come to love the land and love the people as I much as I do. I knew that each of you would meet a partner teacher and be her house guest for two nights. I was confident that you would be in loving hands in her home and in her care. But a tiny part of my soul was a bit nervous about how things would be for you. I knew you had seen a photo of your partner-teachers, and had corresponded by email with them. But the father-worrier in me wanted to know for sure that you would feel comfortable, loved and safe.

0 Three teachers DSC_0648Myrna, Niveen and Sally, however much I would thank you would not be enough. As the teachers from St. Andrew came off the bus in your church yard, you embraced Abby, Christy and Sharon, as if they were your long-lost sisters who had finally come back home. After just a few moments, you whisked the teachers away. They were in your arms, in your hands, in your cars – and they were gone. Then I left for two days, wondering how things were going, and hoping that each of you would bond with the teacher that you took home and to school with you. When I returned to pick up Abby, Christy and Sharon to move on to Jerusalem. I got my answer. The smiles on the faces of all six of you were proof and evidence of the friendship and solidarity that was built up in less than 48 hours.

Myrna, Niveen and Sally, I cannot ever thank you enough for what you have given to Abby, Christy and Sharon. They are better teachers, better women and better Christians because of you! You are also “my three teachers” now, too. I owe a debt to you that I cannot repay. But God can repay you. I will remind God often of my debt to you, and will ask God to pay you back for what you have given to the teachers from my school – and to me. May God continue to bless you, your families, your students and your homeland. Keep hope. Stay holy. Remain happy. Be brave.

 

okay, get together for a picture

16 Jul

On our HOPE (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education) pilgrimage, our photographer-pilgrim would call out a command, to which we would all dutifully respond, “Okay, get together for a group picture.” After a while it was shortened to, “Group picture!”

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on Mount Nebo at the Memorial to Moses

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in Beit Jala with partner-teachers and their parish priest

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in the Kidron Valley after praying the rosary

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meeting Bishop Shomali at the Latin Patriarchate

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at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after praying the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa

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at our final and farewell dinner in Jerusalem

 

inside homebound luggage (2/4)

25 Jun

The jar of apricot jam was the item in my luggage that would have caused the most alarm to airport security and would have been cause for a search. It was solid and cylindrical. A jar of apricot jam can do no harm, but something that shape can.

There was evidence of a search into my luggage, but the jam and the jar made it home with me, a little later than I arrived, due to a quick shift of flights but not as quick shift of luggage, but nonetheless safely.

The jam is from Beit Jala, an area in the West Bank of Palestine, known for its apricots. The jam was from a Palestinian friend and family, a people known for their hospitality and generosity. It is being treasured, one taste at a time, for it brings me back to my beloved Beit Jala and back into the hearts and homes of my friends. It all tastes so good!

Notice the seeds in the jam, not really the seeds but the kernels from within the seeds. The apricot seed has a soft and sweet kernel. When added to the jam, the kernels  give a bit of a crunch and a hint of almond nut flavor.

Homemade and handmade, the gift of friends – sweet!! 

apricot jam

 

no longer a reluctant pilgrim

4 Jun

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Until my somewhat reluctant pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1994, I had absolutely no interest or desire to go the Holy Land. Now I cannot seem to get enough. Tomorrow I begin my 15th pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the second time accompanying HOPE teacher-pilgrims.

Three teachers from my St. Andrew-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School are going on this pilgrimage, which totally delights me. To know that they are partnering with three teachers from my beloved Latin Patriarchate School Beit Jala gives me HOPE that our partnering with the Catholic parish and school in Beit Jala will continue, even when I retire from being the pastor of St. Andrew next year.

At 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, May 28, there was a school Mass for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders, the students that Mrs. Bohlen, Miss Petrozzi and Mrs. Taylor teach. At that Mass I  asked the students to send their teachers off with a blessing and a prayer, reminding them that their teachers are taking their prayer petitions with them to the Holy Land. That Mass was offered for the repose of the soul of Jabra Na’eem Sema’an, a twelfth grade student at the Beit Jala school. Jabra died just a few months before his graduation, after having made the best of his learning and his life, although he was afflicted with muscular-dystrophy since an early age, and spent his school days in a wheel chair. There will be an empty chair at his graduation. We live streamed the Mass, so that George Abu Dayyeh, his grandfather and also a teacher at the school, could hear one of our students try to pronounce Jabra’s name in the general intercessions.

One site I hope to visit is the archeological remains of the town of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, the birthplace of Mary “of Magdala,” that is, Mary Magdalene.

One hope I take is that I can feel myself being mothered by Isabelle, my earthly and deceased mother, and by Mary, the Blessed Mother.

I look forwarded to handing to Father Ibrahim Shomali, the pastor of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Beit Jala, the gift that my parishioners are giving to him for his school children. I look forward to celebrating Mass at the empty tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, encouraging my pilgrims to “name your dead – and – listen to hear your own name spoken by Jesus, as Mary of Magdala heard Jesus call her by name on the morning of his resurrection.” I look forward to leaving something behind in the tomb of Lazarus, as I imagine hearing the voice of Jesus calling me by name and calling me out of that thing that holds me back and has had me tied up as if in burial cloths, hoping that Jesus resuscitates me into a different way of living, in the same way that he resuscitated Lazarus.

Here at “With Open Doors” I will post photos and words, as I make pilgrimage with our teacher-pilgrims.

and the angels held their breath

25 Mar

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The Catholic parish in Beit Jala (Bethlehem) is the Church of the Annunciation. Today, March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, is the parish’s patronal feast day. Adding to the celebration is the fact that it is the birthday of their pastor, Father Ibrahim. A big day it was this year. The school children had a day off from classes. The teachers had a retreat day with Bishop Shomali. There was a special Mass. There was a parish dinner. And there was tembola – bingo! z 072a the Sanctuary

It is said that, when Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth and asked Mary if she were willing to be the virgin mother of God’s own Son, there was a moment of suspense between the question and the answer – and the angels in heaven held their breath!

At tembola (bingo) after dinner today in Beit Jala at the Church of the Annunciation another angel of God, Jouelle, held her breath. She was waiting for number “19” to be called. She would have had a “full house” (a cover all). But someone else called “khallas” (stop) before her last number was called.

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Jouelle, you did not win the prize at tembola. But I hope that seeing your picture on my blog helps you to feel better.

Now, get ready, Jouelle, to shout, because here comes …

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khallas!

12 Mar

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In Beit Jala (Bethlehem) March 12 is Old Age Day or the Feast of Old People.

There probably is a better translation of the actual name of the day, but that is how my Palestinian friend, Waseim, refers to the occasion in English. To be fair to him, I would not be capable of translating and speaking about “Seniors Appreciation Day” in Arabic.

At the Catholic parish there is a gathering for those we call the seniors. The parish priest mingles with the group. Of course, there is lunch. And the tembola cards come out. Tembola is a Palestinian version of bingo. When they “bingo,” they yell, “Khallas (Stop, Enough, End).”

Along with the Mass, there are others things that seem to be universal in our Catholic Church: our love of older people, older people’s enjoyment of being in each other’s company, their commitment to their parish, their affection for their parish priest – and tembola!

to Francis from Beit Jala

1 Feb

Shomali and Pope Francis

Pope Francis receives message from Beit Jala Christians

VATICAN – In an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Father Ibrahim Shomali, parish priest of Beit Jala, delivered a message from the people of the city to the Holy Father relating the current suffering of Christian families in the town of Beit Jala.

Fr. Shomali emphasized to the Holy Father the extent of the Israeli oppression regarding the people of Beit Jala, through its expropriation of private lands to open roads and build settlements, including the Wall of Separation, and, more recently, the seizure of lands belonging to the Convent of Cremisan.

Fr. Shomali’s message focused on the fact that the “Palestinian people” strongly adhere to its national homeland and its fight to stay on it. However, the conservation of lands requires concrete measures to thwart any takeover attempt, and to enable the Palestinian people to live with dignity in a free State.

It is worth recalling here that an Israeli Court in Tel Aviv last April adopted a decision reaffirming the course of the Separation Wall, around Cremisan, especially between the Convents of the Salesian Fathers and the Salesian Sisters, as well as the annexation of private properties belonging to 58 Palestinian families of Beit Jala to the settlement of Gilo, south of Jerusalem.

The Heads of the Catholics Churches in the Holy Land, at the time, called for the realignment of the course of the Wall, in accordance with internaitonal law, pointing out to the Israeli decision-makers that the seizure of lands in no way serves the cause of peace, nor  does it  bolster the position of the moderates who, in this objective, opt for non-violence.

2013 Christmas Message from Father Rob Waller

27 Dec

At all six Masses on Christmas at St. Andrew we presented to each person a booklet with all the prayers and music for the celebration. The first thing people saw was a welcome message and an explanantion of the preace dove.

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(click on image of program to see it enlarged)

By yourself or with family,

grateful or hurting, disappointed or satisfied,

successful or stressed, sick or healed, elated or deflated,

feeling the loss of health, home, loved one and employment,

or with everyone and in good relationship

with everyone whom you love and who loves you,

we come to Mass on this holy day

and approach the altar

with grateful and humble hearts.

 

Jesus is on the altar at every Mass

as truly as he was in the manger on the first Christmas.

As he was in the wood of feeding trough

and on the wood of the cross,

he is truly present on our altar-table

for our nourishment and our salvation.

 

At every Mass

we are in Bethlehem on Christmas,

at Calvary on Good Friday

and at the empty tomb in Jerusalem on Easter morning.

 

May you experience always

the spirit of Christmas which is peace,

the joy of Christmas which is hope,

and the heart of Christmas which is love.

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A “peace dove” with lighted candle will remain on the ledge at the tabernacle in our church throughout the Christmas season. Our friends in our partner parish and school in the Beit Jala area of Bethlehem will light a candle for us on Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They will remember us in Bethlehem, as we will remember them here. The Christians who live in Bethlehem still do not enjoy the peace the angels sang about on the first Christmas. As we sing the opening words of the Gloria – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will” – we will pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem, throughout the Holy Land and all throughout the Middle East.

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