Tag Archives: Gaza

they are just children

8 Aug

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There is a small Catholic community in Gaza. Holy Family Catholic Church has opened its buildings to Gazans seeking refuge and safety. In the church Mother Teresa’s sisters take care of 28 handicapped children and nine elderly women. There are 1,400 people being given shelter in the partially damaged school building. It is the only Catholic Church in Gaza. The priest refuses to leave his people and the people in his care.

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Resources are scarce. I am going to wire a personal donation to Archbishop Fouad Twal of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Archbishop knows Milford and St. Andrew. Back in 2006 he slept in my house and celebrated Mass for our school children, baptizing one of our newborns. I will send my money to him, telling him that I want it to be used for the children of Gaza, and for the school and the parish of Holy Family.

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If you want to add your donation to mine, send a check payable to “St. Andrew Catholic Church,” making a memo on the check and addressing the envelope to “Holy Family / Gaza.” Send your donation to St. Andrew Catholic Church, 552 Main Street, Milford, Ohio 45150. Get it to us by Monday, August 18. On Tuesday morning, August 19, I will wire my donation, along with yours, from the bank that holds the accounts of our parish to the bank in Jerusalem designated by Archbishop Twal. I will email the Archbishop to let him know that help is coming from the parishioners and friends St. Andrew parish.

To give assistance to the innocent and non-combatant people of Gaza can reduce desperation and is good for both Palestinians and Israelis. Please join me in giving some hope by offering some assistance.

See photos of damage done to the convent, the living quarters of the Sisters, in yesterday’s post, “recently renovated.”

recently “renovated”

7 Aug

This is the chapel where the Sisters used to live at Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza, prior to the warring between Israel and Hamas. The chapel had been recently renovated.Holy Family chapel 01

Here’s the chapel after it was “renovated” during the shelling of Gaza. Notice that the tabernacle was “moved” from its place. 

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The typical room of one of the sisters looked, prior to the warring, like you would expect a sister’s room to look: simple, neat and clean, desk cleared, bed made, statues.Holy Family sisters room 01

Thankfully the sisters had left before the room was shelled. 

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The priest who heads the Chancery, the official administrative office of the Archbishop Twal of the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem, sent these photos to me to me by email today. I had asked for a couple photos to help me ask my parishioners for money to send to Jerusalem to help the people of Gaza. Father George was kind and quick with his response.

Here at our St. Andrew parish we will continue to pray until peace prevails. May the temporary mutual ceasefire lead to lasting safety and justice, followed by peace for all. May the cautious calm now lead eventually to a final peace – for Israelis and Palestinians, for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

even though we are safe, we are affected

31 Jul

Our first question, of course, was, “Are you safe?”

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The HOPE (Holy Land Outreach for Peace Education) teachers from Cincinnati were skyping with their partner teachers in Palestine. Having stayed in their homes, having eaten at their tables, having learned the names of their children and their spouses, and having, here is the key, having looked into their eyes and seen in them Christian sisters and brothers, our Cincinnati teachers wanted to know, first above all, that their friends and colleagues were safe.

Much of the first half of the 90 minutes was about our questions about the war and the situation in Gaza: the news as we hear it, what is going on and why it is going on, what we might do to be of help to them.

The answer that came to our safety question was, “Even though we are safe, we are affected.”

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Teachers in Catholic schools 6,000 miles away from each other talked about what teachers (and parents) talk about:

“Did you start the children’s choir yet?” Response: “Yes, they will be singing for the opening Mass of the school year? We will skype the Mass, so that you can hear them.”

“Is your baby sleeping at night?” Response: “Yes, he is sleeping better, but his mother is not!”

“Here are some books we found about Palestinian life as a child [holding them up close to the camera]. Maybe we could read the same books together.” Response: “We know those books. We know that author. Yes, they are good.”

“What is the best way for my students to communicate with your students?” Response: “Skype. It is better for our students to speak with your students. They really want to make their English speaking skills better. They are very good at reading and writing English. But if they could talk to your students, that is much better for our students.” Teachers on both sides of the online face time agreed that the 7-hour time difference would be, “No problem!”

At the end of the session, we sang an “alle, alle, alle, lu-i-a” together. I offered a cyber-blessing over our friends in Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, asking God to bless their students and their country, to which we all answered, Ameen,” making the sign of the cross at the same time “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We shouted final greetings of, “We will do this again,” and “We will see each other again,” to which, with smiles, we volleyed back and forth, “Ensha’allah (God willing).”

And the camera was turned off.

this war is absurd

30 Jul

So, how can they leave? And where can they go?

Father Jorge said, “This war is absurd.”

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Read the article on Catholic News Service: “Text said to evacuate, but Gaza Catholic parish priest had nowhere to go.”

 

not “all pray and no play”

29 Jul

In the dark and sickening days of the Gaza-Israel war (Hamas-Israeli conflict), it is good for me to remember being in the Holy Land with pilgrim-teachers, and laughing, eating, drinking, smoking and dancing with our friends.

In Madaba, Jordan, our friends (and their family and their friends) took us out drinking and dancing one Saturday night. They wanted to feed us with an evening feast of salads and meats and vegetables and on and on and on, but we had eaten dinner just an hour before they came to the hotel and dragged us off to the third floor restaurant overlooking the roundabout at the town’s center.

Singing and clapping and dancing, Americans and Jordanians, all believing Christians, under a spinning ball reflecting colored light onto the floor and our clothes and our faces! A local priest and a college professor each took the microphone away from the keyboard player that they had hired for our evening’s entertainment, so that they could sing some of their favorite Arabic dance tunes.

At the tables new wine bottles kept appearing as others kept disappearing. Nuts and humus were abundant, and, of course, there was the required hookah (water pipe) with its gentle, flavored (and legal!) tobacco.

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And to Taybeh a few of us went to visit the brewery owned by our Palestinian Christian friends. For the sake of perspective, the village of Taybeh is but a few miles from the Qalandia Israeli military checkpoint where the most extensive and violent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth  have taken place in the West Bank. Members of the family that own and operate the brewery welcomed us, spread out appetizers and offered us a taste of as many of their beers as we liked, while walking us on tour and explaining the challenges of running a business in the West Bank that requires a regular supply of water. 0 Taybeh beer 04

I left the brewery with two cases of beer, twelve bottles each of their four most popular beers: dark, amber, golden and their yet-to-go-public “white” beer.

It lightens my heart to remember that our pilgrimage was not all pray, but included some play.

our holy fifty-nine minutes

27 Jul

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A holy hour is by tradition an hour of prayer, often in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament placed in the monstrance on the altar.

This evening at St. Andrew there was a holy hour for peace in the Middle East. After the time of prayer, spoken and sung and silent, one attendee teasingly informed the deacon that the prayer was one minute short of the promised hour, so that technically, it was not a holy “hour.”  

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We sang the chaplet of divine mercy, repeating over and over in a haunting and massaging melody,

“Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”

“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

“Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

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Then we prayed a “litany of presence.”

Make your presence known, Lord,

to the people of Gaza

to the people of Israel

to the people of the West Bank

to the people of Jordan

make your presence known, Lord,

to President Rivlin of Israel

to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel

to President Abbas of Palestine

make your presence known, Lord,

to the people of Syria

to the people of Iraq

to the destructive forces in Syria and Iraq

make your presence known, Lord,

to Pope Francis

to Archbishop Fouad Twal of the Holy Land

to Bishop William Shomali of the Holy Land

to Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of Iraq

to Father Jorge Hernandez of Gaza

make your presence known, Lord,

to the children in the Middle East who live in fear

to the children who are orphaned

to the children who are wounded

to the children living in refugee camps

make your presence known, Lord,

to all those who are wounded and have died in the conflicts

to all those who mourn for them

to the living and the dead lost in the rubble

make your presence known, Lord,

to the Salesian Sisters and Monks of the Cremisan

to the Salesian school children

to the decision makers of the Cremisan land

make your presence known, Lord,

to those who pray for peace in the Middle East

 make your presence known, Lord.

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After the prayer a bow appeared in the sky, reminding us of God’s promise to Noah after the flood of destruction never to allow the earth to be destroyed again. God placed a bow in the sky to remind himself. This bow tonight, ever so faint,  helped us to remember, too.

“literally deteriorating”

26 Jul

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Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem speaks about the Catholic church in Gaza:

“The Christian community in Gaza is less than 1,500. Among them, 200 are Catholics. The others are mainly Orthodox and some Anglicans. We run three Catholic schools and one Anglican hospital. The Christian presence in Gaza is stronger than its percentage.

For the moment, we don’t have special news about the destruction and losses incurred by the Christian community, although we are in contact on a daily basis with its courageous parish priest, Fr. Jorge Hernandez. We know from him that the faithful did not come to Mass last Sunday. They were afraid to come. Many people are deprived of basic needs such as sleeping at night because of what they hear.

Our Catholic school in Gaza, which is part of the parish compound, welcomed many homeless, who escaped the shelling of their quarter in Al Shujaieh and Al Zaitouneh. They are around 600 people living and sleeping in the school without the necessary equipment. They need food and water.”

For the entire interview with Bishop Shomali, click on Situation in Gaza ‘literally deteriorating’ says Latin Rite Auxiliary Bishop

“open the school and let them in”

25 Jul

Holy Family School in Gaza, run by the Latin Catholic Church, now plays host to 800 refugees bedded down in classrooms and corridors.

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The man who guards the school called the priest and immediately he said, “Open the school and let them in.”

Gaza’s Christians are a tiny and diminishing community of about 2,000 in a total population of 1.8 million. Today, there are only two active churches in Gaza and five Christian schools, although most of their pupils are Muslims. 0 Holy Family Gaza 02

Read the rest of the article: Gaza churches open doors to refugees from Israel offensive

hear our cry for mercy, O Lord

24 Jul

as we pray … 

0 1 Beit Jala three pilgrims 

  • for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas

 

  • for the resumption of humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza through Catholic Relief Services

 

  • for the Israeli innocents who live in fear of Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian areas

 

  • for the Palestinian innocents who live in fear for their lives from air and ground attacks or suffer the humiliations of occupation

 

  • for the avoidance of excessive actions of hostility and indiscriminate punishment which can breed a whole new generation of terrorists

 

  • for the emergence of a viable and independent Palestinian state living alongside a recognized and secure Israel which will bring the peace for which majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians yearn