Tag Archives: Holy Land Outreach for Peace Education

at a time (and in a place) of your convenience

1 Sep

Cremisan prayer September 2, 2015

Tomorrow, Wednesday, September 2, the doors of St. Andrew the Apostle Church, Milford, Ohio, will open wide to anyone who would like to pray silently before the Blessed Sacrament for our family in Beit Jala (Bethlehem), West Bank, Palestine.

Exposition will begin at 10:00 a.m. and continue until 7:00 p.m. We invite you to join us in prayer at a time (and in a place) of your convenience.  The closing ceremony will be around 6:30 p.m. with a rosary, prayers to Our Lady of Palestine, and the hymn, “Jerusalem My Destiny.”

(The photo above pictures HOPE teacher/pilgrims at Mass in the Cremisan Valley of Beit Jala.)

Abuna Sleman in Beit Jala and in Fuheis

22 Nov

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. 

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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.

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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. 20130624-091123.jpg

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)”

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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.

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 Welcome to Milford, Abouna Sleman (Father Solomon).

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.