AMMAN – In the north of Amman, the parish of St. Paul in Jubeiha is about to inaugurate the first part of its new Church under construction. It is a great joy for the parishioners, after 35 years of waiting. The Grand Magisterium of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and the German Lieutenancy will support this ambitious project.
“Thirty years ago, there were only trees”
Just north of Amman, on the outskirts of the city, is a large building that houses the school and the parish of St. Paul in Jubeiha. This neighborhood of the Jordanian capital is slowly expanding to the countryside. . Father Tarek, the parish priest, explains: “Thirty years ago, there were only trees. Then Father Labib arrived and began to pray, initially in various houses and then in this building built in 1991 “. Little by little, the Christian community of Saint Paul in Jubeiha settled.
In 1993, Father Labib completed the work of a mixed school; an institution which today welcomes 700 students, both Christians and Muslims. In the same building, on the second floor, Mass was celebrated and the number of people attending increased. “Many families in the surrounding villages moved to Jubeiha, a somewhat less populated area. While there were 1,200 families five years ago, there are now 1,500, or nearly 7,500 faithful. The density of the parish is also explained by its diversity: Orthodox, Latin and Syriac attend the same Mass on Sunday.
A church to welcome this large community
Over time, the second floor of the existing building was getting small for the growing population. In 2013, with the help of a local benefactor, the parishioners embarked on this project to build a new church across from the existing building. Unfortunately, the work stopped in September 2014 for lack of funds.
“There was no progress for two years. During this time, we continued to regularly celebrate Masses in the unfinished Church. We prayed so much for the work to resume, “explains Father Tarek. In the spring of 2016, the faithful organized everything to celebrate Easter in the structure under construction; a landmark event for the entire community, which was not without risks, the bad weather has not spared the site.”
In order to put an end to this temporary situation, Fr. Tarek and other parishioners were mobilized to raise the funds. A campaign which made it possible to raise nearly 220 000 JDs, a sum enough to initiate the resumption of works but not to complete them. In order to finish this ambitious project, new funds are necessary. On Thursday 27 April Dr. Brümmer and Cornelia Kimberger, respectively Lieutenant and Head of the Holy Land Commission of the German Lieutenancy of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre came on a visit, a preliminary step to contribute their help and support.
To end this temporary situation, Father Tarek and all the parishioners campaigned to raise funds and raised nearly 220,000 JD, an amount sufficient for the resumption of work but not enough to complete this ambitious project, new funds are needed. Also, on Thursday, April 27, Dr Brümmer, lieutenant of the German Lieutenancy of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and Cornelia Kimberger, president of the Holy Land Commission of the German Lieutenancy visited the site and offered support.
Inauguration of the ground floor planned for this summer
Thanks to the funds raised by the parishioners, construction work resumed in October 2015. “We are so happy. “says Father Tarek. “We have waited 35 years for a Church… “In front of the existing building, construction is in full swing and the concrete mixer is operating at full speed. The Church building will have two which will include a huge parish hall on the ground floor and a spacious Church on the first floor. Father Tarek, is confident, and would like to inaugurate the lower floor this summer. To achieve this, the Latin Patriarchate projects office is seeking sufficient funds to complete the first floor and procure the liturgical materials
TAYBEH – To meet the need for supervised and animated activities for young people and children of the village, a social center will open shortly in the parish of Taybeh.
At the initiative of Father Johnny Abu Khalil, Latin priest of this town, a social center for young people aged 8 to 25 will soon open. In the months that followed his arrival in this last entirely Christian town in Palestine, Father Johnny discovered that there were very few activities available to the youth after school. They spend their time on the streets, smoking and drinking in cars until late at night. The study carried out jointly by the parish priest and the Latin Patriarchate showed that this lack of social and entertainment centers encourage this situation. It should also be noted that the youth face obvious economic problems in Palestine: few employment opportunities, confinement in the territory with very limited financial resources.
So, this Center aims to recreate social links among young people and to give hope for the future. New facilities will be made available in the buildings: a recreation room, a library, a parish garden and a coffee shop. A team will welcome the youth and provide daily activities in the center. Young people can invest their time and offer their services with remuneration, in operating the coffee shop which will be open to everyone. Families will also be welcome in the Center to enjoy the garden in a friendly and healthy atmosphere, a way to ease tensions and promote peace, conducive to the professional integration of the young people.
This project is linked to the Latin Patriarchate and its Project Development Office is seeking financial support for the completion of the new Center where young people can grow and develop in a serene setting. Families can as well experience some inner peace in this place of encounter
NAOUR – In July, Naour’s school will inaugurate its second floor, to accommodate two new classes for the next school year that starts in September, with the support of the Grand Magisterium of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
The school of Naour, established in 1954 by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, will inaugurate a new floor in July 2017, which for the coming school year will open two additional classes, the “ninth” and the “tenth “grades (15-year-olds and 16-year-olds). At present, the school has eight classrooms, a room for religious instruction (Christian and Muslim) and a room equipped with computers, a laboratory and a modest library. The construction work began on March 27 and is progressing well while the entire school has been looking forward with great anticipation for more than ten years, to the opening of two new classes that will welcome new students.
The Naour school now has 224 students from 6 to 15 years old, fourteen teachers, both Christian and Muslim. The second floor will also consist of three classrooms, a teachers’ room, a toilet, a physics and science laboratory and a much more equipped library.
The purpose of this project is to meet the growing demand from families. This Christian school operated by the Patriarchate is very popular: it welcomes children regardless of religion or social class and ensures a quality education without requiring high tuition fees. In Naour, which has a population of 50,000 people traditionally living in agriculture and commerce and with a high unemployment rate, the school expansion project is of great importance to families.
The school will soon hire new teachers in order to continue to provide quality education to the growing number of young people and to prepare them for their future education in college and university.
Not far from the school in another building is a kindergarten and the Parish Church of the Sacred Heart, with Father Rifat Bader as parish priest. Since 2015, the Church also has a sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, the first in Jordan, which is the site of numerous and frequent pilgrimages.
ABOUD – On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, the Pontifical Mission of Jerusalem granted funds to the Latin Patriarchate to launch the renovation of the kindergarten of the parish of Aboud. An area has been designated for a new playground for the children in a more friendly and secure environment.
The Latin parish of Aboud has a kindergarten that does not have adequate standards of safety and cleanliness. This playground is important for families and especially children, where they can spend an enjoyable time together. Work on the site will include some demolition and restructuring, with painting of walls and fence, installation of rubber padding under the games area, artificial grass, plastering, concrete protection and maintenance of some existing game equipment, electrical and mechanical work and adding new playing areas for slides, swings, benches tables, etc.
Thanks to the funds granted by the Pontifical Mission, on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the signing of the contract with Father Iyad Twal, Director of Schools in Palestine, and the efforts of the Latin Patriarchate project office. The new playground will offer children a place to play and have fun, thus contributing to their physical and mental well-being.
ANJARA – On March 15, the Anjara branch of Our Lady of Peace Center opened a new speech therapy service for children, which completes the physiotherapy service established at the end of 2008. Thanks to the support of benefactors, “Our Lady of the Mount” Center can now provide free care for children with mental and physical disabilities in this particularly poor region of Jordan.
A center entirely free and open to all …
At the door of the Anjara Center, Arwa, a speech therapist, and Abrar, a physiotherapist, welcome their patients in a small room next to the parish of Our Lady of the Visitation maintained by Father Hugo. On March 15, a completely new free service for children with speech disorders was opened. The young speech therapist now cares for an average of thirty children aged 2 to 16 years. She shares this room with Abrar, who receives children with a physical disability for rehabilitation sessions. The goal is to teach mothers a few simple and effective exercises to advance their children. In just a few weeks, the new speech-language pathology service already has a long waiting list. “The fact that the service is free allows families who do not have the means to come,” says Abrar.
Anjara and the governorate of Jerash, a region in need
In this predominantly Muslim and particularly poor region, the services offered by the center are valuable. Disability is disturbing and is often hidden because it is synonymous with shame, leaving many children on the sidelines of Jordanian society. “Little by little, in Anjara, news of the Center is spreading and these children come out. Yet there are still many young people with disabilities to look after in Anjara, but the social context gets in the way of things. Here, women drive little and it is difficult for a mother to leave her other children for several hours to take one of them for treatment, “explains Sahem Madanat, Director of the Center. To meet the needs of these families, Sahem would like to develop both services on a full-time basis and, in the long term, offer an occupational therapy service.
Our Lady of the Mount, or Interreligious Dialogue in Action
Like Our Lady of Peace Center near Amman, the Center for Speech-Language Pathology and Rehabilitation of Our Lady of the Mount presents a unique model of interreligious dialogue, not theories but action, through the service provided to these young people with disabilities. A dialogue that bears fruit as evidenced by the story of a man, who was initially very defiant and violent at the action of the parish, was gradually transformed as he noticed the rapid progress of his handicapped granddaughter.
This Center for handicapped children finds its place in a larger setting of Our Lady of the Mount, mainly directed by the Latin Patriarchate. There is a home for young girls and boys supervised by Father Hugo. These children and adolescents, often orphans or in situations of family distress, are housed, fed and educated free of charge, thanks to the Church. In order to continue this project, the Latin Patriarchate undertook the funding of a new building that accommodates 20 young boys, the latter residing until now in the same building as the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, who are in charge of their education. In addition to this home, more than 200 children, Christians and Muslims alike, are enrolled in a primary school also run by the Brothers and Sisters of the Incarnate Word. The Patriarchate also contributes to the renovation of the kindergarten of this school, a very important place for socialization. At a very early age, Christians and Muslims learn to play together. For this project, the Latin Patriarchate project development office is seeking funds to continue to financially support this institution, which depends on the generosity of the donors.
Our Lady of the Mount, a Marian place
A home for orphans and refuge for handicapped children, Our Lady of the Mount has a special charism. According to historical references, the Virgin would have come here with the Child Jesus taking refuge in a cave. In memory of this passage, Father Yousef Salmeh Nammat, the former parish priest, had a sanctuary church built.
On May 6, 2010, in the same Church, a statue of the Virgin that sits in the middle of the parish house shed tears of blood; a miracle witnessed by Patriarch Emeritus Fouad Twal. In this place where Muslims and Christians meet daily, the Virgin weeps, as a loving mother, with these very different children. Since this appearance, many pilgrims have come to pray to Mary. In order to welcome them, the Latin Patriarchate contributes to funding a pilgrim center and the construction of a parish hall for the faithful to come together for various occasions.
RAMALLAH – Al Ahliyyah School in the latin parish of the Holy Family will open a new cooking school in the fall. This facility is for 16-18 year-olds, and will offer new job opportunities to young people in Palestine. The province of Hainaut in Belgium, has long been associated with the region and has committed to support this project of the Latin Patriarchate Project Development Office.
A future partnership between the gastronomic school and the Province of Hainaut
On Wednesday, April 12, 2017, Serge Hustache, President of the Provincial College of Hainaut, David Bricoult, Director of the International Cooperation Service and a delegation from various political sectors in the Province of Hainaut came to visit the future cooking school in Ramallah. At the initiative of Father Ibrahim Shomali, director of the Holy Family parish school, this training facility will teach cooking to young high school students who do not have the means. The new school intends to provide a high-class restaurant set in a spacious room adjacent to the school.
Tourists and locals will have the opportunity to enjoy delicious meals cooked by the students. “Here in Ramallah, there is a lack of this type of training. After two years, the students will be able to join Bethlehem University, which also offers culinary classes.” The school which will open in autumn has already obtained the accreditation of the Palestinian government which sees in it a wonderful initiative to highlight the culinary heritage of the region. Kitchen, restaurant, work plans; majority of the work has already been carried out. To welcome the new students, Father Shomali expects more specific materials for the learning kitchen.
Palestinian cuisine or the taste of living together
If excellent cuisine is an investment, the new school stands out in its desire to pass on to the young people a Palestinian legacy. Various options will be considered: in addition to the regular courses given to apprentice cooks, the school will offer a weekly lesson for all the students of the Holy Family School, from elementary to high school, to raise awareness to the foundations of cooking. “One of the objectives of this training is also to continue to encourage dialogue between Christians and Muslims, one of the pillars of the school,” added Father Shomali. “Many parents are sending their children here for coexistence education, specific to the institution” In this region, where Christians represent only 2% of the population, the Church plays a major social and educational role.
In the long term, the new school also plans to offer simpler dishes affordable to all students and prepare meals in collaboration with the St. Vincent de Paul Society in order to offer them to the poor. The Province of Hainaut, which supports numerous initiatives in the social field, education and training in Palestine, will be part of the project with the financial support of Wallonia-Brussels International, for the purpose of creating a lasting link between the two regions. To provide the best education, partnership projects are built to bring in renowned teachers and create exchanges between students. This partnership should soon see the light of day with the hotel schools of Hainaut. This significant support should give this new facility in Ramallah an international dimension.
Photo: © Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem