Holy Family Children’s Home, Bethlehem
In the period since the inception of the Lieutenancy we have donated in excess of €2.5m to the Holy Land, funding schools, the seminary, humanitarian activities, and of course financing the education of a Maronite seminarian in Rome. In considering what would be the most appropriate way to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Lieutenancy in 2011, providence in the person of Comdt. Frank Hearns came up with the solution, children, the future of the Holy Land!
Sr. Sophie (Pictured below) can feed and clothe them, give them shelter, but the babies need more affection than she and her small staff are able to provide. "We have a baby now that was brought to us wrapped in newspaper,” she said. “We tried to find the mother but were told ‘don’t bother, she’s been killed.’ The child is very ill.”
Sr. Sophie operates the Holy Family Children’s Home, an orphanage for Palestine’s abandoned children and a refuge for its unwed mothers. In a land divided by racial and religious conflict, her doors are open to all because “they all are a gift from God, and who can reject such a gift? Their religion is not important.”
Chev. Frank Hearns who turned 70 years old during his tour was on the roads of Europe for a month starting from the Carmel of St. Joseph of Malahide. He cycled from Malahide, accompanied by a friend, Blaise O’Rourke to Bethlehem commencing on 5 June and concluded in Bethlehem on Monday 4 July. They covered 3,200 kms in 30 days over 6 countries. They had to change one tyre which resulted in a wheel being given free. They first crossed the Channel by boat to France, then traveled the roads of Italy and Greece before flying to Tel Aviv. They then resumed traveling on bicycles to Bethlehem. They were welcomed by Sister Sophie Boueri, Director of the Holy Family Children’s Home, who received €110,000 from Frank in donations collected from the Irish Knights and friends.
“Everywhere, we were met with exceptional hospitality and kindness in the countries we visited, and there are many stories to tell,” said Frank, “a Greek who, seeing my T-shirt in the colors of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre offered me hospitality for the night.”
The event had been carefully prepared, while leaving much to improvisation and surprises along the route. It was an experience like a real pilgrimage by the Irish Knights, marked by daily prayer and Sunday Mass as food on the long road to the Holy Land.
On his arrival in Jerusalem, Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem warmly welcomed him expressing friendship and recognition of the local Church.
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre is a great help for our community. Its members are generous with their ongoing support and evangelisation, may it continue along this path.” “The journey is often more important than the goal in itself ,” said Frank, “and with all my heart I sincerely thank those who helped me make this pilgrimage possible.”
The Order's work in the Holy Land
The Holy Land is defined as Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Occupied Territories, Cyprus and the Kingdom of Jordan, all governed spiritually by His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Members of the Irish Lieutenancy visiting the orphanage and creche in Bethlehem which received support from Ireland. Most Christians in the Holy Land are Arab. Christians are more or less 350,000 out of 13 million people living in the three countries. The world-wide Order donates circa US$14m per annum.
The Irish contribution to the Order's work in the Holy Land
“The vocation of Christians in your countries is of particular importance. As builders of peace and justice, they represent the living presence of Christ who came to reconcile the world with the Father and to bring all his lost children together. Hence the need to reaffirm and develop true communion and serene and respectful collaboration between Catholics of different rites. This will constitute an eloquent sign for other Christians and for the rest of society." Pope Benedict XVI (to the Bishops of the Holy Land 18 January 2008).
Since the establishment of the Lieutenancy in 1986, Irish members and supporters have donated over €2.6m to the Holy Land. Member in donating to the Holy Land are animated by the Purposes of the Order.
- To strengthen in its members the practice of Christian life, in absolute fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff and according to the teachings of the Church, observing as its foundation the principle of charity of which the Order is a fundamental means for assistance to the Holy Land.
- To sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with which the Order maintains traditional ties.
- To support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in those lands, interesting in this work the Catholics scattered throughout the world, united in charity by the symbol of the Order, and also all Christian brothers.
- To sustain the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
Irish funding has been provided to projects in Tila ei Ali, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, in Bethlehem to the Holy Family Children’s Home, a youth hostel, the maternity hospital, the University and a hostel for girls attending the University; Haifa, Naour School in Jordan; Nazareth; in Kerak support to the Parish and the School; Ramah School in Galilee and Zebabdeh. In many instances members of the Lieutenancy have visited the Irish sponsored projects whilst on pilgrimage.
The Lieutenancy is a registered charity (No. CHY8617). Its' financial statements are audited annually by a non member registered auditor.
The Holy Land - Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Today the Christian population has dwindled to about 50,000 Christians in the Palestinian territories (about 1.5 percent of the population) and about 153,000 (2010) Christians in Israel (approximately two percent). Estimates suggest that about 1,000 Christians a year are leaving their homeland.
According to the 2003 Israeli census approx 98% of Israel’s Christians live in urban settlements with 20% in Nazareth, 12% in Haifa, and 10% in Jerusalem. 60% of all Christians live in Northern Israel.
Since the dawn of Christianity, Christian communities have flourished in and around the provincial towns of Karak, Madaba, Salt, and Amman, while the growth of Christianity in the Middle East has nurtured a bond with the Hashemite Kingdom. The Christian population is between 5% and 6%. In Jordan, about half the Christians are Jordanian, and the other half are Iraqi.
To maintain the Christian presence in the Holy Land, the Churches consider a good education system in Christian schools to be essential. Therefore, the Churches themselves manage
- 28 schools in Palestine
- 31 schools in Israel and
- 44 schools in Jordan.
The Latin Patriarchate is committed to offering quality instruction to all, girls and boys, Christian and Muslim alike. The Patriarchate has a network of 43 schools and employs 1,474 teachers and support staff; 95% are lay and 84% are Christian. They operate within the approved educational programme set by the respective governments. In addition to the standard curriculum, schools offer such programs as psychological assistance, help for special-needs students, catechism, French, biology. Additional classes are provided in music, arts, ecological awareness, peace and social responsibility, and schools offer sports in which boys and girls participate.
Unlike schools in Israel, private schools in Palestine and Jordan receive little financial support from education ministries.
Distinctive features of some of the projects supported by the Lieutenancy.
Aqaba: Patriarch Twal inaugurated the new 450 seater Church of Stella Maris in Aqaba, Jordan, on Friday, December 14, 2012. For the first time, the Christians of Aqaba celebrated Christmas in their Church. The reason a church was built is that Aqaba is a city of the future.
Numerous Jordanians come to live in Aqaba where they find work, among them Christian families. Aqaba is a strategic city by its position: a port city, positioned on the border of Israel and not far from Egypt, it attracts Jordanians and also offers work to many migrants. Philippine and Sri Lankan Catholics, numbering about 300, join the local Christians who represent 2% of the city’s population. The new Church of Stella Maria, situated a few minutes from the sea, is also “a witness and a spiritual place of welcome” for Christians in transit, explains the Patriarch, in particular for the many tourists who come to swim, drawn by the Red Sea and the Wadi Rum.
A large hall was built under the church (pictured) for this purpose, to accommodate Christians celebrations: marriages, first communions and others. It will also contribute to parochial life, developing prayer groups for the young, the Legion of Mary, the scout movement, etc. The lieutenancy contributed significantly to the building costs.
Beit Jala: part finance a new printing plant and the transfer of machinery for the Patriarchate at just outside Jerusalem. It has printed the new Catechism, pastoral letters, the diocesan paper etc. This Project alos provided much needed employment.
Bethlehem: On the boundaries of the town of Bethlehem and Beit-Jala House stands St. Theresas (a university residence for girls), on the road to Hebron, the Lieutenancy assisted its conversion into a hostel for about 40 girl students of the University whose homes are a consibarable distance away.
Funding: a Maronite cleric undertaking post graduate studies. This is multi-annual project.
Funding: a Maronite cleric undertaking post graduate studies. This is multi-annual project.
Gaza: In January 2009 following appeal from the Grand Master. to the world wide Order, Ireland sent a sizable donation to assist in humanitarian aid following the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
Hashimi: Purchase of land for a school. Hashimi is situated in a densely populated area in the east of Amman not far from the centre of downtown.
Holy Family Children’s Home: Located in Bethlehem, the Lieutenancy has donated €250,000 to the Daughters of Charity who operate a children's home. This home was opened in 1895. It provides a sanctuary for abandoned youngsters and orphans. (see photos above)
Humanitarian Aid: This continues year in year out. The funds used are to cover medical cost as treatment is on a pay basis. Examples are chemotherapy for a woman suffering womb cancer, young girl suffering from Pierre Robin Syndrome [born without a lower jaw and thus unable to breathe] the operation took place in the US; and the purchase of a special negative ventilation machine and physiotherapy sessions for a 21 year old from Bethlehem suffering from cystic fibrosis and the purchase of medical supplies.
Institutional expenditure: includes the administrative cost of the Patriarchate, funds to meet the cost of maintaining the Latin Seminary, to meet the expenses of the clergy and their workers, in all the Patriarch, 4 bishops, 86 priests and 118 nuns; and help for the schools, which includes 30 kindergardens.
Kerak: The erection of a secondary school. Kerak is located in the Kingdom of Jordan, 124km south of Amman. It is the largest town in South Jordan. The Parish dates to 1871. The school was built in the neighborhood of the Christian villages of Ader, Smakieh [the only village in Jordan inhabited solely by Catholics - Latin and Melkite rites with a population of 1500], Rabbas and Hmoud. Currently 800 pupils. A sizable donation, in conjunction with Lieutenancies in France and Canada Montreal and the Grand Magisterium was made for a parish church. The parish church is dedicated to “Our Lady of the Rosary” and is the only one in Jordan to have a decorated wooden ceiling.
Madaba Schools Project: Madaba is a medium-sized city of 60,000 in Jordan, located 25km southwest of Amman and 20 minutes from Mt. Nebo. It has become known as the "City of the Mosaics" for the many Byzantine mosaics that have been uncovered throughout the city. In Madaba Balad (close to the city) there will be a mixed school for boys and girls up to grade 3 and a girls’ school from grade 4 to 12, while Madaba Ma’in will become a single sex school for boys from grade 4 to 12. The works (construction and plant) included the electro-mechanical systems, 32 classrooms, 1 library, 4 laboratories and 30 WC units. The total internal works area is over 3500 sq. mts., while external works amount to 1800 sq. mts. of walls and roof plus 1500 sq. mts. of outdoor facilities and playground.
Naour: Part payment of the tuition fees of the Christian students attending Naour School, which was founded in 1924. The school family is of both sexes and has both a Christian and muslim student base and teaching staff. The School caters from kindergarten and Primary ie ages 4 to 11. The Lieutenancy recently funded the capital expansion of the School. This involves an extension of around 95 sq mt to the ground floor, to host the new Computer and Science laboratories. The members of the Lieuteancy have visited the School, its students and teachers on many occasions.
Rameh: A donation in excess of €100,000 to this school, which is in Northern Israel: the School was established in 1912. Has 377 students of whom 329 are Christian (2008). Rameh itself is entirely made up of Israeli Arabs and has a mostly Christian and Druze population as well as a smaller Muslim population. A further expansion is being undertaken currently.
Seminary: The Patriarchal Seminary which was established in 1852 is located at Beit Jala. So far, over 280 priests have been ordained from it. The average number ordained is 2, although three were ordained in 2008. Geographically, two thirds of the students come from Jordan and the other third come from Palestine and Israel. Ireland financed an extension to the Patriarchal Seminary. This is an important project in view of an increasing number of adult vocations. The applicants who enter the Major Seminary need to attend a one-year preparatory course (concentrating on furthering the practice of prayer, communal living and Christian virtues). During this time they need to be housed close to, yet separate from, the students in the Upper Seminary.
Tla’ Al ‘Ali: The building of a Church, hall and presbytery This is situated in a district to the north east of Amman in a mixed economic area where there is some unemployment.
“Our faithful and the other Palestinian citizens aspire to sovereignty and independence. In the land of Christ, they are not foreigners. It is their homeland”. Unity in Diversity, first pastoral letter of Patriarch Twal May 2009.