First Years Study Trip to Galilee – 22nd September 2022

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times” is a truth which validated the STS 1st year students’ recent Study Trip to Galilee.  For three days they visited the revered sites connected with Jesus's hidden as well as public life in Galilee. Thirteen students with the STS Principal, Fr. Andrzej Toczyski SDB, and expert guide, Fr. Yunus Demirci, OFM Cap., pilgrimaged by bus, starting early in the morning from Jerusalem on Friday 16th September 2022.

The Students, and at the same time pilgrims, first stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes where they received a profound explanation about the traditions and evolution of the site. During the Holy Mass, they contemplated the eight Beatitudes mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. The next steps led them to Tabgha (from the name Hepta Pegon - seven sources), the site devoted to the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish and to the Church of Primacy of St. Peter. At the Capernaum archeological site it was possible in a concrete and tangible way to remember foremost the healing of Simon-Peter's mother-in-law in his own house, the expulsion of the unclean spirit of a man, and the healing of a centurion's servant. Fortified by the fish of St. Peter in a restaurant, the students enjoyed a half-hour boat trip on the Sea of Galilee and the beautiful sceneries to be seen from the boat. Then they travelled to Nazareth, to the Betharram guest house.

Saturday 17th September was also a very tight day. The morning was devoted to the Basilica of Annunciation, the nearby museum, Church of St. Joseph, the Grave of a Just man, Mary’s two wells and the Synagogue of Nazareth. After lunch the pilgrims ascended Mount Tabor by bus and during the Holy Eucharist contemplated the Transfiguration of Lord Jesus Christ. In the evening, most of the pilgrims and students took part in a solemn procession at the Basilica of Annunciation, accompanied by a rosary prayer in several languages.

On Sunday 18th September it was planned to visit Cana in the Galilee, but both, the Latin and Orthodox churches were not open on Sundays for visits. However the morning prayers on the site gave opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ first miracle. A special visit to the archeological site of the ancient city of Sepphoris (Tzipori) followed. This has, according to some traditions, connections to the parental house of the Virgin Mary and hidden life of St. Joseph.

The way back to Ratisbonne led the group via Haifa with its beautiful Stella Maris church at Mount Carmel. After Holy Mass and refreshments, the group stopped to take some photos at the Bahá’í gardens in Haifa with its wonderful view on the city bay.

It was an exceptional opportunity for the students to stand on the same places as Jesus stood, to touch, smell, taste, feel, imagine, perceive not just intellectually but by the whole person, all dimensions including the spiritual one. Especially at the beginning of their studies, may this experience help them to deepen and broaden their horizons of faith.

 

Matej Fabian SDB

22nd September, 2022

BACCALAUREATE PRESENTATIONS AT STS

The final year students of STS, finally presented their syntheses which marks the culmination of their academic studies and 4 fruitful years at STS.

The syntheses presentations began on the 27th of May and ended on the 7th of June.

    27th May

Joaquim Belito - Christ’s Resurrection: Foundation of the Christian Faith and Life and the Driving Force of the Church’s Mission

Cornelius U-sayee - Integral Justice, Salvation in Christ and the Christian Way of Life

    30th May

Isac Kinda - Jesus Christ: Reconciler of Humanity with God the Father and Salvation through the Christian Life

Thierry Uyirwoth - Missionary witness to Christ in today's world

Chima Agbo - Creation and Salvation: The Origin and Eternal Destiny of the Human Person

    31st May

Matteo Vignola - Christ's Kenosis and Exaltation at the heart of our Salvation

Audace Niyibigira - The Divine Mission and Human Participation in the Salvation Won for us by Christ

Vlastimil Vajdak - Oral presentation

    1st June

Gianluca Villa - Chosen in Christ to share in his Glory

Francis Hiuhu - The Unconditional Self-giving of the Trinity in the Paschal Mystery and the Church’s Discipleship

Prabhu Jesumani - God’s Unconditional Love for His People, Revealed Through Jesus Christ by His Words and Deeds

    2nd June

Warayut Charoenphoom - The Christian Vocation to Holiness and its Fulfillment in Life and Liturgy

Nguyen Manh Hung - The Divine Sonship of Jesus at the Centre of the Church’s Faith, Life and Mission

    3rd June

Pham The Hien - Human Love Redeemed and Elevated by the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ.

Edwar Gobran - The Kingdom of God on Earth and in Heaven: The Pilgrim Church and Her Eschatological Fulfillment

    6th June

Nelson Mwale - Marriage and the Family in the Mystery of Redemption and in the Church’s Witness to the World

Nguyen Trung Hieu - God’s Plan for Human Life in the Salvation of the Universe

    7th June

Sathish J. Antony Raj - Christ – the Icon of God: The Relationship Between the Visible and the Invisible in Christian Life and Worship

Raju Morcha - The Fulfilment of the Scriptures by Jesus Christ and the Proclamation of the Good News for the Salvation of All

We wish the final year students as they embark on their journey to the priesthood.

9th June, 2022

The STS Study Trip to Jordan

If Jordan is as beautiful as they say, I mean at least as beautiful as its queen,  then visiting it in all its splendor becomes a must: one can even give up the desire to travel through the same lands where St. Paul travelled, and which for long centuries were home to the Ottoman Empire, to enjoy its wonders. That the Jordanian option was driven more by a scruple of conscience – wars, near duplication of prices, etc. – than by an actual biblical-historical-archaeological-aesthetic balance, is of secondary importance at this point.

Plan the days. Book the visits. Hire a bus, two buses. Choosing a guide who could offer actual knowledge and not just entertainment. Fill out online forms for entering and leaving the country, the countries. Remind students about the PCR test anti-Covid. Being informed that on the bus will be not only students, Professors and a guide, but we will be accompanied throughout our Jordanian stay by a uniformed tourist police officer – whether his presence was really necessary remains to be seen, but you know how these things go: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. In short, the labours of organization, took their toll, but the game was worth the effort.

Beginning of first day: Jerash, the place in the Gospel where Jesus healed a possessed man: an architectural and urban gem on the borders of the Roman Empire; Rabbath-Ammon, present-day Amman, capital of Jordan, and one of the Hellenistic cities of the Decapolis in Jesus' time - End of first day. Start of second day: Umm Ar-Rasas, otherwise called by the archaeologist who discovered it, a fellow named Piccirrillo: u' marr' sass, the sea of stones; unfailing pause in the mosaic store, kofiahs, and other eventualities, owned by some distant or close relative of the guide – when in Rome, do as the Romans do, we've already said that, haven't we? – and then on to the top of Mount Nebo, where Moses died – the burial site is still unknown to most (Nabi Musa? who knows), and back down to Madaba. End of second day. Start of third day: Petra. No need to comment, the Nabataeans did wonders, and what appears in the Indiana Jones movie is only a tenth of what the site offers to the contemplation of tourists – the Bedouins, of course, and their characteristic way of approaching you and doing business are an integral part of the experience: like it or not, you can't help yourself. End of third day. Night in the desert. Start of fourth day: Wadi Rum, Red Desert: for those who have seen the movies Dune, Aladdin, The Martian, several scenes were shot there; passage through the land of Israel; bathing in the Red Sea; and return home.

Balance of the experience: given the premise, ten out of ten. We feel sorry for the fortress of Macheron; Herod will forgive us: it will be for next time.

Gianluca Villa

5th May, 2022

FOUR DAYS TRIP TO GALILEE 31st March to 3rd April

Why did the students of STS choose Galilee for a four-day trip? This article answers that question. The synoptic gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us that although he was born in Bethlehem, Jesus was a Galilean from Nazareth, a village near Sepphoris, one of the two major cities of Galilee (Tiberias was the other one). One of the advantageous reasons of studying Christian theology in the Holy Land is that it is the birthplace of Christianity. It is the place where Jesus was born, suffered, was crucified and rose again. That is why it is called the Holy Land. The Holy land connects Christian theology students with their faith. This is done by visualizing as well as re-imagining the events that they read in the Holy Bible. This was the case for us STS students.

Anyone who claims to follow Christ, must walk as Jesus walked. Walking like Jesus is a challenge for all students of theology. They were challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The common testimony is that, every experience is new. No one comes back the same from the study trip.

The visit to the Baptismal Site

As students of STS, we visited the Baptismal Site especially with a view to renewing our faith. This site was chosen because it is of great sacred significance. It is the third holiest site in the Christian world (after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem). At this site, we renewed our baptismal promises. Thereafter, each student had a time of personal prayer. This was a moment to renew one’s faith in Christ, but also to purify the desires in the following of Christ.

Much of our time was spent in prayer. We stayed in a place close to Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth, where we had Mass every day, prayed the rosary and other devotional prayers. We had also visited St. Joseph's Church ⸺ in the Old City of Nazareth, modern-day Northern Israel. It was built in 1914 over the remains of much older churches. It was built in the Romanesque Revival style. Such a visit is a point of reflection on the incarnated Christ and the foster fathership of St Joseph.

The visit to Nazareth Village

Nazareth village is an historic city in northern Israel. It is the largest Arab city of the country. The majority of the inhabitants are Muslims. The choice to visit the Nazareth village was made in order to realise the dimension of ecumenism among many Christian denominations and inter-religious dialogue with other religions. The other interesting thing for theology students is that, in the New Testament, Nazareth is associated with Jesus as his boyhood home, and in its synagogue, he preached the sermon that led to his rejection by his fellow townsmen. When we were there, we read: Lk 4:14-30 Jesus is denied by people of his native village. Then, we reflected on such questions as: in what way do I deny Jesus? Which disposition should I take when I am denied as a carrier of the good news?

During our trip, we also hiked to the top of Mt Tabor. This is the place believed to be the mountain of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, where Jesus began to radiate light and conversed with Moses and Elijah. Each student had gone back to the synoptic gospels of (Mark 9:2–13; Matthew 17:1–13; as well as Luke 9:28–36); we meditated on the experience of Jesus and sought to relate it to the here and now. We could imagine walking in the place where miraculous actions happened. Indeed, we walked and lived that experience. It was wonderful. It was prayer in action as it involved a lot of energy to climb. Besides, on the mount of transfiguration, we prayed for spiritual transformation, peace in our hearts and in our families and in the whole world.

The other place which needed much energy is the mount of beatitudes. This is the place where Christ gave his moral teaching to his disciples. These morals are commonly known as the beatitudes. We also visited Tabgha (the place of Multiplication of bread). The trip ended with Mass in St Peter’s Church, Tiberias.

During this study trip, everything may be lost but at least, we were spiritually nourished. We will probably continue shining with the graces we got from all the key Biblical holy places. The Galilee attracts many Christian pilgrims, as many of the miracles of Jesus occurred, according to the New Testament, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee—including his walking on water, the calming of the storm, and feeding five thousand people.

What miracles did Jesus perform in Galilee?

The places we visited in Galilee are at the centre of the whole life of Jesus. During His ministry, Jesus performed more than 40 miracles including healing the sick, changing the natural elements of nature and even raising people from the dead. Having walked this journey of faith, all students, and everyone we prayed for, had received the grace of healing and restoration. This implies that this was not only the study trip but also a journey of faith and renewal.

Kelvin Mutalala

20th April, 2022

SPEECHES AND PRESENTATIONS AT THE INTER-THEOLOGATE EVENT IN PREPARATION FOR THE SYNOD

Speeches presented at the joint assembly of the Theologates at the Holy Land

SYNODAL PATH IN JERUSALEM

A list of the Speakers are given below:

1. Rev. David Neuhaus SJ : 'The Synod and Learning to Listen'

2. Rev. Amjad Sbarra OFM : 'The Synod and Mission of the Church'

3. Ms Saswan Bitar : 'The Synod, Women and Ecumenism'

4. Ms Nadine Bitar : 'The Synod, Youth and Laity'

5. Mr Dima Ezrohi : 'The Synod, Hebrew Speakers, Migrants and Diversity'

6. Ms Dima Kalak : 'The Synod, and the Marginalized'

Father David Neuhaus SJ: The coordinator of the Synod Preparatory Committee.

The Synod and Learning to Listen

In the Vademecum, the Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches, it says: “The Synodal Process is first and foremost a spiritual process. It is not a mechanical data-gathering exercise or a series of meetings and debates. Synodal listening is oriented towards discernment. It requires us to learn and exercise the art of personal and communal discernment. We listen to each other, to our faith tradition, and to the signs of the times in order to discern what God is saying to all of us.” (2:2).

Central to the Synodal process is learning to listen. We are called to admit that we are not so good at this. We are formed to talk, to preach, to teach, to encourage, to reprimand. We talk a lot, perhaps a lot too much. We feel uncomfortable with the silence that is necessary to allow others to speak. We feel driven to fill the silence with words, our own. This blocks out the voices of those who want to speak, who need to express themselves, those for whom and with whom we must become Church. The Synod seeks to allow these voices to emerge, to be heard, to perhaps provoke discomfort but to ultimately lead us to a more authentic way to be Church in our age.

At the Transfiguration, the disciples gazed on the Transfigured One and heard the voice saying: “Listen to Him”. However, the Resurrected One then came among the disciples and listened to them on the way to Emmaus. He only then responded to them, hearing their pain, their sense of being abandoned, their despair. In listening, we must learn to discern, discern the voices from our own, discern the myriad voices that address us, distinguishing where we are being led.

The synodal process seeks to renew our ability to listen in a world that is very noisy indeed. In order to listen, we must discern His voice among the voices, distinguishing His voice from the cacophony of voices that try to derail us. His voice is the voice the gives life, that opens the horizon that seems shut, that offers good news in a world that too often plunges us into despair.

Listening is contextual. The context for listening is the communion that unites us, in which we must all participate. Listening must be renewed, relearned, reappropriated in each generation so that the Spirit can breathe life into the Word in the midst of our world, the world in which we live and move and have our being. It is in the communion that is enabled by listening that we become a community, participating together as one body in the life of Christ our head, who sends us on the mission of bringing Him into the world so that it can be redeemed.

Let us listen to Him with ears opened a new, with hearts aflame and with rekindled desire to follow him. Let us hear him in all the usual places: in the Scriptures; in the Church; in our hierarchy (the Holy Father, the bishops, priests and deacons) … but let us also listen to Him with renewed commitment in our communities (religious, parish and families and friends), in the encounters in our apostolates (schools, hospitals, youth ministry, homes and social outreaches). Let us seek Him out in the world beyond the borders of our institutional Churches, among other Christians, among the believers of other religions, among those who no longer believe or have never believed and yet have much to teach us. Let us go especially to the margins, among the forsaken, the abandoned, the poor and the hopeless for we know that there he awaits us to offer us guidance and comfort!


Father Amrad Sbarra OFM

The Synod and the Mission of the Church

 1- The Mission of the Church is to break through the darkness of the world with the light of Jesus Christ, and to let everyone understand and reveal God’s design for Healthy and holy relationships.

2- Hearing the anxiety and demands of the people.

3- In answer of the anxiety on the problems, the church is called to provide the people with tools to protect their life and the life of their families, by helping those in need and answer the call and the will of God’s call to be leaders in the world and to deal with challenges, to survive with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

4- Empowering each other to be key partners in success, and a guardianship for everyone in need.

5- The Church must teach strategies which has been founded Through meditation on the word of God, to achieve the best results for improving the worldview and the sets of thoughts for everyone who is related to the Church.

6- This is the path of the Synod in which we are capable to give each one of us a role to be a part of a better world.


 Ms. Sawsan Bitar

The Synod, Women and Ecumenism

 I am so thrilled to be part of this important event, though it comes at a time of uncertainty in so many ways, the current pandemic, unemployment, limited resources … etc. On the other hand, it has brought some hope to people whose voices are not usually heard in the church., people who are very tired, and disappointed.

As a woman of faith, I would like to share with you what it means to me personally to be walking this journey. I will start by reflecting on the story that was chosen to guide us in the synod, and the powerful image that was used, “the Way to Emmaus”.

Two disciples, a man and a woman are walking together, sad, heartbroken and disappointed because of the injustice that happened to their teacher.  Jesus comes and walks with them and listens to their concerns. This picture has brought hope to me and I said to myself, by the will of God it is the beginning of equality in the Church, having women and men on the same level in ministry is something that I have always dreamt to see in my church.

Our mission now is to help more women to be involved in the church, with no fear of discrimination between women and men. “We are equal”. Let us start walking together with our Bishops and Priests on changing all discriminating rules and actions between the people of God, because this is what Jesus taught us.

From now on, I think it is not possible to go backwards. It is about time to reach out to women who are far away from the church and to listen to one another, to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. We must create a healthy environment for them to feel safe in sharing what is going on in their hearts and minds as Jesus did with the two disciples of Emmaus, and to walk together towards a better future for our community and the Church.

I have also been involved in the Ecumenical journey for almost 25 years. I remember when I started as a coordinator for the Clergy Program at Sabeel - the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre - I was afraid of not being accepted as a woman to bring together Heads of Churches and parish Priests from all traditional churches in one gathering, whether it is a meeting, a conference, a spiritual retreat or a worship service. By the grace of God, things have changed. We have reached a point where I now, confidently, organize ecumenical worship services, conferences and retreats for clergy from different church denominations.

Being part of the synod committee - walking together towards ecumenism - I am trying to spread the word to other churches through our Ecumenical programs.

On October 22nd and 23rd, we had the Annual Clergy Retreat that took place in Jericho.  Forty-two clergymen and their wives from the West Bank, Galilee and Jerusalem, representing the different churches, attended this retreat.  One of the sessions was led by Emeritus Patriarch Michael Sabbah in which he introduced the Synod to the participants. His talk was very powerful and he explained what this Synod means for them as Clergy. He encouraged the priests from the different denominations to listen to one another and to all people of faith in order to reduce the gap between them.

The priests usually speak about themselves as ‘we’ and the lay people say ‘them’, and it is now time to say ‘us’. Because all of us together are the church.

The second event was the Sabeel Annual Ecumenical Christmas dinner where we had around two hundred people including Bishops and clergy from the different denominations. The Christmas message was given by Sister Ghada Nehmeh, a member of the Synod committee. In her message she spoke about the synod and the importance of the ecumenical spirit and the work among the people of faith.

We are also trying to involve young people in the spirit of ecumenism by organizing special ecumenical worship services for the students in the different Christian schools.  So far, we have had two services. The students were so happy to see the Bishops and Priests from the different traditions pray together with them. This program was organized jointly with the Catechetical Office of the Latin Patriarchate.

I hope and pray that one day we will all be united as one Body of Christ. The Synod encourages us to dream and this is my dream!


Ms Nadine Bitar

The Synod, Youth and the Laity

Allow me first to introduce myself, my name is Nadine Bitar- Abu Sahlia, I was born and raised in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem but after I got married, I moved to live in Reineh a small village between Nazareth and Kofer Cana. I obtained a BA in Youth Ministry and a master’s degree in Christian Ministry from North Park University/ Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. I worked for Terra Sancta Schools Central Office for two years. I currently work at the Catechetical Office of the Latin Patriarchate and also serve as the General Secretary of the Christian Youth in Palestine “The Youth of Jesus’ Homeland”.

I am standing here today to deliver the voice of my fellow youth who have been for so long disconnected from the Church due to many challenges that they have faced when it comes to expressing their faith or just for trying to get spiritual help from a consecrated person.  Unfortunately, we have lacked the message of our church’s Synod for years, and allow me to be honest with you, it will not be an easy task to restore this message. As I was reading the Spiritual conversation of this Synod, I could clearly see its main focus, active listening. For the past 20 years I have searched for so long for a consecrated person who is willing to accept me as I am. I am not saying that we do not have those persons in our diocese, we do, but we need more of those people to help the youth find refuge in our churches.

The spiritual conversation document says the following: “the spiritual conversation focuses on the quality of one's capacity to listen as well as the quality of the words spoken. This means paying attention to the spiritual movements in oneself and in the other person during the conversation, which requires being attentive to more than simply the words expressed. This quality of attention is an act of respecting, welcoming, and being hospitable to others as they are. It is an approach that takes seriously what happens in the hearts of those who are conversing. There are two necessary attitudes that are fundamental to this process: active listening and speaking from the heart.”

Based on the most recent study done by Juhod Foundation, having YJHP and the Catechetical office as partners for this study. We have come to one of the most unexpected percentage of 57% of the youth have lost their trust in the church authorities and any activities done through a church-based organization. This number should be concerning, and it needs to be discussed as we work on the Synod now and for the years to come. In fact, YJHP has been doing the work of the Synod years before the Vatican has thought about the idea.

We, the youth, do not only need someone to speaks to us from the heart, we also need someone who is willing to accept us from the heart. Someone who allows us to speak from the heart, without fearing the judgmental look of the person hearing. Many of our youth have experienced the lack of the listening process in our church’s for so long that they do not know how it feels like to be listened to. We need action to make sure that our words were heard. Just like faith is incomplete when it is not brought out through action and so is listening, it’s incomplete when no action is taken to fix what was broken. For this reason, YJHP has been working on establishing a headquarter centre for the youth to find refuge in. The main purpose of this centre is to create a safe haven for the youth. To make them feel welcomed and accepted. To make them feel that they are respected. To make sure that they are in a place that would pull them back from the darkest periods of their lives into the light of God. This centre has been our dream for years, and as part of the church’s action towards fulfilling the needs of the youth this centre should be its priority. We need your support to help those who live in exile away from the church even though it is within walking distance from them.

I pray to our Heavenly Father, to help those youth discover His presents in their lives. In addition, to the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us to reach our goal of creating a youth centre that will serve the youth, despite of their backgrounds. Our dream is to see the youth of Jesus’ Homeland spiritually alive to restore the church relationship with them.

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 Mr. Dima Ezrohi

The Synod, Hebrew Speakers, Migrants and Diversity

 The synodal process is taking place in the vicariates of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for Hebrew-speaking Catholics and for migrants and asylum seekers. Of course, although we speak only of two vicariates, the reality is much more complex: the Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum seekers encompasses a vast array of communities – Philippine, Indian, Sri Lankan, Eritrean, etc. – each with its concrete reality and, therefore, its synodal process, in a way. Given that there aren’t many native Hebrew speaking Catholics, the same is true for the St. James Vicariate – every community, even every believer, embodies a different reality in the church’s life. However, I’m not here to do PR services for my Vicariate in front of His Beatitude or Fr. David.

Today I want to speak to the future priests of the Patriarchate and say that a synodos also has to be an exodos: we have to go out to meet each other so that we can walk together. The migrant and Hebrew speaking communities cannot undergo the synodal process independently. It simply will not happen by each migrant community sitting in its church – or, more realistically, the apartment they rent a chapel – and thinking for itself. We are one church, and so we need to have one journey. The situation is complicated: although in the political landscape the Hebrew speaking society to which both vicariates firmly belong is the regional hegemon and majority, the situation is reversed in the life of the church; suddenly – the substantial majority turns to a minority and demands to be recognised as a partner for a journey. This is a difficult task: I can understand why a Palestinian Christian, who has enough refugees in his vicinity, might not pay much attention to the plight of Sudanese or Eritrean asylum seekers in Tel-Aviv or my dear friends who right now make their way out of the carnage fields in Ukraine. We all have a lot on our plate, especially the Palestinian people, so to demand from the Arab-speaking majority to make a place for us as partners for the way is to request something difficult. Unfortunately, Jesus never promised us an easy journey.

The Patriarch spoke about the church being a laos and not a demos: a people convoked, called out (ek-klesia), and not a social reality like the state or the polis. Sometimes we risk becoming a demos by letting political and ideological issues – hard though they are – decimate the church's unity from within. However, this is not only an obligation but also – and mainly – a gift. When we listen to the voices from the peripheries, we enrich ourselves. I always think of the image of the People coming to the civilised land of Canaan from outside, from the desert, from the limes, the limit. This is the biblical perspective, and it should be ours as well.

Actually, if we dare walk together, we will discover that there is something that unites all Christians in this land: our crosses. The experience of migration, being a fugitive, economic hardships, suffering from the unexpected twists and turns of life, and being the minority in a non-Christian society – all this is common, in some way at least, to all of us. When I teach catechism to migrant children in south Tel-Aviv, I often use a YouTube video that depicts Christ’s work of salvation on the cross: there is an abyss, we are on one side, God is on the other, suddenly, the cross descends from above and forms a bridge, a delicate but tangible pathway between both sides. This is what the cross can do for us; it can make us recognise our shared identity.

Last but not least: I want to talk about imagination. The Holy Father talks a lot about us daring to dream about the church of the future. But, before we can dream of the future of our local church, we must be able to imagine the reality of our catholic neighbour. Can you and I know it might be controversial to say, imagine the reality of an 18 years old Filipino Catholic whose most significant concern in life right now is her upcoming service in the IDF? Not only that, who dreams and prays to God to be stationed as a combat soldier, together with her Jewish friends? I know it is a harsh reality for my Palestinian sisters and brothers, but it is the reality of the Church. This young woman comes to the church and seeks answers, advice, accompaniment. Can we imagine her situation? We have to; she is a member of the body of Christ, as much as anyone else. Of course, her dreams might have been different had she met her sisters and brothers from the Palestinian side. She might have formed a more aware and complex picture of the situation in our beloved land. However, we didn’t give her a chance to meet them because we were overwhelmed by the difficulties, the divides, and daily realities. Finally – let us all walk together, it will not be easy, but it is the only way.


Ms Dima Kalak

The Synod and the Marginalized

 What makes this Synod a bit more special than any other previous synod is the fact that it came at a time when people are still struggling with COVID19.

This pandemic has affected every one of us differently whether in terms of health, or socially, emotionally, economically – it has affected our parents, children, friends, neighbours, and the list can go on.

In one way or another, we have all become vulnerable in our way.  For the last two years, vulnerability became even more obvious among those who were already struggling. Professionally, as a social worker, I think it has been one of the most challenging periods because of the level of marginalization and vulnerability that we have witnessed in the Holy Land was unprecedented.

For months, I was not able to welcome people or see them face-to-face and had to spend hours on the phone doing what I can to support these people. It was not easy. Many heads of households panicked because they could not provide basic needs to their families whether because they have lost their jobs or main source of income.  Couples struggled with their marriage, I was hearing more and more about marital problems including fighting, arguing and even physical violence. Many of elderly grandparents who were already struggling with loneliness and had to be isolated from loved ones for prolonged periods.  Many of our children have lost focus in virtual education and many did not even have the means to connect like their peers to online classes. Many people feel ill in one way or another- their illness ranged from light or grave- for some of the people they suffered as they saw their family members becoming ill. There were families who have even lost loved ones unexpectedly.

For me today, the Synod is more than a spiritual journey for the church. Restoring faith is of course part of it but restoring hope to the people who have struggled is also part of this journey.   The Catholic Church has played a critical role in the restoration of this hope and continues to do so even till today. The role that we play is an important one towards these vulnerable and marginalized whether providing basic needs, or group and individual counselling sessions or short-term job opportunities, medical support, medication and much more.  The need was so immense.

I was even encouraged by the solidarity and responsiveness of many families who wanted to help those who were struggling; many of the local Christian families have donated goods, clothes, or even cash to help us reach out the largest group of people possible.  A very powerful witness for feeling with the others.

Even if the pandemic ends today, there is a lot of rehabilitation that we have to do as part of the synod. So how can we continue this journey of restoring hope to those marginalized? How can we mainstream this Synod to those marginalized?  The first and most important things that we need to do is to Focus: we need to get these vulnerable people back on our top priority list deliberately and intentionally. This includes all those who are suffering: families, children, women, etc. For the last two years, our daily routine has changed so much that may have lost some focus; before we start the journey, we need to get our people right in front of us. Become focused and stay focused!

Healing through listening: there is so much brokenness out there; people continue to struggle in one way or another; there is so much healing to do with these people. The first step towards healing is listening. Not every person who approaches us wants money. Many need ears and hearts to listen to them with their struggles; couples are burdened, elderly continue to struggle and the first step towards their healing is that we listen to what they have to say.  Open the doors of your homes, churches and hearts…

Reaching out is another critical part. Not every person who struggles will come to us. We must look into the horizon to the marginalized who we may have gone missing for the last two years- from the community, church, society, club, society.  Some people may no longer be able to come to us for health or others who have socially felt left out and no longer find a place.  Let us leave our comfort zone to find these who need the help and support. Even when find resistance from people who may be hurting, at least we have done our part. Do not be afraid to go out to find them.

Action and prayer:  once we have restored focus, made ourselves available and reached out, we should by then know what these people really need.  If it is more than listening, it is time to take action: support maybe emotional or financial or even help people who struggle with their faith and need a prayer.

In all that we to assist these marginalized, we are humbled by our calling to be Christlike – to welcome people who are weary and help them carry their burdens. Here we are called to put them first and being there for them as it is necessary.


 

1st March, 2022

 

 

5TH ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCURSION – BEIT GUVRIN (MARESHA) & TEL AZEKAH

On Wednesday 9th March 2022, the students of the STS set out for an archaeological excursion to visit and learn about Bet Guvrin – the city of freedmen - and Tel Azekah.

BET GUVRIN – MARESHA.

The site is located in the Judean lowlands, approximately 275m above sea level. The Park, known famously as Maresha, the Biblical City, is large, with an approximate area of 1255 acres.

It is said that the remains of this site are from an early Israelite period that lasted till the Hellenistic period and was eventually destroyed in 40 BCE, during the combat among the Herod and Hasmoneans. Hasmoneans On the ruins of this settlement, a small-fortified metropolis was constructed throughout the Crusader duration. In the southern part of the site is Maresha, one of the towns of Judah in the first Temple era. According to (2 Chronicles 11: 8), this was the city built by Rehoboam. In 112 BCE, the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus captured Maresha as a part of an effort to convert the Edomite populace and destroy the town, which was completely destroyed in 40 BCE.

During the excursion, the students spent around three hours learning about and seeing the agriculture insolation complex, the Columbarium cave, the Oil Press Cave, the Villa, the Polish Cave, the Sidonian Cave, the Bath House, the Roman Amphitheatre, the Crusader Fortress, St Anne’s Church, The Bell Caves, the Maize Cave and the Villa. Unfortunately, some places were prohibited due to security, safety and archaeological reasons.

TEL MARESHA, the home of some Jews and Egyptians, is highly elevated, affording an excellent view of the Judean plains. The homes were constructed across the Acropolis, and underneath them, great areas have been excavated and used as cisterns, olive presses, and keep rooms. The Bell Caves are massive quarries from the Byzantine and Early Arab duration. The developers dug out a narrow sphere, beginning inside the caliche deposit, after which they quarried down, widening the pit more & more, eventually growing into a bell-like shape. The largest of the caves reaches 25 m. The Market Cave –within the partitions of the cave over 2000 alcoves were carved.

The Polish Cave – this cave firstly served as a cistern, but later became a columbarium. During World War II, the Polish squaddies from General Anders’ navy visited the area, and on a pillar nearing the ceiling, carved an inscription – “Warsaw, Poland” – and an eagle – image of the Polish navy. The Olive Press – the olive press is one of twenty-two underground olive presses from the Hellenistic period which have been located at Maresha to date. In the cave is a reconstruction of an historic set up for oil. Water cisterns have been located beneath the residences, accumulating rainwater in clay pipes and channels from the alleys, roofs and courtyards. The Bathtub Cave – contains small chambers wherein seats have been carved for using bathers. The Sidonian Burial Caves – these are simply many caves carved out by the Phoenicians residing at Maresha. One cave is referred to as the Apollophanes Cave, due to the fact a discovered inscription was located in it, commemorating Apollophanes, son of Sesmaios, chief of the Sidonian network in Maresha. St Anne’s Church – was constructed during the Byzantine duration, and became reputedly the most important church of its time in the land of Israel.

In the Roman Period, after the Bar Kochba revolt (135 – 132 BCE), Bet Guvrin became the relevant town of the district of Idumea- called Eleutheropolis (City of the Freedmen for short.) At this time, exceptional public homes were constructed, consisting of amphitheatres and bathhouses. The town flourished. Two aqueducts introduced water to the town, one sporting water from close by springs in the location of Tel Goded, and other, longer aqueduct, introduced water from the springs of Mt Hebron.

The amphitheatre – a great construction, in step with the fine Roman tradition for fights among gladiators and with wild animals. It is properly preserved, including the underground tunnels through which the competitors and the wild animals entered the arena.

TEL AZEKAH

Ancient Azekah, a crucial fortified town in the geographical jurisdiction of the Tribe of Judah, ruled one of the routes from the lowlands to the Judean Mountains. It is cited in the scriptures regarding Joshua's wars in opposition to the five Amorite kings and to the battle against Israel and the Philistines, whereby David slew Goliath: Azekah was the fortified town of Jeroboam, king of northern Israel.  When the Jewish community returned to Zion after the Babylonian exile, numerous households from the Tribe of Judah resettled at Azekah.

 

Amadeus Amani Meela

9th March 2022

STS DAY 2022

Tuesday, 1st March, the students of Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS) change their classroom benches to a stage and sports playground to celebrate STS DAY 2022. It was a special day to express their talents and cultural diversity.

In the first part of the morning program, the students and a good number of teaching staff gathered together in Don Bosco Hall. Various groups and individuals prepared a multicultural program to present their own culture and to celebrate being together in Jerusalem. On the program included different songs, dances, presentation of food, and skits about interculturality. In this variety, it was touching to see the interest of each of the present participants engaged to perform and to support others.

After a short break and refreshment, the second part of the program was outside on the playground. The main sports activity was volleyball and basketball. It was obvious to see that amongst the students of STS Jerusalem there are many not only gifted for theological studies, but at the same time, who are gifted for different sports. The games passed in a joyful and fair-play spirit with mutual respect.

With the celebration of STS DAY 2022, the students and teaching staff, who come from various countries and continents, show us how is it possible to be united in their faith and to enrich one another with their different cultures backgrounds and talents. An event like this encouraged by the Academic council and the student representative, continues to promote enthusiasm and thus maintains the family spirit in STS Jerusalem.

Ivan Dvoraček SDB

March 1, 2022

THE STS-UPS JERUSALEM CAMPUS TAKING A LEADING ROLE IN THE SYNODAL PATH IN JERUSALEM

         

At the initiative of the Studium Theologicum Salesianum, STS Jerusalem campus, a joint Assembly of the Theologates of the Holy Land was held on 1st March 2022 at the Franciscan hall of the Immaculate, St Saviour’s Monastery in Jerusalem. The event brought together students of Theology and their professors from all the theological centres of the diocese and of different congregations from all the Holy Land. The event that started at 4pm, was graced by his Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Patriarch of Jerusalem, as the chief guest, the Coordinator of the synod preparatory committee, Father David Neuhaus S.J. and the fifteen members of the Synod Preparatory Committee of whom six made presentations to the students, their professors and the religious men and women who were invited to the event.

After an introduction by Father Andrzej Toczyski, who was also the animator of the program, in which he defined the synod, giving the aim of the meeting, a prayer was said to open the session. The Patriarch of Jerusalem then officially opened the event with a speech that was mainly guided by the International Theological Commission document of 2018; Synodality in the Life of the Church. In his address, the Patriarch gave a brief history of the Synod in the church, what Synod is and what it is not and what is to be done in this Synodal process and what is not to be done, before commenting on the image that guides the Synod process in the Holy Land; the image of the disciples on the way to Emmaus, Luke 24, as the model of the Synodal Path in the Holy Land.

His speech was followed by the projection of a video of the official opening of the Synodal Path in the Holy Land by his Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Patriarch of Jerusalem at Kiryat Gat on the feast of our Lady Queen of Palestine.

The next to address the fully packed hall was Father David Neuhaus S.J., a professor of Studium Theologicum Salesianum Ratisbonne and at the same time coordinator of the Synod Preparatory Committee. He introduced the speakers, allocating each a ten minutes duration for his or her presentation. Being one of the speakers, he introduced us into the presentations with a talk on the Synod and learning to listen. He highlighted the need on the part of pastors to listen more than they talk.

The next talk was given Father Amrad Sbarra OFM, parish priest of the Jerusalem Parish who shared about the Synod and the Mission of the Church. He presented the way in which the Synod is being lived with the parishioners, highlighting family visits to children of catechism classes and to the families of the youth groups. “Now is the time to listen” he concluded.

Next to speak was Ms. Sawsan Bitar, a local Coordinator from the Sabeel Centre and also a member of the Ecumenical Committee of the Holy Land. She presented the Synod, Women and Ecumenism and highlighted the role of women in the Church and the views the synod presents as a hope for the people whose voices are not normally heard. She called for dialogue and a movement from where the clergy refer to themselves as we and the lay refer to them as them to a point of us, clergy and lay, for we are the Church.

To bring out the views of the youth was Ms Nadine Bitar, a lay female Chairperson of the Youth of Jesus’ Home Land and assistant at the catechetical centre at the Latin Patriarchate Jerusalem. She presented on the synod, youth and the laity. She said that many young people no longer feel listened to in the Church, adding that listening means active listening; accepting the youth from the heart by the way of giving them a good quality attention. The youth do not only need to be listened to or need to be accepted, they need to feel they are listened to and that what they are saying is taken seriously. Moving from words to actions.

Mr. Dima Ezrohi, a student of classical literature at the Flagellation and at the same time Catechist for the Hebrew Speaking Community and Migrant Workers, presented on the synod Hebrew speakers, migrants and Diversity. He brought to the attention of the audience the challenges the children of the migrant workers are going through in a society of minority in the Church but also in society.

Finally, Ms Dima Kalak, who works with the Caritas of the Latin Patriarch presented the Synod and the marginalised. She highlighted the generosity of the local Christians of the Old city in their support of the poor, especially in the time of the pandemic that devastated lives.

The whole event was conducted in the English language with a simultaneous Italian translation. After the speeches, there was an Open Forum for questions and comments. This successful event was concluded by a thanksgiving speech from Father Andrzej, to the speakers and the participants for honouring the invitation. The session concluded around 6pm with a few remarks from the Patriarch, a prayer and a blessing. All the participants were then invited to a reception for light refreshments and a cordial moment before departing back to their homes and communities.

- Henry Ssemakula SDB

March 1, 2022

 

 

FR MOSES WANJALA, PRESENTS HIS BOOK

Fr Moses Wanjala SDB, Assistant Professor at STS, presents his book, Foretaste of the Heavenly Liturgy. Commemorating, Celebrating and Living

Below is the cover page for his book

 

 

Click the following YOUTUBE link to view the presentation:   FORETASTE OF THE HEAVENLY LITURGY, 2015 Book by Moses WANJALA, SDB

To download a FREE COPY of the book click here

February 24, 2022

 

 

Fr Moses Wanjala SDB, presents his book

4TH ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCURSION: SOREQ – LATROUN – SAXUM – ABUGHOSH

At the beginning of the second semester our archaeological excursion, that took place on Monday the 21st February 2022, helped us discover some very important sites regarding our faith and the beauty of the nature near Jerusalem.

SOREQ CAVE: STALACTITES AND STALAGMITES

Our trip started with the peaceful and very pleasant visit of the Natural Reserve of Soreq, where we had the chance to visit the breath taking stalactite caves to be found there. The outside observation area, just after the access point, provides a view of the extent of the Natural Reserve and towards some parts of the Judea plain, where, among them, the city of Bet Shemesh is located. At the foot of the observation area, the quarry, whose work exposed the cave some decades ago, is to be seen. The explanatory video shown to us before entering the cave, gave us a general knowledge about the formation of the stalactites, as well as of the variety of shapes of the stalagmites that are illuminated in the cave by special artificial lights. Many stalactites and stalagmites, that accompany visitors all along the route, have namely particular forms. The most beautiful ones are the “pillar”, the “elephant’s ears”, and “Romeo and Juliette”, a stalactite and stalagmite that are almost, but not quite, kissing each other.

EMMAUS - NICOPOLIS

Hopping back on our bus, our trip headed towards Emmaus-Nicopolis, located approximately 30 km west of Jerusalem, on the border between the mountains of Judea and the valley of Ayalon. Emmaus existed as a village in Palestine until 1967 and due to its strategic position - told us by Brother Anthony, a religious belonging to the community of the Beatitudes - it played an important administrative, military and economic role in the region at certain points of its history. The first textual reference of Emmaus is found in the 1st Book of Maccabees and until today, the ruins of the old ancient basilica of the Byzantine period attestate the importance of this site for Christians. Among many scholars, and thanks to the discoveries of the last century, this place is considered to be the authentic Emmaus, where Jesus broke the bread with the two disciples, as narrated in the famous passage of the Gospel of Luke. In this significant place for our faith we had the chance also to share and challenge ourselves with the large themes of synodality that the current Synod in the Church is discussing.

LATRUN: THE TRAPPIST MONASTERY

Not far away from there, we were welcomed in Latrun Abbey, where one of its members warmly explained to us, the life of the abbey, as well as the fundamental principles of their spirituality. We took advantage of their lovely garden to enjoy our lunch, before visiting the centre of Saxum.

SAXUM

The Saxum Visitor’s Centre helped us deepen our knowledge of the Holy Land through different multimedia resources in order to enrich our experience of the Holy places and at the same time, enabled us to have a general overview on the different stages of Christianity over the centuries. Most appreciated were indeed the gentleness of the guide as well as the digital contents which gave us many good insights about our faith and the studies done until now.

ABU GOSH BENEDICTINE MONASTERY

Our trip ended in Abu Gosh, where we visited the church of the Benedictine abbey. Its beauty and simplicity is remarkable, as well as the presence of the Benedictine monks and nuns, who carry out a prophetic mission in this part of the Holy Land, namely the unity among believers. Their presence in the Muslim Israeli village of Abu Gosh fulfills the vision that places their community first of all within the mystery of salvation. In this place the Benedictines play an important role at the heart of the very diversity of this Land.

After this last visit we returned to our campus and, with the heart full of gratitude and beauty and the desire for the next archaeological excursion, indeed we can affirm that this was the best way to start the academic week.

Federico Schullern

21st February 2022