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Dear families, friends, benefactors and volunteers


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Carmel,

Dear families and friends,

Dear benefactors and volunteers,

 

Merry Christmas and Holy Year 2024

 

 We are glad to reach you all, beyond our walls, beyond the city and the country, and even beyond the seas!


According to the custom of end-of-year circulars, we would like to offer you a hindsight of the year 2023. It is not easy to go back before the shock of October 7th, as this date impressed us, with the sudden aggression, the atrocities committed near Gaza, and the danger involved by the mass infiltration of extremist fighters.

After the alerts on Jerusalem in the morning of Our Lady of the Rosary, a great silence fell on the Holy City, like a deep Shabbat: deserted streets, closed shops, construction sites at a standstill... Little by little, despite a few attacks which recall the ever-present danger, life slowly came back closer to normal. Yet, without tourists nor pilgrims, many of whom had come back to pilgrim in Holy Land after the lifting of the covid 19 restrictions. Special flights were organised to repatriate foreigners, volunteers and collaborators, even forcing to leave those who wanted to stay. Some religious people decided to leave the country, because of the risks of unrest and of the spread of the war. This is terrible for Gaza, and its consequences are felt by the Palestinian population and throughout the country; there is a real risk of a conflagration in the region. Several times the agitation reached our Palestinian neighbourhood, but quite surprisingly for us, much less than during previous wars.

With you, we intensely lived the days of October 17th and 27th, and continue to pray together, without yet foreseeing the time for the silencing of weapons. Let us hope and pray for an end to the war, and for a reconciliation to take root with the conditions of true justice and conviviality between folks.

 

In these circumstances, we soberly and faithfully celebrated October 15th, feast of St. Theresa of Jesus (of Avila), and 150th anniversary of the Foundation of our Carmel (1873), the Silver Jubilee of our Sister Hélène de la Sainte Croix, and the taking of the habit of the Carmel of Sr Ange-Olga de la Sainte Face. Mgr Shomali presided the Eucharistic celebration, accompanied by Mgr Marcuzzo, and several priests and a brotherly assembly of friends.

On June 7th, we celebrated the centenary of our Sister Marguerite Marie of Jesus and the Virgin, among friends, Christians, Jews and Muslims, who came from the neighbourhood, the surrounding area, even from France and from further afield, as a testimony of friendship for our sister, well known to everyone since she passed her life welcoming all.

 

Throughout the year we joyously and gratefully welcomed well-known and new volunteers. There fraternal service is essential for our craftwork’s store, our livelihood, and is also a precious aid during the season of the picking of the olives. The French national domain of the Eleona is closed once more, but we know the bound of brotherhood and their availability remain for the days of the re-opening of the pilgrimage. Thanks to all: those who returned, those who dare to come, those who inform about this opportunity to serve while living in the holy places and visiting the country.

With the help of Father Stéphane, OFM, new texts for the Pilgrims' Mass celebrated in this holy place were prepared in various languages, according to the new official translations. We hope for the text in Portuguese soon.

 

During this year, we started receiving guests through the “Ritrit” website. The next arrivals will now benefit from the renovation works which were done in all the hosts’ and guest’s rooms. After months of preparation, and pieces of advice given by the Pontifical Mission, they began on June 15th, thanks to funding of the Monastery Foundation and the Aid to the Church in Need.


These renovation works were suddenly stopped on October 7th, as the workers mainly came from Bethlehem area, and were no longer allowed to enter Jerusalem. Little by little however, thanks to their dedication and ingenuity, these renovation works could be finished. We wholeheartedly thank all: workers, site manager, and project managers, engineer and architect.

 

The support group for nuns, a mutualisation group which began in the very particular situation of covid 19, enables us to meet with committed Christians who share their skills with us. We feel we are brothers and sisters. Thanks to their pieces of advice, and along with several communities, projects are currently studied, like the installation of photovoltaic panels.


Intercommunity ties in our Church in the Holy Land do not solely take place for some prosaic issues. The synodal meeting of the contemplative nuns of the Holy Land in May brought us to Abu Gosh and Saxum where we listened to a very interesting conference given by Sr. Maria Chiara, lsj, on interculturality. This is a challenge which concerns our community lives, the relationships that we experience on a daily basis with our neighbours, with traders, etc., Jews, Christians and Muslims.


In September, Yiska Harani led a group of 34 Jewish people to our Benedictine neighbours and to our monastery. They were willing to have a better knowledge on the Christian monastic world. We were also interested and touched by their questions and their friendly presence. Several of our Sisters continue to learn Arabic, or Hebrew. These courses allow nice encounters.

 

The summer period was studious while working on the revision of our constitutions promulgated in 1991. A federal session in Nazareth (September 24-29) brought together sisters from our different Carmel monasteries to share their thoughts and debate on this topic. Sr Agathe was elected as delegate for our federation, and shall attend the meeting of delegates from all the federations of the Order, which will be held next April in Rome. This meeting aims to submit suggestions to our Father General.

 

Along with the Order of Carmel, we have begun fraternal community meetings to share on the Autobiographical Manuscripts of St. Theresa of Lisieux. She shall be our companion until 2025. She also was, very providentially, our community’s patroness this year.

 

In the very first days of January, Sr Marie Madeleine returned from Tangier where she performed a fraternal service of French teaching. Sr Marie-Inès went in May to help our sisters in Fayoum. Back “home”, both shared pictures and memories of their stay, helping us get closer to our sisters in Morocco and Egypt, in their fraternal life and their environment. Through the Carmel monasteries of our federation, we were very sensitive to the misfortunes suffered by the populations during the earthquakes in Turkey-Syria and Morocco.


The community was happy in turn to welcome Sr Karmela from Bethlehem for a “little French course”. We also received, later, Sr Françoise of Nazareth before her return to Madagascar, and Sr Ana Klara and Sr Violeta, from the Carmel of Fayoum, before their imminent return to Brazil.

 

Father Michael, ofm, very faithfully climbs the mount of Olives every two weeks for confession; and our White Fathers (Mafr), daily as chaplains. We are grateful for their readiness.

 

We were happy to welcome Msg Michel Sabah again. He is as captivating as ever when he talks about the country, its Church, its people.

Now we await our Patriarch Pierbazsta Pizzaballa, created cardinal on September 30th, returning promptly from Rome when the war broke out.

 

This year gave us the opportunity to joyfully meet some of our families and friends, to receive several of our Carmelite fathers, including in March our Father General, Fr Miguel... "Dear father, a wood stove is now installed: you can come back, even in January! instead of the freezing cold, a good fire will welcome you!”. Father Jean Joseph Bergara, ocd, now Delegate for the Holy Land, has become our superior, delegate of the Patriarch: with our Federal President, Sr Anne Françoise of Bethlehem, he carried out the canonical visitation and on July 17th, he presided over our triennial elections and Sr Marie Agnès was elected Prioress.

Father Jean Emmanuel for a year at Stella Maris, continued to give us a taste of the Song of Songs. Cardinal Barbarin gave us a teaching on St Irenaeus; Father Beaumer, O.Praem on sacramentality, while Father Christian Marie, ocso, who joins us every 3 months, continued his teaching on the liturgy.

 

For more than a year, Claire trained us in singing, with benefit we hope, until her departure in August: we remember her pieces of advice with gratitude, and we remember the "Hail Mary " she composed on the occasion of our sister's centenary!

 

We followed an ICP day conference by zoom on “Physical cloister and digital cloister”. The mistress of novices participated in a session in Avon. She and the prioress also attend the 2nd year of the Talentheo cycle. Three of our young sisters followed a “Biblical Wisdom and Spiritual Accompaniment” session, with Alain-Joseph Setton, in Bethlehem, from which they returned very satisfied. The “Inter-Novitiate” meetings continue on a semi-annual basis. After obedience and chastity, the next meeting shall begin the reflection on poverty. In February 2023, Father Luc Pareydt, sj led the day which took place in our monastery.

 

A year has passed and over the days the most important is to pray and love. The year that is about to open will keep the desire to seek the Lord, He who comes to us in the manger and constantly calls us to follow Him in our particular vocation. We are already praying for each one and all of you. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God, “speak to the heart of Jerusalem” (Is 40).

 

May Emmanuel be our strength, our Joy, our Peace, and enlighten our lives, in our groaning world!
 
Your sisters of the Carmel of Pater Noster Jerusalem!


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