Holy Land. From 12 to 25 November 2022, the Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Mother Chiara Cazzuola, is visiting the Province of Jesus Adolescent (MOR), which includes seventeen Houses in five Middle Eastern countries: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan , Israel, Egypt.

After the visit in Libanon and then in Jordan, on 18 November Mother Chiara was welcomed at the airport of Tel Aviv in Israel, by some sisters of the Community of Jesus Adolescent of Nazareth and by some teachers and students of the School, to whom she said, “Thank you for your representative presence of each member of the School. I am very happy to have found you here waiting for me. I wish you to  be cheerful always on your journey towards the future. God and Mary Help of Christians bless you and your families.”

On reaching the house in Nazareth, to welcome her, in addition to the FMA Community and the Educating Community, there was also a ‘living’ holy family, who offered her various gifts. The evening concluded with dinner in an atmosphere of simplicity and joy.

The day of November 19 began with the Eucharistic Celebration in the Basilica of the Annunciation. It is from this very significant place that  Mother sent a brief video message

to all the FMA saying, “I had the opportunity to pray in the grotto where Mary answered Yes and I renewed to her the offering of the whole Institute, of each one’s yes. I prayed for our fidelity and also that, through her intercession, we may receive many holy vocations.”

After a brief visit to the Community of Jesus Adolescent of the Salesians of Don Bosco, welcomed by the Director Fr. Munir El Rai, she began to receive the sisters and then gathered them together, leaving them the commitments of being an attentive presence as helpers, especially among the young people, and ongoing personal formation. In concluding, she exhorted them to continue with courage, with a big and generous heart like Mary’s. She ended her talk with this thought:

“We are in Nazareth, in the city of the ‘Yes’, of an expectancy that changes the world, and we have a life traced out by Mary’s ‘Yes’. I was happy to find all the sisters joyful. I wish you a good continuation on the journey.”

In the afternoon, she was accompanied to Child Jesus Community of Cremisan, in Palestine, where, together with the FMA, there were also the SDB confreres of the Communities of Bethlehem and Cremisan waiting for her. In the chapel, the animator, Sr. Vartouhi Melkon, welcomed her on behalf of the whole community and briefly presented the history of the house.

At the end of solemn Vespers on the eve of the feast of Christ the King, all those present shared a supper in fraternal joy. Mother thanked the confreres for their presence and for the collaboration between the FMA and SDB communities, with these words, “I am happy that there is this beautiful collaboration between you. We live the same spirit, and it is right that we help each other.”

On Sunday 20 November, after the Eucharist and breakfast, Mother Chiara made herself available for a personal conversation with each sister. Later in the morning, she was welcomed by the Educating Community with songs and dances typical of Palestinian folklore, and was invited to plant an olive tree as a sign of peace. The visit to this community ended with a encounter with the teachers and then with the FMA.

In the early afternoon, Sr. Roberta Tomasi, Animator of St. John Bosco Community  in Jerusalem, and Sr. Mercedes Martin, Vicar, joined Mother and the Provincial, Sr. Charlotte Greer, to accompany them to Jerusalem, the last stage of this part of the Visit in Holy Land.

To welcome her were the sisters of the Community, who offered Mother Chiara a bouquet of olive branches, a symbol of the peace desired by all. During a brief moment of prayer in the Chapel, a passage from the history of the work was read and  Mother was invited to place olive branches on the altar to ask for peace, not only for Jerusalem, but for the whole world, especially where at this moment the FMA are experiencing difficult situations.

The Community then presented her with a video with the external changes of the House made to make it more suitable for welcoming pilgrims and with old and new photographs of the faces of past and present sisters. After the singing of the Magnificat, Mother Chiara spoke to the community, emphasizing the need to live the attitude of attentive presence and the importance of bearing witness to unity in service to pilgrims. The dialogue continued with a sharing on Project Jerusalem.

On 21 November, Mother’s Day began in a very special way, with the Eucharistic Celebration at the Holy Sepulcher, a unique occasion to pray once again for the FMA Institute and for the Salesian Family, from “this place very important for us Christians, which calls us so strongly to faith and hope. Jesus suffered, gave His life, but He rose again. And this motivates our human existence so much, as well as all the effort and beauty of the educational mission,” she said in a video message of greeting.

During the morning, she met each FMA personally and received a visit from some Salesian confreres of the International Theological Studentate of Ratisbonne, in Jerusalem. In the afternoon, she was taken to Tel Aviv airport to go to Egypt.

Mother Chiara Cazzuola’s visit to the Holy Land lasted a few days, but she left in the hearts of all the FMA the joy of feeling heard and above all loved.

Photos: Flickr FMA