On the Saturday following the feast day of St Anthony, the Custos of the Holy Land traditionally visits the parish of St Anthony of Jaffa. This year as well, the Custos celebrated the Saint from Padua on 12 June with the parishioners of Jaffa. In addition to the Arab Catholic community, there are numerous communities of immigrants in Jaffa, who receive spiritual assistance both in the parish of St Anthony and in St Peter’s church, in the old city.
“We celebrated the triduum for St Anthony and then the Custos of the Holy Land took part in the procession with the statue of the Saint, which from our church of St Peter reaches the parish of St Anthony,”explained the parish priest Fr. Agustin Pelayo. “Every year hundreds of people take part in the procession. After Holy Mass, celebrated in the open air outside the church, there was the moment of blessing the new parish centre.” These are new rooms next to the parish, which have been built thanks to the economic support of the Custody of the Holy Land, the generosity of local donors and also the contribution of the Jaffa city council, which financed the play area.
The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton,inaugurated the new multifunctional rooms in the presence of the parishioners and of the authorities of Jaffa city council. To continue the climate of joy, the celebration continued with a dancing competition, a contest of national dress from the countries of origin of the participants and a cooking competition, to then conclude with dinner.
“The restoration was possible also thanks to the contribution of the parishioners,” explained Fr. Agustin. During the Marian month, every day I took a small holy card into the homes where I had a prayer meeting, and many of them then wanted tomake a donation, to buy flowers for the church, for example. Sometimes I am even stopped in the street and people ask me how to donate money for the poor.”
In the parish of St Anthony, there are only two Franciscan friars in service today, but their efforts were very important to remain alongside the local Christians during the long period of Coronavirus. “We built a platform in the courtyard, to celebrate masses in the open air during Coronavirus,” the parish priest went on. “The church is the only place where the Christian immigrants can be themselves: they bring food, cook and the children play. This is why we have built new rooms with various kitchens. We have also inaugurated a room which will be used to receive condolences for the deceasedaccording to local custom, a room for Sunday school, and a room for catechism in preparation for First Communion and Confirmation.”
The new multifunctional rooms are ready to welcome the activities of the parish and immigrant communities. Collaborating on the pastoral activity for the local Christians, there is also St Peter’s church, a shrine in the care of the Franciscans, where seven priests of different nationalities live. “Each of us takes on the task of look after a different Christian community,” explained Fr. Eduardo Sanchez Vélez, the superior of the convent. “Here we have the Hebrew, Polish, Hispanic, Filipino, Indian and African communities. Our fraternal life is beautiful and interesting because we share bread and everyday life with different people but at least we are united by the language we use to communicate and to pray: sometimes in English, sometimes in Hebrew, sometimes in Italian.”