“Who can find a woman of valour?”: this is the passage from the book of Proverbs (31,10), with which the Jews honour the figure of the woman, during the Shabbat dinner, which introduces the day of rest of the Sabbath. They are words which the migrant women who work in Israel will have heard many times. It is inspired by these words that the immigrant workers and refugees (the majority of whom are women) celebrate every 10 May the feast of “Our Lady, Woman of Valour” at the Pastoral Centre for Migrants in Tel Aviv. Every year, the day chosen for the celebrations is that of the Saturday nearest the date, which is also the migrants’ day off.
This year again, the migrants from the various linguistic communities, women and men, mothers and children, priests and religious, gathered on 8 May for the festive Mass. The celebration was presided by Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, and concelebrated by Mons. Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, and Father Rafic Nahra, Coordinator for the Pastoral of the Migrants, together with priests and chaplains of the Filipino, Indian, Sri Lankan communities and of the Ge’ez Rite (Ethiopians and Eritreans).
Fr. Francesco underlined in his homily the real characteristics of the “Woman of Valour”, explaining this Marian title: “The ideal woman has the face of a wife, a mother, a woman who works and knows what running a household means.” The Custos said that the ideal of a woman can be seen in the face of the Virgin Mary, but also in the face of every migrant present at the celebration.
Reflecting on the Gospel of the sixth Sunday of Easter, Fr. Francesco added that the woman of valour “can love with her whole being and without making any preferences”, saying therefore, that “this is how mothers love and this is how God loves. And God wants everyone of us to learn how to love.” The Custos also recalled the words of Pope Francis for the day of refugees last 3 May, highlighting the need of the human community to walk together like a family and live together in harmony and peace, breaking down walls and building bridges to open up to the culture of encounter.
Although there were few participants, still because of the health protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic, the community of migrants of this small pastoral centre still had the usual climate of joy and celebration, with songs and readings in different languages, but without forgetting to remember in prayer their families in their homelands, severely affected by the pandemic.
After the Mass, everyone was invited to the fraternal agape where typical dishes from every country were offered, to open up to and share the culture of the others.
In Israel, there are about 100,000 immigrant workers and about 30,000 asylum seekers. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem opened the first chaplaincies for migrants at the end of the 1990s and in 2018 the Coordination for the Pastoral of Migrants was transformed into a Vicariate for migrants and asylum seekers, to meet the new challenges of the migratory situation in the Holy Land. At the same time, the Patriarchate also erected the personal parish of the Holy Family.
The Custody of the Holy Land collaborates actively with the pastoral of the migrants and refugees, with the friars acting as chaplains and spiritual assistances in various shrines and parishes.
Fr. Mark VertidoPalafox