“Teaching is a vocation that comes from God. Just as God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, God has sent you for these children, to give them a Christian and a human education.” These were the words of Fr. Ibrahim Faltas to the teachers of the Palestinian Holy Land Schools who met in Bethlehem on 20th December in St Catherine’s Church. The Custody wanted to wish a Merry Christmas to the teachers who work in its schools in Palestine with a Solemn Mass presided by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and where Fr. Faltas, director of the central office of the Holy Land Schools, together with other head teachers of the schools, were also present.
The passage of the Annunciation, proclaimed at the time of the Gospel, inspired in the Custos a reflection on the way God entered the life of humanity and our lives: respecting our freedom, making an “offer” to follow him, as with Mary. “What does God ask us? To be able to keep silent, reflect and listen to the voice of God, like Mary,” said Fr. Patton.
The participants came from the Hellen Keller School in Beit Hanina, from the two schools in Jerusalem and from the schools in Jericho and Emmaus.
“Every year there is a mass at Christmas, but each school holds its own, The difference this year is being altogether in Bethlehem,” explains Sister Frida, head teacher of one of the Jerusalem schools. “The children’s education is very important and it is important that they are autonomous in life. Succeeding in having a diploma helps them get a start in life.” The head teacher belongs to the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, a congregation which has worked in Palestine since 1848.
The standard of excellence of the Holy Land schools also has a long tradition and is widely acknowledged. For example, the Bethlehem school alone has about 1,200 pupils (aged from 3 to 18). Throughout the Holy Land, there are at least 10,000 youngsters educated in the Custody’s schools, guaranteeing an all-round education and contact between children of different religions and different cultural traditions.
The meeting with the teachers of the schools continued after the Mass with a short procession by the children from St Catherine’s church to the nearly “Il Cantico” ice cream shop. In the outdoor area the Custos Father blessed a statue of the Child Jesus, sculpted in olive wood by the Bethlehem artist, Zaccaria.