A week of formation for the new Custody of the Holy Land missionaries

They attended a full week's worth of courses to understand the complexity of the Custody in depth. The new missionaries, who arrived in the Holy Land to serve in the special Franciscan province of the Middle East, were trained to understand the context in which they now live and to be better prepared to face challenges. Of those who arrived in Jerusalem this year, before and after the summer, there were 19 friars who participated in the training week. The courses took place from December 4 to 9. They covered different topics, which included the legislation of the Custody (with Fr. Dobromir Jasztal), history (with Fr. Narcyz Klimas), the sanctuaries (with Fr. Sinisa) and celebrations at the Holy Places (with Fr. Stéphane Milovitch).

“The relationship of the friars with the other Christian churches has been a revelation for me,” said Br. Orlando, who arrived at the Custody of the Holy Land from Bolivia a few months ago. “Everything is interesting and provides not only a geographical but also a social vision of the context.”
During the week [of formation], in fact, we had the opportunity to deepen the work of ecumenism and dialogue of the Custody with the Eastern churches. Topics that were discussed included Christians in the Middle East with Fr. Nerwan Al-Banna, pastor of Church of St. Savior, Islam with Br. Aquilino Castillo and Judaism with Br. Alberto Pari. The entire program was carried out under the coordination and guidance of Br. Marcelo Ariel Cichinelli, guardian of St. Savior’s Monastery and Moderator for the ongoing formation of the Custody of the Holy Land. The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, himself, was present at the formation, opening the [orientation] week with an introduction on the Custody.

The new missionaries will therefore not be unprepared before the diversity of people and situations faced by the Franciscan friars of the Custody on a daily basis. For this reason, besides theoretical lessons, field trips were also required. Br. Jad Sara accompanied the new [missionaries] to visit the Old City of Jerusalem; Br. Ibrahim Faltas led the friars to learn about the situation of the schools, while Fr. Abdel Masih Fayez talked about the Custody’s parish pastoral approach to education during a dinner at the monastery of Ramleh.
Cultural and archaeological trips to Mount Zion, the Mount of Olives and the Via Dolorosa with Br. Alessandro Coniglio from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum were also part of the program. The spiritual dimension was also significant, leading those present to participate in the Via Crucis on the Via Dolorosa on Friday and in the sung mass at the Holy Sepulcher.

The friars were greatly impressed by the course. A young Franciscan from Bosnia said that he learned a lot through the formation week: "I was shocked by many aspects [of what we learned] and everything is new to me. I wanted to learn about the history of the Old City. Beforehand, I had only read a few things about Jerusalem, but now I have seen it with my own eyes.”

Beatrice Guarrera