Because of its religious significance, the Holy Land attracts many persons; it is the place that gives witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a symbolic place for Christians, the Promised Land for Jews and, it is also the place where one will find the Dome of the Rock which, according to the Islamic tradition, enshrines the rock from which Muhammad ascended to heaven on a winged horse. All of those realities, which have great historical and traditional significance, attracted the Superior General, the Assistant Generals, the Secretary-General, and the Econome-General and led them to make their retreat/pilgrimage in this place (May 8-16). At the same time, they evaluated the work that they did during the past six years.
With great generosity, Father Ziad Haddad (Visitor) and Father Semaan Jamil (Provincial Econome) organized the schedule for this pilgrimage and provided the members of the curia with transportation, lodging and food. They began their journey at the Sea of Galilee and then traveled through Tiberius and Capernaum, visiting at the same time Bethlehem and Nazareth, and finally concluding their journey in Jerusalem. Throughout their travels they were able to rely on the assistance of Father Sterfano, SJ (a biblical expert who is responsible for the on-going formation of the Jesuits in Jerusalem) who provided them with basic information about each of the sites that was visited, contextualized those places within the present framework of biblical studies and also provided them with material for their refection and prayer.
In some of the more significant biblical places the members of the curia were able to take time for personal prayer and reflection and also to celebrate together the Eucharist. This opportunity to pray and meditate and celebrate the Eucharist in those places with such profound biblical significance was a wonderful experience that enabled the participants on this pilgrimage to deepen their spiritual and Vincentian roots. This experience was developed in an environment of joy and fraternity. In addition to the presence of Father Ziad and Father Semaan, the members of the curia met Father Khalil Maroun in Jerusalem and their journey was further enriched by the Daughters of Charity whom they met in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem (Bethany). The pilgrims spent time in these different communities and were able to celebrate the Eucharist with the Daughters (there were many joyful moments during all of these travels).
The final activity of this trip was to evaluate the work of the curia during these past six years. This was not a lengthy meeting but was enlightened by the experience of the pilgrimage. Each of the members spoke about an atmosphere of dedication to the mission and a spirit of collaboration among the persons residing in the curia. In general, their work had been developed around the lines of action that flowed from the 2010 General Assembly. The members spoke about many achievement and various initiatives with regard to Vincentian growth and development. At the same time, they pointed out various limitations, difficulties and challenges. As a result of the experience of these past six years some suggestions were offered in order to better the governing structures of the Congregation. All of this material will be presented to the next administration.
The members of the general council want to thank the Province of the Middle East for the gift of this visit to the Holy Land and at the same time they want to thank the Daughters of Charity for their kind and sincere welcome. Traveling to the Holy Land is always an enriching experience and above all, it is an opportunity to return to the roots of the Christian life. As the members of the curia come to the conclusion of their term of office it is hoped that this visit during the Year of Mercy will strengthen them in their spiritual pilgrimage to the encounter with Christ, the face of divine mercy. May they also continue to walk with renewed ardor along the merciful path of charity and mission that was initiated by Christ, evangelizer of the poor.
Translated: Charles Plock, CM