First Church in the Holy Land dedicated to Blessed Marie-Alphonsine
NAZARETH – The Sisters of the Rosary, Nazareth, observed the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary on Monday, October 7, 2013. This year, the feast day was more solemn and significant than usual as the new chapel of the house belonging to the Rosary Sisters and dedicated to Blessed Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas, their co-founder, was blessed.
Due to the Patriarch’s prior commitments, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel was invited to preside over the celebration, which has a historical dimension too, considering that it is a newly built Church. Also taking part were the concelebrants: Fr. Amjad Sabbara, ofm, Latin parish priest of Nazareth; Fr. Emil Shoufani, Greek Catholic Parish Priest of Nazareth; Fr. Emile Salaytah, Ecclesiastical Court Vicar for Jerusalem and Nazareth; Fr. Elias Odeh, Parish Priest of Reneh; Fr. Bassam Deir, Parish Priest of Shefaamer; Fr. Samer Haddad, Parish Priest of Rameh; Fr. Labib Deibes, parish priest of Jenin; Fr. Simon Hijazine, Vicar of Zababdeh; Fr. Firas Aridah, Parish Priest of Jifna; Fr. Henri Lamasse, scj, Fr. Gianmaria Giannazza, sdb; Fr. Paolo Onore, sjc; Fr. Jack Karam, ofm
The new Church can accommodate comfortably up to one hundred persons, but almost 200 persons attended, including Mother Ines Al Yacoub, Superior General of SRJ (Sisters of Rosary of Jerusalem); Sr. Octavia Gharabet, a Council member and local Superior, and her community, some forty Rosary sisters from Galilee and even from the North of Palestine; other nuns; lay faithful from the neighborhood; and the staff of the “Rosary crèche”
The ceremony was very simple, but very eloquent, given its many symbols. The Blessing of the Church with Holy Water took place at the beginning of the Mass. After the homily, the Bishop performed the rite of consecrating the altar: litany of the saints, positioning of the relics, including those of Blessed Marie Alphonsine, the dedication prayer, the anointing of the altar with the Holy Chrism, solemn incensing, adornment, ornamentation and illumination. Liturgical service was provided by the altar servants of the Basilica of the Annunciation, guided by the master of ceremonies, Fr. Simone Hijazine; singing was performed by the choir of the Rosary Sisters.
A new church is a stronger presence of the Church in the country,
During the homily, the Bishop said about the feast day: “the Holy Rosary is the Word of God, the mysteries of salvation, life of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles and the Church – all transformed into prayers. The Rosary is a genuine school of faith. It is a cycle of prayers and spirituality very appropriate to Church of the Holy Places, our Mother Church of Jerusalem”. He further added: “It is pleasant and natural that the Congregation, born in Jerusalem, thanks to a nun from Jerusalem, Blessed Marie Alphonsine, at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, bears the name of the Sisters of the Rosary, the sisters whom we very warmly congratulate today for the feast day and for the new Church”
He then explained briefly the theology of the rites of benediction by drawing the following spiritual and pastoral conclusion: “a new church is a ‘localized, personalized and historicized, in short incarnated’ presence of the Lord in the world. It is therefore an additional occasion for the sanctification of the person, the hour and the time. A new church is a stronger and more widespread presence of the Church in the country, upholding a commitment, and a more sincere testimony of the faithful. On the blessing of the new Church, we rejoice, we thank the Lord, we deepen, we purify more our belonging to Church, as God’s people and servants of Humanity.”
Concluding the Mass, Mother Ines thanked all present, particularly, the architect Jiries Awwad; the foreman, Elias Awwad; craftsmen Ramzi Dibbini (carpenter who shaped an attractive cover piece of the Tabernacle), Amin Andraws and Russian-born Mikhaiyl (artistic stained glass of Biblical scenes from Nazareth and surroundings); she offered them as well a small but beautiful reliquary containing a relic of Blessed Marie Alphonsine. Mother Ines invited all the guests to participate in a reception for well wishers in the convent garden, which was also very well designed and restored.
The House of the Sisters of the Rosary of Nazareth has also become a fully developed, spacious, beautiful and friendly center for the service and welfare of the local community, especially for the many pilgrims
By our correspondent in Nazareth