Maison d’Abraham – “a treasure meant basically to the poor”
JERUSALEM – the Maison d’Abraham, entrusted to the Secours Catholique, welcomes pilgrims and visitors, of all religions, coming on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The management team was renewed last year, with a new director, a new chaplain, and new sisters within the community.
The “Maison d’Abraham” was opened in Jerusalem within a former Benedictine monastery. It was founded in 1964 by Bishop Jean Rodhain, Head of the Secours Catholique, at the request of Pope Paul VI: “After Lourdes, it’s Jerusalem. After the poor of Lourdes, it’s the poor of Jerusalem; it’s the Holy Virgin who marks the foundations”. Located at Ras al Amud in East Jerusalem, its goal consists of welcoming pilgrims of all religions who wish to come to Jerusalem with special interest towards the more poor, “enabling poor pilgrims of all religions to come over to Jerusalem” (Paul VI to Secretary General of Secours Catholique in 1964.
The new Director Cecile Roy came here early 2016 with her husband and four children. She had known the Maison, as she stayed there several times before. Her mission, in addition to administration, is to coordinate different components of the House team: employees, volunteers and community of Sisters (Dominican Sisters of Tours). Fr Jean-Claude Sauzet, from the diocese of St Denis in France, and Fidei Donum (*) at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem had come just before her. His mission at Maison d’Abraham is to “facilitate the understanding of the present situation in Palestine and Israel in the light of the Social Pastoral Work of the Church by involving local actors”. He is the link between dioceses of France, Africa and Latin America, through meeting pilgrimage directors. Fr. Sauzet will work jointly with the chaplaincy of prisons in Israel.
A place of prayer in the middle of Ras Al Amud
The Maison operates with a community of Dominican Sisters of Tours, a team of local employees and French-speaking volunteers. The volunteers come here to live an experience of community life, by putting themselves at the service of the Maison for one month in general. They are selected by a committee composed of sisters of the community and management. The committee tries to keep a certain harmony among the groups of volunteers, through a diversity of ages, experiences and efficiencies: “The aim is that each may take advantage of his stay to learn more, and to explore the Holy Land a little more”, says Cecile Roy. The team of the Maison is there to talk to pilgrims and to answer their questions. The Maison d’Abraham is a place of peace in the center of a difficult neighborhood of Ras AL Amud, a few meters away from a settlement over which hovers the Israeli flag. It brings forth a strong presence by organizing feasts with inhabitants of the neighborhood, namely on certain major Muslim feasts: “The Maison lives with Ras Al Amud – we experience the same water cuts, the same power failures, and the inhabitants know it – and thus it is a place of welcome rooted in this neighbourhood”, says Fr. Sauzet.
A House “open to all children of Abraham”, as its founder Mgr Jean Rodhain wished it to be
Among the missions of the House is explaining to pilgrims and visitors about the place where they live: “we are doing an educational work of respect, starting from the place where pilgrims reside – says Fr. Sauzet . We explain to them the context in which the inhabitants of the quarter live in and we teach them to respect the reality of people over here”. That is illustrated through Voyages experience of Secours Catholique, open to all, proposing visits of the country, times of sharing with inhabitants and meeting with communities: “we urge them to understand the place they come to”, explains further Cecile Roy. A pilgrimage project for the homeless from France to the Holy Land is under preparation for 2017.
Maison d’Abraham is also a place of resources for those involved in Secours Catholique and Caritas, and proposes sessions of training with teaching times, exchange of practice and skills, according to needs.
Special attention is given to pilgrims of the Middle East, and the team puts everything in practice to welcome and facilitate the coming of pilgrims. The team will welcome soon a group coming from Jordan, on a visit to Jerusalem, and for prayers at the Holy Places. For Cecile Roy, the mission of the Maison is clear: “priority for the poor to give them the chance to come to Jerusalem. Maison d’Abrahm is treasure meant basically to the poor”.
Text : Thomas Charrière
Photos : Sr Evelyne, Cecile Roy, Fr Jean Claude Sauzet
- Fidei Donum : two Latin terms in the foreword of Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on 21 April 1957, called “ Fidei Donum”, calling on bishops to bear with him “the concern of the Universal Mission of the Church”, not only through prayer and help, but also in putting some of their priests and faithful at the disposal of dioceses from other Continents. Priests will remain attached to their original diocese and come back to it after several years in mission. They are often called “Priests Fidei Donum” (source://www.eglise.catholique.fr)