Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center: an oasis for migrants
TEL AVIV – Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center opened in February 2014 in South Tel Aviv. This is a place for migrant communities to come together to practice their faith and enjoy the many pastoral activities that are offered. Our Lady Woman of Valor is the main center for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, and as Father David Neuhaus, SJ said, offers an oasis where to find spiritual comfort, training and education and social programs.
Our Lady Woman of Valor Center, a place of spiritual life
In this Center, located in the heart of a neighborhood around the central bus station in Tel Aviv, the focus of activities is the pastoral care of migrants. The largest building, renovated in 2014, houses the church, which supports the spiritual, sacramental and religious life of many parishioners. There are in fact several hundreds or even a few thousands who have made Our Lady Woman of Valor Center their parish. Between Friday night and Sunday morning seven Sunday Masses are celebrated, each attended by some 400 faithful. After Mass they gather for a friendly meal, and the opportunity to share their daily lives with friends and community members.
Filipinos, Indians, Sri Lankans, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Sudanese or from other countries, all come here to find a place of spiritual comfort. The center also offers religious training and education for children following a suitable catechism in the Hebrew language, which they speak at school and in which they have learned to read and write. Thus they can prepare for the sacraments and this year, 50 children will make their first communion, and 25 will receive confirmation. After completing six years of catechism, some continue to come to the Center and participate in youth-group activities that grow gradually; soon they will have a place reserved for them where they can get together for activities.
A place where migrants find practical help according to their needs
The Center is above all a place where real social challenges are addressed daily, allowing migrants to find a more dignified life. To provide appropriate assistance, Father David Neuhaus, Latin Patriarchal Vicar and Coordinator of the Pastoral Care of Migrants, says “we have made a round of NGOs working with migrants, asking how the Church could support their work?” Notably, the responses gave rise to two initiatives:
- The creation of day care facilities for children under three years old: in September 2014, six children were welcomed at the center, there are now 51, supervised by a dozen people.
- Opening a room to accommodate patients convalescing at the Saint Joseph’s annex, another building nearby that was recently renovated. This is a response to a real problem faced by some migrants without social security; that they are taken care of in the case of serious illness. Often, once released from the hospital, they find themselves on the street, without work, without housing and without help. NGOs are looking for convalescent homes to accommodate them. Our Lady Woman of Valor Center, therefore seeks to address this need: a mother diagnosed with cancer is currently hosted there for three weeks with her 4 year-old daughter.
A dynamic place in the heart of the life of the Church
Father Michael “Mako” Grospe who came from the Philippines for a three-year mission, is the parish priest and director of Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center. He coordinates the different pastoral programs and activities, the buildings’ maintenance, and relations between chaplains, social worker and other people who work there. While his parish meets the poorest of the poor, he attaches particular importance to enlivening the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. Father Mako has also overseen the development of several initiatives such as collecting returnable bottles, “each parishioner returns the empty bottles, and the money received in exchange serves the parish’s charity.” Two pilgrimages were organized to enter the Doors of Mercy in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, “to allow parishioners to experience the mercy and love of God”. He also invited each of his parishioners to make a personal commitment to faithfully perform, throughout the year, a corporal work of mercy.
Calixte des Lauriers
Photos: © LPJ / Thomas Charrière