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Volunteers with the Franciscans of the Holy Land

About 20 people were busy Friday, January 24th, at “Maria Bambina”, this place of welcome in the Old City of Jerusalem. Volunteers for the Franciscans of the Holy Land, they share much in common, but they also have many differences: nationality, age, profession, convictions and spiritual pathways, as well as the length of time each has decided to dedicate to this experience of service (several weeks to three months, but also up to several years).
On this weekend, waiting to welcome them to their “home,” were several Franciscan friars, including Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land. Dinner, which the Friars themselves carefully prepared, gave the newest arrivals the opportunity to meet the Friars for the first time, and for the others to deepen their bonds of friendship.
The Friars haven’t failed to thank the volunteers who come in succession to the Holy Land and who, in tangible ways, contribute to the mission of St. Francis. For example, there is Riccardo, 28 years old, who has been in Jerusalem for more than three months. He met the Franciscans in Assisi in Italy and, moved by their spirituality, decided to continue the adventure alongside them. Today, he is a volunteer for the Association pro Terra Sancta (the Custody’s nonprofit, nongovernmental organization of the Holy Land), and works in research for funding of the Friars’ projects. He is also involved in the Association’s communication services.
Alongside him: Ada, a journalist originally from Rome who came to help the Franciscans in their audiovisual communications and information services. Each day, she reports on the holy sites, or participates in main liturgical events. “This volunteering has enabled me to discovery in depth not only the Holy Land, but also those who live here. And I have had the chance to report this to others,” said this young woman in her thirties who, smiling, remembers with emotion her participation in the midnight Mass of Bethlehem. A few meters further on we meet Elisa who arrived in November of 2012. The volunteers affectionately call her the “light of the home,” she who is like a big sister to the family. Also in her thirties, Elisa is an architect and dedicates her time to the renovation or reconstruction of Christian homes in the Old City in Jerusalem.
Then there is Marcello, a volunteer at the library of the Custody, with the responsibility to compile the inventory of magazines and antique manuscripts. “At the university, my professor spoke to me of a project in Jerusalem. I had completed my studies and was searching for work. It was the moment to take on the adventure and I have not regretted it. I learn a great deal, on many levels, but what most strikes me is this humanity. In Europe, the media speak only of the conflict, the wall, the divisions. The Custody offers me – daily – examples of sharing, of initiatives for peace and for dialogue,” affirms this young Italian.
There is much knowledge and competence among these volunteers who have the joy of sharing their daily life at Maria Bambina. We wish for them that, when they return home, they have been transformed by this experience in the Holy Land, as have been those who preceded them.

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