Franciscan presence in Haifa for the start of the school year in September

The Carmelites of Haifa have decided to relinquish responsibility for the school that was founded in 1907 by the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa of Florence. The Carmelite school will now belong to the ANSMI (Italian Association for Assistance to Foreign Missions), with both the Sisters and the ANSMI president, Mr. Maurizio Saglietto, agreeing to turn to the Custody of the Holy Land to take up the baton. The Franciscans are already responsible for fifteen schools all around the Holy Land, in the largest geographical sense.

With forty teachers and over 700 pupils, the Carmelites’ school, which educates children from preschool through secondary school, enjoys an excellent reputation in the Israeli educational landscape. At their last meeting (July 2014), the Discretorium of the Custody of the Holy Land accepted the offer and thereby announced that they would establish a new Franciscan community in Haifa. Fra Arturo Vasatuto, former director of the school in Jaffa who speaks both Arabic and Hebrew fluently, will bring his wealth of experience the school, of which he was named director. He will also be superior of the friary that will be home to three or four friars. Among them will be Fra Sergio Olmedo, former superior of the Sanctuary of John the Baptist in the Desert, to whom the post of bursar was entrusted and who will also provide spiritual enrichment to the many pilgrims who come to the seaside city of Haifa.

Although they will not have their own parish, the Franciscans will make themselves available for service to the various parishes in Haifa. Thus, a Ukrainian friar is to join the community to assist in the pastoral apostolate to the Ukrainian-speaking faithful. The large majority of them are members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church: a Catholic church of the Byzantine rite. Fra Stephane Milovitch, member of the Discretorium for the French-German language group, explains: “The Franciscan Order is Catholic, and while in community the friars observe the Roman Rite and pray in Latin, every friar is free to keep his rite and language of origin: Maronite, Byzantine or Syriac.” While the Arabic-speaking parishes are major, long-standing engagements of the Custody of the Holy Land, it also willingly invests its energy and international character in the service of the new needs of the local church in the Holy Land.

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