Greetings and special thanks to the sisters of Grandchamp

Ain Karem, November 6, 2014

A warm sun and the still green hills of Judea were the natural setting of the simple but profound liturgy that was held on the terrace of the small hermitage near the tomb of St. Elizabeth, in the complex of the Franciscan convent of the Holy Land Custody of St. John in the Wilderness, in Even Sapir.

The sun and the nice weather that accompanied the prayer time were considered by all as a blessing and as a smile from heaven, after some rainy and definitely autumnal days. A liturgy of the Word was organized by the ecumenical religious community of Grandchamp for the occasion of the forthcoming completion of their presence in the Holy Land.

The small community has been present at the tomb of St. Elizabeth for forty years, since 1973, when a sister of the community which has the headquarters in Switzerland in the homonymous locality, had the vision to go to the Holy Land in order to deepen her knowledge of the roots of Christianity and to establish links of friendship and mutual spiritual growth with Judaism and the people of the Covenant.

The terrace of this modest monastery that was set up to accommodate guests invited to pray, proved to be insufficient to contain the many friends coming from all over to embrace in a full of gratitude greeting the three leaving sisters. Custos fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa presided the liturgy accompanied by a group of brothers: the Secretary of the Holy Land and the Custodial Vicar, the monks of the Community of St. John in the wilderness and St. John in Montana of Ain Karem and some student friars; with them, the monks and nuns of the Monastery of Abu Ghosh, the Pastor responsible for the Lutheran church in Jerusalem, the Patriarchal Vicar for the Hebrew-speaking faithful, the nuns of the Emmanuel of Bethlehem, the sisters of Sion of Ain Karem, religious, friends and acquaintances, neighbors of the moshav where is found the hermitage of St. Elizabeth and some brothers and sisters of the Koinonia of St. John the Baptist who will be the next residents of the hermitage.

During the prayer, after the Gospel of the Visitation was proclaimed, Sister Pierrette, Superior of the Community of Grandchamp delivered a speech of gratitude and farewell, in which she recalled the story of the sisters who lived in the small convent and their silent presence for forty years. They were reminded as a sign of reconciliation and peace, as pillars of the vocation of the Community.

Their wish to live in the Holy Land and the possibility they had to accomplish it was a blessing they want to request to every man and woman who live together in this land, frequently a place of pain and suffering. They expressed gratitude not only for the welcome but to all the Custos Fathers that, over all the years of their presence, alternated to guide the Custody, particularly to fr. Pierbattista. Gratitude for all the close friendships and relationships they established over the years because they represent an unbreakable tie that will bind them forever in prayer to the Holy Land and its people.

“My ways are not your ways, says the Lord; my thoughts are not your thoughts.” Quoting prophet Isaiah, Sister Pierrette described the painful decision of the Community consisting to leave Terra Santa and turn the page, opening a new chapter in the history of the Community that will not be present any longer in Ain Karem. Then, the Custos thanked, on behalf of the entire Franciscan community of the Holy Land and in the name of the Church of Jerusalem, the discreet and prayerful presence of the sisters that for forty years beautify the reality of Jerusalem, which is a wonderful body with many members, but a single heart of which they will always be part. Fr. Pierbattista concluded his greeting by presenting the Community of the Koinonia S. John the Baptist, the future fraternity that will be living in the house. This is to ensure the continuity of the hermitage style, which is first and foremost a prayer place and an open house to welcome anyone wishing to come and meet brothers and sisters in order to build bonds of friendship and fellowship based on respect, reconciliation and peace.

The prayer ended with a blessing given by the Custos and the singing of the canticle of praise Magnificat that everyone present sang in the chapel of the monastery.

The large participation of many religious men and women, as well as friends and acquaintances and the many people and organizations that were mentioned during the prayers of intercession by the sisters of Grandchamp, are the most beautiful testimony of the good these sisters have done to the Church of Jerusalem and to the Holy Land, and of the many scattered seeds, which, as said Father Pierbattista, in forty years have not been sown in vain, but on the contrary, will grow and become beautiful trees laden with fruits.

Sincere thanks from the Custody of the Holy Land and a blessing to the entire community of Grandchamp.

Fr. Alberto Joan Pari, ofm

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