The Franciscan sisters serving at St. Savior’s Monastery

For almost 40 years, they have been at the service of the Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscan sisters of the Heart of Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the first time on May 18, 1981, and settled at St. Savior’s Monastery. From that moment on, they have become the backbone of the formation house and, along with other sisters from different congregations, they support the activities of the Franciscans in the Holy Land.

In the beginning, there were seven sisters: two were working in the kitchen, two were in the orphanage of the Custody, two were in the custodial infirmary and one—the person in charge of the community—took care of the house and helped the others in times of need. Since the 1980s, many things have changed for the Custody of the Holy Land, especially at St. Savior’s. First of all, the large orphanage with 60 children, ages 6 to 15, that was not far from the monastery, no longer exists today. Then, different friars have come through and the offices where many international volunteers are employed have increased. However, the support for the Custody of the Holy Land by the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus has not changed, so much so that even today they are a gift for the whole community of friars and beyond.

“In all of the places where they serve, they are considered mothers that people can reach out to if they need to,” said Sister Mary Borg, the mother superior. “ Today there are five of us: in addition to me, two work in the kitchen, one works in the infirmary and one works in the sacristy of the Holy Sepulcher.” The religious carry out their activities with dedication and sacrifice and with a Christian spirit of service and charity. They are the ones who cook the meals for the friars (together with the help of some local workers), and they take care of the infirmary chapel, as well as the linens. At the Holy Sepulcher, Sr. Annaerica dell’Agnese takes care of tablecloths, flowers and sacred vestments.

The congregation of the Franciscan sisters of the Heart of Jesus was founded in Gozo in 1880 by Fr. Giuseppe Diacono and Sister Margherita De Brincat. They currently have homes in Malta, Gozo, Sicily, Bari, Rome (with the Main Home), Ferrara, London, Corfu, Jerusalem, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Australia, Brazil and the Philippines.

The sisters who serve at St. Savior’s Monastery follow the rule of the Third Order of St. Francis and came to Jerusalem at the request of their congregation. They come from Malta, Kenya and Italy, but what brings them all together is gratitude for having the opportunity to live in the places that cradled Christianity. As the mother superior reminded us, “We always thank the Lord for letting us live in this Holy Land that Blessed Pope Paul VI described as the Fifth Gospel.”

Beatrice Guarrera

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