Greetings from Jerusalem
By Fr. David Steffy, L.C., Chargé of the Holy See
November 5th, 2023 - Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Dear Friends of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center,
Recently we celebrated All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. We remember the saints who bore witness of Christ’s love and virtue and all those who have been part of our lives and have gone before us to the throne of the Lord. These celebrations remind us to raise our minds and hearts to God and to recognize the dignity to which we are called as his daughters and sons, made in his image. They also give us the courage to virtuously confront the evil consequences of forgetting or denying that truth.
The horrific images of suffering in the Holy Land remind us of that evil. We are praying for peace aware that all of us here are living in fear of violence, of death, of uncertainty of the future, and the extraordinary grief of losing loved ones. For some of us, the violence and threat is not so imminent and we try to live as ”normal” lives as possible. But what does that mean? Ultimately, there is an all-encompassing sense of confusion and futility. As a result, many sectors of society are isolating themselves and wondering what the outcome and ultimate price of this conflict will be.
Despite this tragic reality, a reality that has been part of the history of the Holy Land for thousands of years, hope is not lost. Acts of love continue to break down barriers and signs of mutual respect are still being kept alive by men and women who are trying to love their neighbor as themselves. These are the stories that inspire us and encourage us to go deep into our hearts to eliminate any hate, resentment, and prejudice and replace them with dispositions of peace and forgiveness.
Here at Notre Dame, we continue to be outside of the extraordinary circle of threat and violence. The iron dome is effective in shooting down the occasional rocket threat. Many shops and places of business are closed due to lack of clientele. Most people are staying home where they feel safer. And of course, there are no longer any pilgrims or tourists. Most of the checkpoints between the West Bank into Israel are closed or difficult to cross. We have some journalists and members of NGO’s (non-governmental agency) staying here. Our chapel is still open throughout the day with evening adoration, benediction, and Mass. Our three restaurants and one wing of rooms are open as well not so much to serve a diminished need, as to give at least some of our employees work and a way to support their families.
As a Pontifical Institute, we are a symbol of unity and dialogue that expresses the Vatican’s commitment to this land and its people. The dedication of our staff and their gift of hospitality daily is a living testament to this spirit, and we are committed to assisting them in this moment of crisis. We have put aside money so that all the staff will receive a bonus in early November and December to help get them through until the end of the year. Since many of you have asked what you can do to help us, we created a fund to assist those in most need (above and beyond the help Notre Dame is offering them). The response has been very positive, and these donations will go directly to those who lack income to sustain themselves and their families. The link to donate is: https://bit.ly/notredame2023
As a follow-up to this, we invite you to participate in an initiative to provide our staff moral support as well by taking a moment to send them a simple and warm message of support. It is a gesture that shows that no matter how far away we are, we remain united by mutual respect and a desire for peace. Feel free to share a message of peace, a message of hope, a memory you have from your days in Jerusalem, how you are offering a prayer, an act of kindness offered on their behalf, a photo, a drawing made by the little ones in your family. This simple expression of kindness and support for them and their families will be much appreciated. You can email these to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will share them with our employees and even share a selection with you if that seems appropriate.
Thank you again for your outpouring of prayers and concern. May our Lord continue to bless you and strengthen you in your faith and confidence in his love.
Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us
Sincerely in Christ,
Father David Steffy, L.C.