|April 20, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 8 • Oakland, CA|
| Catholics' life in Holy Land one of hardship
Old City Jerusalem St. Francis Store souvenir shop owner Alfred Ra'ad was warm and friendly when the archdiocesan pilgrims patronized his store just inside the city's New Gate.
Other elements have factored into the economic hardship, Ra'ad explains, including the downturn of the world's economy, the legal effects of local politics and wars in the Middle East.
Having college-age children exacerbates the strain, Ra'ad admits.
But herein lies one glimmer of hope.
Through his and his family's membership in the Franciscan-run St. Savior Church in Jerusalem, Ra'ad heard about the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land.
The organization, whose public relations arm is operated through Tekton Ministries in Carmel, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis in the Lafayette Diocese, is dedicated to helping Christians remain present in the Holy Land. Many groups in the archdiocese, including the one that visited the Holy Land in February, have taken pilgrimages designed and led by Tekton Ministries in association with the FFHL.
"They gave my daughter a full scholarship [to college], which helped to have less expenses," writes Ra'ad. "Truly, they help students to learn, to obtain a career for future life and to serve the Christian community here."
He supports the work of the FFHL not just because of the scholarship, but because they "help financially to save our existence in the town [of Jerusalem] in the land of Jesus," adding that "only about 6,000 Roman Catholics [remain] in Jerusalem."
Ra'ad hopes to meet more members of the archdiocese face to face in the Holy Land. He encourages priests who [visit] to direct pilgrims to the "last 40 Christian souvenir shops remaining [among] the 1,000-plus Muslim shops.
"They need direct help and support so as not to emigrate more [to the point of] no more Christians in the Holy Land."
(Editor's note: On Feb. 4-15, 51 pilgrims from in and around the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, including Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, traveled through the Holy Land. This reflection was written by Natalie Hoefer, staff reporter for The Criterion newspaper.)
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