In the Holy Land, a community of Carmelite nuns are restoring their church and helping their community.
The northern Israeli city of Haifa climbs from the shores of the Mediterranean up the north face of Mount Carmel. Behind it, the Mt Carmel National Park sweeps away, and in the tiered city itself lie gems of architecture and famous monuments.
It’s in this area where a small community of 18 Carmelite nuns live a cloistered life of prayer. But while their way of life may seem withdrawn and contemplative, they’re reaching out through the Church and through prayer to the community beyond their cloisters, and offering a warm welcome to the public, pilgrims and students.
A life in prayer
The Sisters have two intentions here. The first is prayer. They pray for the universal Church and for missionaries, and celebrate Mass twice a day. Prayer, they explain, is vital for every Christian, as it how we ‘experience the presence of God’.
‘I felt God calling me to give everything to Him. I decided to give Him my life here, in silence, in cloistered life. Love, prayer, service between us makes our prayer more meaningful. Love and prayer matters – searching for God between us’
– Sr Bernadette
Faith in the community
The second intention is to work for peace – reaching out to their neighbours in respect and communion.
‘We are sensitive to the situation around us,’ one sister tells Missio. ‘We follow Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur (the Jewish day of atonement) is approaching. We pray for the community.’
As a result the Sisters have earned the respect of the community. ‘We provide provide a link between communities; respect, communion, connection with community’ they tell us. ‘We receive prayer requests from Jewish community via email and in person. It’s a consolation for them that we are here.’
The nuns don’t speak to the public unless they’re approached. But they provide a powerful witness to university students, teaching about faith and monastic life. It is vital component of life here to ignite God’s love and share the story of their faith.
‘A worthy place’
The church itself has been here since the 1930s, but it is in need of repair: damaged by age and humidity. Thanks to your help, the Sisters have embarked on a two-stage restoration project. In 2017 they began repairing the Church and introduced a machine to deal with the humidity.
The second phase will include rebuilding a particularly damaged section of the church, renewing the electrics and acoustics, and repainting the building. The Sisters are making their Church safe and inviting again. ‘It’s pivotal to our daily lives – it’s for Him!’
All this work is possible because of Red Box supporters. The Sisters want everyone in England and Wales who help them to know: ‘you’re present with your help. You are present with us through our prayers.’
And they want you to know how vital the Church is for the local Catholic community here in Haifa. ‘This is the land of Jesus – we live here, not just Israel and Palestine. It’s the land of Jesus, we live in His land. It’s very important for us to be here.
‘Thanks to you we can offer our local Church a place to pray. It’s a worthy place. Don’t forget the Church of Jerusalem.’
Thank you for supporting the Red Box
Every penny, pound and prayer you put in your Red Box helps missionaries around the world ignite God’s love in communities where the Church is poor, young or in need. We are so grateful for your support. We ask that you continue to help Missio to share the light of Jesus across the world. Click here to donate online.
All images: T.Louapre/Missio