Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas in Gaza: a visitation

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem - Christmastime in Gaza, celebrated, as is now the custom, in the last week of advent, was really beautiful. The Gospel of Luke for this Fourth Sunday of Advent tells the story of Mary rising and going quickly to see her old and pregnant cousin Elizabeth who lives in the hill country of Judea. The meeting and the greeting of the two women lets loose the joy of the babies they carry in their wombs. That is just the way it was for this visit of our Patriarch Fouad, pastor of the Mother Church of Jerusalem and representing the whole Church.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Visit december 2 and 3, 2009

Fr. Jean and I, Sr Susan had no hitches entering and leaving. Fawyseh and Sabah met us on the other side. We visited the Amjad School which Jean saw for his first time. The children were still there which was nice. The school was clean and the children were working hard. Jean spent a good amount of time getting to know their situation in the vicinity and asked what was purchased and need to be still.

A driver took us to Gaza City where Sabah had arranged a meeting with those involved in the food distribution: Maha, Fawyseh, Mohamed and Sabah. We learned much about the situation in each area. Our form will be for the families in need of medications, surgery, dippers for the elderly and all things related to health. I will meet monthly with this same group to identify the families most in need of our help.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gaza visit of November 10th - report

Picasa Album

Fr. Thomas and Fr. Jean went down for the day. Entering went well they found that the passage on the Gaza side was finished and made passing suit cases much easier; they had carried four suit cases of used cloths for the poor. Sabah spent the day with them. They started with a visit to Fawyseh school in the north. The school is poor but clean. While they were there Save the Children brought them educational toys. Fawyseh and Nahla shared the problems that they were encountering, mainly that of limited space. They viewed the sun shade which needs to be enlarged. They still await their refrigerator. Courses for the parents are offered in the afternoon.
Following they visited the Musaddar school in the middle camps area. Najaw replaces Mohamed who was at a meeting; she updated the priests on events there. They are in need of several items: rugs for the classes, white boards, and clean water. For the long term, they need two added classes as their classes have too many children. Programs continue for the adults in the afternoon which are animal husbandry and micro finance. These classes go on with the help of other NGOs.
After, they returned to Gaza city where they visited the Zahar School. Ferial the directress welcomed them. This school was not as clean and well as the previous schools and this was discussed. They have been renting it only since the war and it needs repairs. They are also in line for a refrigerator, which Sabah will organize with them. Three schools have been promised them; a better price should be had buying three at one time.
They had no time to visit the parish due to having to be at the boarder at 2:30.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A week-end in the parish: 30 october - 1 november 2009

Picasa Album

Andres and Lorenzo spent a nice week-end in the parish mainly with Fr. Jorge, the Youth of the parish, the Little Sisters and Grada and her family. They visited the Byzantine ruins of the monastery near the coast which we hope that the new members of the team will be able to see. Fr. Jorge continues to join the kids weekly for their religion class and he organizes activities for all the youth about 40-70 every Wednesday doing something different weekly.

Video from Youtube

Friday, October 30, 2009

Our visit October 26 and 27

Crossing the boarder went well. A new health check was added at the Gaza side. Only our temperature was taken.

We were able to visit three schools and one women's center through these two days. Fawyseh was our driver as we started at her school where Sabah met us. At each school the children were busy learning to write their alphabet or numbers. Some were outside in the playground or having their lunch which we helped to provide.

With the directress of each school we announced the items that we had decided to provide for them for their schools. We asked them to get estimates of the prices and Sabah would with them what was best. Two need refrigerators and buying two at one time may be cheaper. The directress of the Zahar School was at the women's center, so we were able to discuss with her the same items to be purchased as we did with the other three schools.

At the Women's Center we were happy to meet the Directress and her team who run the various activities. Suha and Wissal the two social workers who have been doing home visits and have files on each family who need food; we met for the first time. We were very impressed by their work. They shared some of their stories. Many services to the area are provided at this center. It is one of the three Centers who distribute food for us. The women witnessed to a real sense of respect and collaboration among themselves.

As usual Fr. Thomas finish our first day with Mass said at the Missionaries of Charity. I spent the night with the Sisters and he at Fr, Jorge's house. Fr. Elias is at home as his brother is very ill. Despite very hot days we returned home being grateful to all whom welcomed us, shared their realities and vision of the future with us. Regretfully their situation seems to be worse at the moment due to political realities.

The pictures are of the children at the Missionaries of Charity School and of the women responsible for programs at the woman's Center.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Day of Recollection to write our Mission Statement

Four of our team met for most of a day to reflect and to create our Mission Statement. Ideas were presented from other organizations serving the poor. In silent prayer each sought to formulate ours. Just before noon we shared a liturgy and after had a meal together. A brief meeting followed. Fr. Jean took note and will share with us in order to add to or make corrections, so that all will agree to our final draft of our Mission Statement.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gaza: Mass and blessing of the parish's new installations

On Sunday, October 18, Father Humam Khzouz, the General Administrator for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, paid a visit to the Latin Parish in Gaza, accompanied by Mother Ines Al-Yaqoub, the General Superior of the Rosary Sisters and by Br. Andrea Bergamini. The parishioners, gathered together for the Eucharistic Benediction, warmly welcomed the small delegation. Fr. Human was the celebrant at the mass.

In his homily he made use of the readings of the mass to encourage the Christians to offer service, to be ready to perform reciprocal acts of charity, to sustain each other’s hopes even, and above all, in the dark and difficult moments that, for too long a time now, have been characteristic of the life of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. [...]


After the mass, there was the blessing of the rooms under the rectory, and the large hall under the nursery school, which have been recently restored, thanks to the contributions of a few Italian parishes. These rooms will serve for catechism classes and youth get-togethers. In fact, the Pastor, Jorge Hernandez, has been dedicating particular attention to the Christian youth of Gaza. Every week he invites them to the parish in order to play, meet to discuss or pray together: between 70-90 young people of various ages – a number that grows to even 120 when you talk about the great appreciated field trips away from the parish – enliven and render joyful these parish meeting rooms. There is still much to do, and every help is grateful appreciated, but still, from among the parishioners, you can sense the enthusiasm and happiness.


For a few weeks now, Fr. Elias, who is also of the community of the Incarnate Word, has been living in the parish, and is from the same country and ordination class as Fr. Jorge. He deals with people with gentleness and goodness, supports the Pastor, and spends a great deal of energy studying Arabic.

Fr. Humam Khzouz was able to meet the teachers at the patriarchate school, talk over the most important and urgent matters with Fr. Jorge, and visit the school of the Rosary Sisters, which was significantly damaged during the Junuary 2009 war. With warm cordiality and a true spirit of hospitality, the sisters, together with their Mother General, invited the priests and sisters of Mother Theresa to lunch at their house.

The video (Youtube)

The photo gallery (picasa album)


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Visit to Gaza on September 29th and 30th.

It was the feast of the Guardian Angels and as Fr. Thomas and I waited with others an hour and a half to enter the boarder crossing we asked our Angels to storm heaven for us. I was the one to be delayed entrance for a time. So our day had a slow start yet right away we went to one of our schools in the north and the children were working on their letters and numbers. The classes were crowded, as many preschools had been destroyed in the last war.

Sabah told us that due to larger classes we must give more money monthly to the larger schools, so that the children can be fed daily rather than two or three times a week. We hope that we can do this.

We noticed how there was many cars on the streets again and were told that the gasoline is now only $2 a liter and solar $1 a liter, so the people are buying cars to be like taxis for others to earn money. Still there are many donkeys and carts on the roads. We asked it most items needed, can be found in stores now? Sabah said yes, but at a high price.

For example fruit is very expensive. We asked the three schools who we visited or directresses whom we met what are their urgent needs and their long term needs listing all. Most seemed necessary such as school supplies, repairs on their water filters and one asked for a refrigerator, so they don't have to shop daily for fresh foods.

That evening we returned to the parish were we met the new priest who will live with Fr. Jorge. He is young and is called Fr. Elias. He hasn't learned Arabic yet, yet everyone is thrilled to have him among them. Fr. Thomas spent the evening with the priests and I it with the Missionaries of Charity. Grada and Rita came for the table games which we had purchased for their children and were delighted with the games for all ages of children.

Four to five people are still killed in the tunnels daily due to some collapsing or due to the shelling of the tunnels.

Wednesday we visited the Amjad School in Marazi and found out that the owner will be using two of their classrooms. They did find other rooms which replaced these two rooms. Thursday we had the startling news that the directress and her assistant may be leaving the school, as one is ill and one has another job. Sabah will be inquiring if we should still help this
pre-school in the future as she visits their board.

We ended with a visit to the bank with Sabah. On leaving, this time it was Fr. Thomas's turn to be delayed at the boarder, but for a short time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Visit to Gaza September 1 and 2 , 2009

Visit to Gaza September 1 and 2 Andres, Lorenzo and Sr. Susan left for Gaza at 6:30 am and had an half hour wait before having our papers processed to enter. The rest went quickly. Fr. Jorge sent his driver Muhib to collect us. Our first stop was at the bank to make a deposit for August expenses. Sabah was still in Egypt. She hopes to be able to return next week. We really missed her presence among us.
Following we joined Fr. Jorge who was at the new school and he accompanied us to the parish where Andres received an update on things there. Lorenzo and Sr. Susan visited the Musaddar preschool and were happy to hear of their various summer camps of which were very impressive. They also have some building projects started, an added room for the school and a second floor for various activities which go on in the afternoons for the three local villages. The children sang for us and the classes are very full.
Monday again we visited a second school in the Zitoun area of Gaza City. Again we were impressed by all the activities going on despite Ramadan in full swing and the economic problems. We saw the roof for shade which we had sponsored and the water tank and filter which another relief organization got for them. Both schools had shared the immediate needs with us. We were able to say our farewells, cross the boarder to be back home by 3:00 pm. As we were leaving we could hear some shelling in the north. The people are courageous amid difficulties on every side.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Meeting and dinner at the brothers june 13, 2009

All of us were present most likely due to the chance to enjoy Lorenzo's macaroni! Fr. Thomas Bahmer joined us for the first time and was unanimously voted in as a new member of our team. Welcome Thomas, your humor enlivened the sharing! Gradually your other talents will be tapped. Since we were all present there is no need to write up all of the meeting.
Yet here are the decisions which we made:

Lorenzo and Andres will work with Fr. Jorge.
Jean will work with the schools and summer camps.
Lorenzo does the accounts
Andres website and co ordinations
I will continue to work with the food program.

I thank the Brothers for their hospitality and all of you for your active participation. We may not meet again for some time. May those of you traveling have a great summer with family, community and friends!
Sr. Susan Sheehan

Saturday, May 30, 2009

News Bits for April and May 2009

April brought a new pastor to Gaza Fr. George and this month he was orientated by Fr. Manuel who had spent 14 years as pastor of the Catholic church. Fr. George is from Argentina and has studied Arabic which he speaks well. May one, he took over his parish from Fr. Manuel who left for his retirement in Ramallah.

Our prayers accompany him and Fr. George as they both continue their journeys to holiness in Ramallah and in Gaza.We made four or five visits to Gaza these months visiting each of our schools and visited some families the regions devastated by the war. One would expect to find some improvement since the war. Due to no building materials being allowed in the situation remains the same.

The only change was seeing the iron rods which were twisted in the ruins were removed to be sold. Gas and gasoline were available now for those who could afford it. Donkeys and carts are as commons as cars now on the roads. Vegetables and fruits are being harvested and sold. The prices are low, which is good for the poor, yet very bad for the farmers. Some items of necessity come in still by the tunnels at the south.

We are able to continue to run our programs due to the presence and good organizational skills of Sabah. The nursery schools all closed at the end of this month; we were able to be at the end of the year party in one of the schools. By the end of June the summer camps begin in the same buildings for elementary age children. This summer we will be able to sponsor 8 camps each for 60 children for two weeks.

When visiting the poor families, who receive food monthly from us, three teenage boys were found to need eye surgery. So far we have the funding for one boy and hope to be able to send all three from different families and regions for surgery. Some may have to go to Egypt for it.

The security is all dependent on Hamas gunmen posted at intersections of Gaza City holding automatic riffles. Sabah for example doesn't allow her teenage children out unaccompanied.

Spirits there are low; people feel restricted and imprisoned at every turn. As Pentecost arrives may the Spirit's presences be felt, both Muslim and Christian find the strength to go on together without bitterness, but with hope.

Sr. Susan and Team

Miscellaneous Photos January-May 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Report: Visit February 19 th.

Br. Renzo and Fr. Don and I arrived a bit early and still had to wait an hour or more to enter. This day John Kerry was also visiting the Strip. We met to congressmen who were to join Kerry for the day.
First we went to the Zitun nursery school and visited the classes. They shared with us their needs as it was a different building for them. After the war they were not allowed by the owner of the last building to return as they have been threatened by Hamas during the war. Here was saw a little boy of five who was speechless ever he was torn from the arms of his father during the war. The teachers are working with him to begin to talk, enter into the activities of his class and to play.
Following briefly two of us went to an AIDA meeting to coordinate relief efforts in Gaza in which the major relief organizations participated. We were brought up to date on recent events.
Fr. Don what hadn't seen the destruction after the war so he went with the driver to see the area worst hit in the north. He saw the ruins of the American School which had cost five million dollars to build.
We left early to be at the frontier before it closed early that day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gaza after three weeks of sheeling

The post war situation in Gaza is critical; it is truly a humanitarian crisis for the million and a half people. Half off this population are under 17 years old. Before the war the people were cut off from basic necessities such at cooking gas, electricity, clean water and basic foods. During the three week of shelling from the sea, air and ground the situation only worsened as again the boarders were closed to medicines and all relief organizations. Half to sixty percent of the population are refugees from the various wars. One can’t tell what a village is and what is a refuge camp, most the people are very poor. Half of the schools are government run schools and half are the UN UNRWA schools. The economy broke in June of 2006 when Israel boycott closed the boarders to basic foods, fuel and materials.
A little team of 6 religious of several different communities called the Daughter's of Charity Gaza Project, (in the beginning we were only Daughters), began assisting the people. After an assessment study and with the guidance of Catholic Relief Service who were well established in Gaza we partnered with private little nursery schools mainly in rural area and refugee camps. Being that they came to school hungry we provided a breakfast. In 2006 with the boycott of the Strip we knew people were hungry, so we began to distribute food parcels to the most needy in three of the regions were the schools which we partnered with were located. The volunteer help of each school located the poorest families. Food coupons eventually replaced food parcels allowing the families to choose the food best fitting to their needs. This second project continued even through out the war were local volunteers risk their lives to distribute food to families during the shelling. Only canned food was given as the people had no cooking gas to prepare their food. The schools were closed during the war.
A few days ago Andrea, Lorenzo and I visited the most devastated areas. We found ourselves humbles before people with nothing. In front of one collapsed building were four women with babies in their arms husbands were killed only a few days ago leaving 24 children without fathers? These four families had nothing. Everything they owned was buried in the sand and rubble of the building. They only had the cloths on their back. Tents had been provided for them. We were able to leave them a bit of money for dishes, pots and pans, and clothing and assured them that they would be getting food.
Thousand of people are homeless. Their stories are hard to believe as man's immorality to others was boundless. One whole family of 30 were taken out in the night and interrogated and killed one by one. A lone baby was spared, found, and also killed. Even the people's animals were all shot; we saw fields of dead cows. Near some of the building the stench told us of the bodies still not found beneath. Some of the children in the nursery schools faces were expressionless due to the three weeks of shelling. Pray with us for peace and healing of minds and hearts. May the world community join us as the political jumbo can only be saved by the healer of hearts, the Lord, Himself.

Sr. Susan Sheehan DC, February 7, 2009