Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 30, 2009
Beatified nun may inspire Holy Land Christians
Mother Alphonsine founded order in Palestine to provide education and enhance lives of Middle East women
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
NAZARETH, ISRAEL - A newly beatified nun could serve as an inspiration for Christians who remain in the Holy Land, said the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.
The Nov. 22 beatification "breathes upon us a new spirit, renews our Church and invites us to the happy hope that we ourselves, too, can be saints like her," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal.
The patriarch was referring to Blessed Soultaneh Maria Ghattas, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.
Born in Jerusalem in 1843, she founded the first and still the only Palestinian women's religious congregation. She was given the name Marie Alphonsine when she entered religious life.
Mother Marie Alphonsine is Palestinian. At 14, she became a postulant of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. After professing her vows in 1862, she was assigned to Bethlehem where she taught religion.
She was deeply devoted to Mary and promoted devotional prayers to her, particularly the rosary. She said Mary inspired her to found the Rosary Sisters.
When the congregation was begun, Father Joseph Tannous Yamine was appointed director and rented a house for the five postulants who entered July 24, 1880.
Mother Marie Alphonsine was able to get a dispensation three months later from her vow of obedience to her superiors in the St. Joseph order so she could enter the new congregation.
Mother Marie Alphonsine served in cities, towns and villages throughout the Holy Land until 1917 when she moved to Ein Kerem - today a part of Jerusalem - where she devoted her life to prayer.
She spent her last years in Ein Kerem, dying March 25, 1927, while praying the rosary with her sister, Sister Hanneh Ghattas, also a member of the order.
"Our main aim is to educate and prepare Middle East young women, to promote the enhancement of Arab women spiritually, educationally and socially," said Sister Ildephonse El-Harjjen, the order's secretary-general.
The Rosary Sisters also are highly regarded in the Muslim community. Most students and alumni of the schools are Muslim.
Though in the Holy Land there have always been many different religious orders, the Rosary Sisters are the only local community. All 261 members are local, Arabic-speaking women.
Members also minister in 61 educational and medical centres as well as Latin Patriarchate parishes throughout the Middle East and in Rome.
WORK WITH PRIEST
While most foreign orders historically have remained in larger cities, the Rosary Sisters minister in small villages, working with the parish priest to reach Christian girls, said Sister Amal Abou Anton.
Given the economic, political and social difficulties young girls are confronting, the staffs of the Rosary Sisters' schools work hard to provide extracurricular activities for the girls, said Sister Hortense Nakhleh.
"We believe education is not only in the schoolwork," said Sister Hortense. The sisters strive "to get (the girls) to live with an open mind and accept the other. We speak about dialogue with the other, including the Israelis."
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