MAIN – Very close to Madaba, the road winds between arid hills to give way to a green setting: Maïn. This small town known for its hot springs, is also home to the Little Family of the Annunciation, an oasis where many Christians in Jordan come to rejuvenate.
The rebirth of a church
It is 5:30 pm when the bell announces the beginning of the rosary. Since 1982, the parish of St. James the Lesser lives to the rhythm of the religious services of the Little Family of the Annunciation which leads a life dedicated to prayer: the liturgy of the hours, rosaries twice a day and personal prayer. We must go back a few years to understand the amazing presence of this small Italian contemplative community in the heart of the Arab world. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Haddadeen tribe fled Kerak to settle in Maïn, after a quarrel with a Muslim tribe. This historically Melkite community eventually divided into two and gave birth to a small Latin community. But the two communities could not agree. Tensions increased and one day the church was desecrated and abandoned for many years. Saddened by this situation, Bishop Giacomo Beltritti, then Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, decided in 1982 to send a totally external religious community to revive the parish. For more than thirty years, the Little Family of the Annunciation has had a mission of offering a loving presence to Christians. They are the ones who breathe life into the Latin Church, in close contact with the Melkite community. The two church communities now live in peace, a few meters from each other and it is not uncommon to meet some faithful going to the two services.
A place of healing for many Christians in Jordan
In this small town, only 2,000 Christians, Latins and Melkites alike still live here and the Sunday Latin-rite Mass gathers at most twenty faithful. Like many rural parishes, young households are vacating Maïn looking for jobs in big cities. However, the small church attracts many families from Amman, Madaba and elsewhere to celebrate a baptism, to be spiritually supported, to ask for an exorcism, to confess or to present their prayer intentions. “Here, they know that they do not only come to the parish but that they will also find a family ready to listen to them. Our church does not offer activity; only presence and prayer count and that is what people come to look for,” says Sister Elisabeth, who saw the community settle down. “Christians perceive that there are men of God here and that their intercession is effective,” said Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan. The Little Family of the Annunciation of Maïn is composed of four sisters and three brothers including Father Athos Righi. To be closer to the Christians of this land, the Liturgy of the Hours and all the prayers are said in Arabic. A requirement that has borne fruit. “Having learned the language of the country is essential,” says Sister Elisabeth. “While the church was empty at the beginning, we saw it gradually fill up on Sundays and sometimes during the day. Christians come because they perceive the importance of prayer in their lives. Speaking the language has allowed us to build a lasting relationship with the families we visit regularly. This life of prayer is also a testimony for the entire community of Maïn, mainly Muslim, who sees us living and praying.”