JERUSALEM - The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem works toward supporting the Living Stones, on the spiritual, material, human and societal levels. Its mission seeks to adopt many means to achieve this goal. Various projects in building churches, schools, homes for the elderly, job creation, medicine fund, and many others have served this aim. Through its Social Services Department, the Latin Patriarchate works toward serving the less fortunate members of the diocese in Jerusalem, Palestine, Gaza and Jordan, by providing various means of assistance and support.
Social Services Department
The Social Services Department at the Latin Patriarchate works on developing and implementing various projects and programs that improve the psychological and social status of families and individuals from the Jerusalem area, West Bank, Gaza and Jordan. Various means are implemented to help, such as providing medical assistance, either by covering the costs of surgeries and medical emergencies or by providing medicine. The office also provides scholarships for needy students and coverage of debt and bills. This is done with high standards of integrity and transparency in coordination with Catholic institutions and parish priests in every region.
COVID-19 and its challenges
The spread of COVID-19 has had an impact on the health and professional life of individuals. In the Holy Land, where people are already facing hardships economically, politically, and socially, the pandemic creates yet another bitter reality that is leading people to lose their jobs.
In these circumstances, the Social Services Department tries to alleviate the painful reality and provides not only medical and financial help, but psychological support for the individuals and families in the East Jerusalem area.
Mrs. Dima Khoury, director of the Social Services Department, spoke to the Media Office of the Patriarchate about this support.
Dima: the urgent needs of families for support- the kind that lessens the pressure they go through because of the lockdown and the spread of the virus- has led us to launch a new project; emotional support for all Christians in East Jerusalem, in which Mrs. Ronda Amer and I provide individual, group, and/or couples sessions, where the beneficiaries speak of adversities they face, their needs, feelings, and challenges. Some sessions were held at St. Vincent Association in Jerusalem, and others were done online. A year and a half ago, the Latin Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land, and with the help of Fr. Amjad Sabbara at the Jerusalem Parish, the Family Center was created. It aims to equip members of the Christian family with life skills that lead them to personal development. Also, the center provides psychological and social support for Jerusalemite mothers, and spiritual support from the parish priest if needed.
St. Savior Church in Jerusalem, a model for providing psychological support
Fr. Amjad Sabbara, the parish priest of St. Savior Church in Jerusalem, contributed greatly to the success and continuity of this program, and in cooperation with the Latin Patriarchate and the Family Center, they were able, with their efforts, to support the Living Stones.
Fr. Amjad: After my appointment as parish priest in Jerusalem in September 2019, many ideas and projects started to crystallize in order to introduce developments to the parish. Firstly, we started outlining our vision for the Family Center. Secondly, we were able to provide accompaniment to the parishioners, where help was not only given and taken, and listening to the challenges and providing assistance took place. After, we studied their financial status and proceeded with a plan to help them.
What highlights the experience of harmony among us is the ‘Love Fund’! We established this fund to ensure that families will continue to receive help. It starts with a family donating money each month, and the parish priest gives it to the needy ones. For 5 months now, 60 families have contributed to this fund so far.
When I see the smiles on the faces of parishoners, I know that our work is a success. The peace and “prosperity” are shown in their actions that are reflected positively on their relationships at home.
Among our action plan, other activities were implemented, where we reached out to the parishioners through short visits or phone calls, that enabled us to be aware of their needs and challenges, and we were able to respond to them adequately. On the spiritual level, and besides the life streaming of Sunday Masses each week, we recorded a weekly message addressed to the faithful through our social media accounts, in which we tackled their worries and conveyed a message of solidarity.
What distinguishes the pastoral work is the creation of a common language among parishioners and the parish priest, and the vanquish of the illusory barriers between them, and thus, the parishioners see the priest as a friend who he/she can talk to openly. This relationship has resulted in getting through this difficult period smoothly; our end goal is not only to help, but to accompany.