BEIT JALA – On Sunday, December 11, 2016, the Apostolic Administrator ordained three new deacons for the Diocese of Jerusalem in the Church of the Annunciation in Beit Jala. Many priests, family members and faithful came to witness the ordination of three new transitional deacons: Salem Lolas, Saqer Hijazin and Joseph Al-Sweiss.
Sunday, December 11, was a day of celebration and joy for the Diocese of Jerusalem as three young men committed their lives to serve the Lord in the Latin Patriarchate. Salem Lolas, a native of Beit Jala, Saqer Hijazin of Al-Aqaba and Joseph Al-Sweiss of Fuheis, came forward when Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, called them. Present at the ordination were Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Bishop Kamal Batish, Vicar General Emeritus, Fr. David Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel and Fr. Jamal Khader, rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jala.
The diaconal ordination is a fundamental stage for these young men because it marks their consecration to the Lord and a step leading them to ordination to the priesthood next year.
For a closer look at this significant event, Joseph Al-Sweiss graciously answered some questions.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us what is your background?
My name is Joseph Al Sweiss, my home parish is Fuheis in Jordan. I am 26 years old and I am the youngest of my siblings. At fourteen, I asked to enter the minor seminary where I finished my secondary education. Subsequently I had a propaedeutic year, then a year of teaching French because it is the language in which the courses are given at the seminary. I went to the major seminary for two years of philosophy followed by three years of theology. In the sixth year, I did a year of practical pastoral training in the parish of Husson. This year I completed my training in theology and I must submit my thesis – which I write in French – and take the last exams prior to priestly ordination.
This Sunday December 11th you are ordained deacon, the final step before ordination to the priesthood. At this stage, you are particularly committed to a life of celibacy for the service of the Church. Can you share your feelings at this major phase of your life?
By the diaconal ordination, I live a life of celibacy to love God, with an undivided heart. As a result, I forsake marriage for a higher and more complete love. Consecrated celibacy, if not lived in a continual relationship with God, becomes an unnatural thing. The person who wants to become a priest also lives in poverty, not even having one person in particular. The priest is in a complete way dedicated to God and God exists in every person.
This is the result of an intense spiritual journey. What prompted you to take the path toward the total gift to the Lord?
I was called, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit..” (Jn 15:16 ). I perceived my vocation as a grace. To take this path is obvious to me. And even if there are still many questions that remain unanswered, I am confident and I trust.
This commitment is the sign of a deep trust in the Lord. How would you encourage young people-but perhaps the younger ones, to remain in such trust?
Trust is the principle of faith in God. And this is what drives us to follow God in our world. But the seminarians are not the only ones who need to trust in God; it is the case for all Christians who live in this world, but they are not of this world because they are witnesses, and witnesses go against the current of this world to evangelize and preach Jesus Christ crucified. “In the world, you have to suffer, but courage! I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)
Jesus Christ has defeated by the Cross, because the Cross is the way of the Resurrection. This is why there is no contradiction between evangelization or joy and the Cross: one must live the Cross with confidence, because it inevitably leads to the Resurrection.
Interview conducted by Cécile Klos