PEACE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT THERE
Jerusalem and Bethlehem are two extremely important places in the Holy Land for Christianity. It was just there where Polish nuns of St. Elizabeth run orphanages for children touched by trauma and painful consequences of war in the place which is most abundant in conflicts in the world – in the homeland of Christ.
Home of Peace in Jerusalem and recently Bethlehem are a real home and refuge for 46 children at the age of 3 to 18, the Christians in majority, although not only – nuns have never paid attention to the colour of skin or religion. They have been taking care of orphans all the time, since 1967.
Breakneck beginnings on the Olive Mountain
The parent Home of Peace in Jerusalem is not on the slope of the Olive Mountain and looks safe and impressive. Difficult beginnings are connected with the six-day war (1967), when in the Jewish-Arabic conflict so many children lost their parents. Polish St. Elizabeth’s nuns – sisters Rafaela Włodarczak and Imelda Płotka – were gathering orphaned, homeless girls, mainly the Arabic ones. The Israelites designed some means for care about their orphans. Whereas the Palestinians had only alleys of Jerusalem. When the rainy weather came, the situation of the orphans got worsened. Not having any home, nor money, the nuns gathered children in rented rooms, and they played the guitars and sang in railway stations and hotels, hoping for donations, but mainly for the fact that God watches and everything will somehow be fine… Indeed, it was. Gaining the ground (1971) and building an orphanage on the slope of such an attractive Olive Mountain for investors – with the most beautiful view to Jerusalem – was on the verge of a miracle. A range of unordinary events were efforts to gain the ground, funds from abroad (for example, from the Polish Diaspora in America), including people of various religions, building trials and tribulations (including living in caves for some time), and also particular and reliable care of Jesus’ Heart.
In July 1975, the house, not completely finished, was sanctified by cardinal John the King of Philadelphia.
House in Bethlehem
Conflicts in the Holy Land are still going on. Being aware that there will always be orphaned children, in 2008 nuns undertook an initiative of building another house. It was built from the base, near a boundary and it is still being modernized. – Here there are, among the others, four Christian little girls from Gaza, and one Muslim child is being prepared for baptism – says s. Szczepana Hrehorowicz, the superior of the community in Bethlehem.
Near the House in Bethlehem there is also a common room where children can attend classes of music, sport twice a week, play and do homework together. What are the most urgent needs?
- Medications, clothes, powder milk – says s. Szczepana. She assures that nuns do everything so that children would not feel the tragedy or pain about the loss of their families. – We do ask everybody for a prayer and solidarity in this work – says s. Szczepana.
At present in both buildings of Home of Peace 6 nuns work (five Polish nuns and one Slovak nun). The superior of nuns in Jerusalem is s. Benigna Okupniak.
Upbringing to dignity
Over 40 people usually sit at the table in both Polish houses. Children are provided with food and clothes in a good way, and with dignity -as nuns say – they behave at schools well. These schools are also run by the nuns. Every foster girl under the care of the Polish nuns should pass the secondary school leaving exam after which she could find work easily, even in the high official posts. Foster girls of the Home of Peace are well-educated and prepared for life, know a few languages (at home English is a binding language, and, besides that, Arabian, Hebrew, Italian and Spanish languages are taught). A dozen children are also provided with help outside the House.
The work of the Polish nuns of St. Elizabeth is very popular especially among Muslim neighbours who appreciate tolerance and the fact that somebody is disinterested in accompanying their everyday life, problems and simply wants to be with them here.
Where can we see nuns from Home of Peace in Poland? It is possible in Miechów. Miechów in the diocese of Kielce is called Polish Jerusalem and is an extraordinary place, where in the basilica – in the sanctuary of the God’s Sepulcher, there is a replica of Christ’s grave chamber which is the oldest in Europe, and where the Polish supremacy of the Order of God’s Sepulcher Order has its headquarter. St. Elizabeth’s nuns from Home of Peace have organized a charity collection for their home twice – last September during the Second Days of Jerusalem. There was also a presentation of Home of Peace there and meeting with St. Elizabeth’s nuns. – Inhabitants of Miechów and participants of the Days of Jerusalem are interested in our Home and support us through donations and purchase of rosaries, objects of cult and trinkets made by our foster girls – says s. Szczepana.
Everyone who would like to help children in need in the homeland of Jesus, can give their donation in the account in zlotys – these are the accounts.
Zgromadzenie Sióstr św. Elżbiety
ul. Łąkowa 1, 67-878 Poznań
Bank PKO S.A. II O. Poznań
89 1240 1763 1111 0010 2945 9107
Postscript: Ofiara na Sierociniec na Górze Oliwnej