I arrived in Tantur Israel to begin the Easter Experience programme with the five others from Perth. We joined nine other people from the United States, India and Ireland. The Rector, Fr. Tim Lowe, and staff gave a very warm welcome and outlined the programme. Firstly, on Thursday and Friday, we spent time in the environs of Jerusalem and had lectures on Biblical geography. Our guide helped the group connect with the landscape by reading from the Old Testament. In this way the Scriptures came alive for us. We went on to visit the ruins of the Second Temple Jerusalem. The guide explained the life and ritual of the Temple during the time of Jesus. In the Temple ruins we saw what had been the money changers’ booths; steps that Jesus climbed; ritual baths and ancient inscriptions. We finished our time by going to the Wailing Wall. On the Saturday, in preparation for Holy Week, we walked from the Mount of Olives to the Old City and reflected on the Gospel in each place.
After Mass on Palm Sunday, we joined the international ecumenical Palm Sunday procession. The procession was led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. He was accompanied by the Papal Nuncio, Bishops and the Franciscans. The Patriarch began with prayer at Bethpage and ended the procession with Evening Prayer at St. Anne’s in Jerusalem near the Pool of Saloam (Jn 9). With the community from Tantur, I joined thousands of other Christians walking joyfully from Bethpage to Jerusalem. I was so happy to be joined by Sisters: Bernadetta, Magdalena, Christella, and Edyta from communities in Haifa and Nazareth. Together, we waved our palms and olive branches. We prayed and sang together as we walked towards Jerusalem. The Gospels relate this joy and expectation as the people shout, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk. 19:38).
For the first few days of Holy Week the group spent time reflecting on the early life of Jesus. We visited the caves at the Shepherds Field and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. We were given a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem Christian Quarter and had lectures. During Holy Week I was able to visit the Mount of Olives again, Dominus Flevit, Gethsemane and the church of Peter in Gallicantu (where St. Peter denied the Lord Jesus) and the room of the Last Supper.
It was a great grace to be in Jerusalem for the Easter Triduum. On Holy Thursday the group went to Ecce Homo to celebrate the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. After Mass we were invited to share a simple meal. Afterwards, I spent time in Adoration and quiet prayer at the Altar of Repose. Later that night, we attended the Holy Hour at the Church of All Nations, Gethsemane: I was able to watch and pray with the Lord. On Good Friday, with one of the priests, I went to Jerusalem in the very early morning to pray the Via Dolorosa. I met our sisters (Sr. Bernadetta and Sr.Renata) at the Damascus Gate and joined some others from Poland at 5.30AM. We wanted to pray the solemn Way of the Cross through the streets of Jerusalem. We gathered in silence – just before dawn we heard a cock crow three times.
After the Via Dolorosa I went with the sisters to the Polish House in Jerusalem. After a light breakfast, we went back to the Holy Sepulchre to join the Latin Patriarch for the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. The doors of the Holy Sepulchre were opened at 8.00 and closed very shortly afterwards. No visitors or tourists were allowed in during the ceremony. With Sr. Bernadetta and Sr. Renata I was able to attend the ceremony at the Calvary itself and also to kiss the relic of the true cross during the Veneration of the Cross. After the ceremony the sisters and I were able to go inside the tomb to pray.
On Holy Saturday the group attended the Easter Vigil at Ecce Homo. On Easter Sunday morning I went back to the Holy Sepulchre with our sisters. We attended Easter Sunday Mass celebrated at the empty tomb by the Latin Patriarch. After Mass the Patriarch walks three times in procession around the empty tomb – and stops for a reading of the Resurrection from the Gospel. It was wonderful to hear the Gospel read in that Holy Place. The Patriarch stopped right in front of where I was standing. On Easter Monday we went to Emmaus for Mass. The Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land was the chief celebrant with dozens of concelebrating priests. After Mass the Custodian gave each person a piece of blessed bread to share. It was a very joyful celebration.
The group spent most of the second week in Galilee. We stayed at Tiberius and visited the places associated with the ministry of the Lord Jesus. A highlight for me was to be able to visit our community at Nazareth and to spend some time with Sr. Speranza, Sr Bernadetta and Sr. Renata.
As the Tantur group arrived at Nazareth I was met by Sr. Bernadetta. I was delighted to see her. She began by taking me to pray at the well in the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Our Lady came to this well to draw water. Sr. Bernadetta then brought me to our house to visit our community in Nazareth. It was wonderful to spend just over twenty minutes with the sisters and to hear about their life.
I went with Sr. Bernadetta to visit the Church of St. Joseph. Most guides don’t bring groups to this church. The atmosphere was very quiet and prayerful. One of the many beautiful paintings shows the ordinary life of the Holy Family. This visit gave me an opportunity to reflect on the hidden life and love of the Holy Family. It also gave an opportunity to reflect on our charism. Finally, we went to the Church of the Annunciation. This is a very big church with many visitors. Fortunately, I was able to pray quietly, and almost alone, at the Grotto of the Annunciation – where the Word Became Flesh.
Sadly, I said goodbye to Sr. Bernadetta. I rejoined the group from Tantur for a visit to “Nazareth Village” (a reconstruction of Nazareth in the First Century). “Nazareth Village” is built on the site of a 2,000 year old farm. It is an attempt to re-enact the story of Jesus’ childhood and early life: we met a shepherd tending sheep, visited a synagogue and saw a carpenter in his workshop. We shared a traditional first century meal of soup, vegetables and bread, before saying goodbye to Nazareth.
In Galilee I visited many beautiful holy places. It was a great grace to be able to visit the Mount of the Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and to pray in the Church of the Beatitudes. At Tabgha I saw the famous mosaic of the Loaves and Fishes – symbolising the miracle performed by the Lord (Mt. 14:16 -21) and the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy. Here the Lord appeared to the disciples after his Resurrection. At the River Jordan, I was able to pray, and with some others, renew my Baptismal promises. It was wonderful to go up Mount Tabor and to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Mount Carmel. Among other things, we visited Capernaum and Cana and sailed in a “Jesus Boat” across the Sea of Galilee.
In my final days at Tantur I was able to spend more personal time in Jerusalem. Going to the Holy Sepulchre very early in the morning, I was privileged to attend Mass in the Tomb – with about 15 other people. I visited many of the Holy Places again – including the Church of the Dormitian, on Mount Zion, to pray to Our Lady.
During the final week of the programme we walked from the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George to Jericho. This was a tough mountain hike on a very hot day. On the final day, we visited the Church of the Visitation and the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
The programme at Tantur also included visits to archaeological sites, lectures on the political and social situation in Israel and Palestine and Scripture lectures. We spent some time at the Dead Sea and had a short visit to Qumran. The group spent a day in Hebron and visited a Palestinian refugee camp beside the separation wall at Bethlehem. It was very upsetting to see the situation of the people. We also visited the “Tent of Nations”, near Hebron, where a Catholic family is trying to make a peace centre from their farm. Their peace farm is visited by people from all over the world but their land has been targeted by Israeli settlers. During the course, we had some lectures from Jewish and Palestinian people and also some input on the peace process. We began each day with Mass concluded the day with prayer together.
I was very privileged to spend this time in the Holy Land over Easter. It was a time of grace for me when I was able to pray at the Holy Places. I remembered all of your intentions in my prayers in the Holy Land. I am very thankful for this opportunity. I returned home with many blessings from the Lord.
Sr Joseph of Mary
On a very wet and cold Saturday in April, I attended the “Called By Name” retreat run by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Marayong, NSW.
Before the retreat I had never met the Sisters and had not heard much about them. All I really knew was that they had a strong Polish connection and a big focus on the family. I was really looking forward to learning more about their community and getting to meet some of them. The retreat was also the very first discernment retreat I’d ever been on, so I was quite excited about the day and what it would hold for me.
Thanks to the weather, I arrived very early for the retreat! I remember being worried about being so ahead of time and imposing on the Sisters, but when I was arrived I was instantly welcomed by Sister Julia and Sister Grace, both of whom seemed very happy to have me there! While we waited for the other women attending the retreat to arrive, I got to meet Sister Margaret, Sister Flavia, Sister Lucy, Sister Cristina and Sister Jean, who told me a lot about her life and work as a Sister.
The day began with a casual discussion and opportunity to meet some of the Sisters and the other retreat participants. We then moved to another space where Sister Margaret gave an amazing talk to us about the meaning of consecrated life and vocation. Afterwards, we separated into groups to discuss different Bible passages relating to vocation and discernment and at the end of the exercise shared our thoughts. It was great to hear how everyone had interpreted their own passages and how they recognised and thought about discernment.
It was then time for a lunch lovingly prepared by Sister Lucy. We all enjoyed getting to know the Sisters and each other better. After lunch we learnt some more about the community itself and about the process of application and formation before hearing Sister Grace’s vocation story. Her story affected me deeply; it was so touching, genuine and happy, and I learnt a lot by hearing her speak.
We then took a couple of photos and moved into the chapel for Adoration. Sister Grace gave us an introduction to praying the Vespers and taught us a few songs we would sing during the Eucharist. Having the time for Adoration was something I really looked forward to. It was wonderful to be able to pray in peace and solidarity with the Sisters before Christ, and I remember spending much of the time contemplating what I had learnt and received during the day. We then had Vespers, which was a new and very beautiful experience for me – especially in terms of working out which pages of the book we needed to follow!
After Benediction, we prepared ourselves for Mass, which was celebrated by Father Damian. The most memorable part of Mass for me was definitely Father’s homily, as he ended up giving us the beautiful story of his vocation! Following Mass, I got to meet some more of the Sisters – Sister Barbara and Sister Emilia – before having a lovely, light-hearted and very happy dinner.
Spending time with the Sisters was such a joyful and enriching experience. I not only had a wonderful opportunity to learn a lot more about the community, but also got to meet some very inspiring women. I discovered a lot by going on the retreat, not only about the Sisters, but also about myself. I realised that we can’t rush to know God’s Will for each of us – He will reveal it to us when we are ready, in a spirit of trust and prayer. I had a fantastic day with the Sisters and really can’t wait to spend more time with them again!
By Sophie Boffa
Our Foundress, Frances Siedliska, Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd envisioned the purpose of "Nazareth" as cooperating with Christ and His Church in spreading the Kingdom of God's Live among ourselves and others. Also as part of her legacy is Love for the Church and Prayer, support and obedience to the Holy Father. This morning, 14 March, 2013, the sisters awoke to hear the joyous news that the new Holy Father was elected by the conclave at 7:07 pm local Italian time. Sister Grażyna Rocławska received an sms announcing the fact around 4:30 am Eastern Australian time. Even before Mass this morning Sisters Flawia Slusarczyk and Barbara Majcher watched the flashes of news:white smoke billowing out of the specially built chimney stack on the Vatican roof and then finally the first appearance of Pope Frances (Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio) and the throngs of people braving inclement rainy weather to welcome him. The newly elected Pope is the first non-European to be elected in 1000 years. Within hours of election, internet articles carried bibliographical articles about the new Holy Father. The quiet excitement and deep joy accompanied each sister throughout the day. Where were you and what were you doing when you heard this news that we had a new Pope?
Where were you and what were you doing when you heard this news that we had a new Pope?
Praying for Vocations is very important because it is God calling the individual to life, work and meaning. Fulfilment of one's vocation not only creates the individual into whom he/she is supposed to be, it also fulfils God's plan for all of his creation.
Saint Michael’s Parish, Blacktown South invited the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth to lead the parish in the Stations of the Cross for Vocations on the 22 February, 2013. Eight sisters attended: Sister Grażyna Rocławska, Provincial Superior and Sacramental Coordinator of the Parish, Sister Lucyna Frączek, Sister Emilia Smolak, Sister Paula Volchek, Sister Malgorzata Kozub, Sister Lois Ann Richardi, and Sister Jean Wojcik.
Before the congregation started the stations, Sister Grażyna Rocławska introduced the format of the service. Sister Malgorzata Kozub operated the computer, which projected a visual of each station by the artist Sieger Kóder. These pictures were beautiful and unique representations of the stations. Then the meditation began after she read the station’s title. Next the sisters in the front pews lit a vigil and they took turns placing the light on the steps in front of the Altar later forming a cross of the fourteen stations. Sister Jean Wojcik read the meditation for each station and then Kiran or Veronica read the special prayer that followed.After the picture of the station was screened, pictures of people in consecrated life followed. Participants in the Congregation said that they enjoyed the stations very much. Fourteen families took one of the candles lit during the ceremony home to remind themselves to pray for vocations.
These Stations were repeated in two different parishes. Although the main format remained the same, each parish had added their unique way of praying them as well. The second of the Stations of the Cross for Vocations was held in Saint Padre Pio Parish in Glenmore Park on 8 March, 2013, where Father Robert Riedling is the parish priest. Although a smaller contingent of Sisters attended, the stations were beautifully presented, and we received many expressions of thanks from the congregation. The prayers of these stations were read by Raylee.
Father Albert Wasniowski OSPPE invited the Sisters to pray the Vocation Stations of the Cross at the parish of St. Margaret Mary in Merrylands NSW on 15 March, 2013. Sisters Grażyna Rocławska, Malgorzata Kozub, Paula Volchek, Lucyna Frączek and Jean Wojcik welcomed the opportunity to pray with this parish. A fairly good crowd came to participate in the prayers.
Father Wasniowski entered the sanctuary vested in purple stole and robe. Altar boys and an acolyte processed to each station before it was introduced. The prayers were said by Brother Peter as in previous presentations. At the end of the stations fourteen members of the congregation representing their families, took home one of the ceremonial candles. The Stations were followed by Mass and then a scriptural teaching in the parish hall. The sisters stayed for the Mass and then returned home as it was getting rather late in the evening.
Below are three photos taken on the last night of the presentation. They are used with the permission of Shelly Barnes the photographer.