Job: Social worker for the Latin Patriarchate
City: Beit Safafa
Denomination : Latin
“Daily life problems can keep people away from the Church”
Would you say you are close to the Church?
I’m very much involved in the church. I am not only a staff member of the catholic Church, I am also a believer. I feel that my mission and my work for the church is not only providing social services to marginalized and poor people. For me, being part of the church is believing, participating, and being a spiritual leader for my children. I encourage them to pray, I go with them to the mass, it is about nurturing their faith in Jesus Christ. In the same way that we need physical food for us to grow physically, we also need to grow spiritually. We can do that by going to the mass every week and participating in different events. If we don’t pray if we don’t have communion we can’t really grow spiritually .
Why is this commitment important for you?
Because my work is very close to the priests and this is different from any other social worker. I play the role of the social services as part of the comprehensive service of the church.
What is the situation of the people you help through the social department of the Latin Patriarchate ?
COVID19 pandemic has created an unusual circumstance that required special intervention to relive families in Jerusalem and West bank as they endure a new reality of unemployment, poverty, and psychological stress. The intervention focused on helping vulnerable families in East Jerusalem and the West Bank with food copouns , rental fees, contributing towards covering the electric bill. Our aim was to target the poor and the vulnerable among the families, however as COVID19 cases worsened, the Latin Patriarcate witnessed more and more cases under pressure and many were drowning in debts and financial commitments. More and more families came with a lot of pain and suffering and they are worried about their future.
You also try to focus on women, through small groups’ facilitation. Why ?
Women face a unique set of personal and professional demands in their everyday life. The ability to manage the stressors of the workplace coupled with the stress that personal relationships and motherhood bring can be overwhelming. Emotions can also get in the way when one is striving for perfection and keeping everyone happy, while juggling priorities and obligations. Thus, women need to find a solid ground from which they can slow down, and think up ways to manage their life stressors, and most importantly, put God in charge and become mature in Christ. It is sometimes in the mentality here that the Church should provide everything, but we try to teach them to first depend on themselves. If they need it, we are here, as a church institution, but not to provide and solve every problem of their daily life. These are their families, their children, they are their responsibilities, not ours. We are here to give them keys to deal with their life. For instance, we are facilitating 3 groups of 15 women. We believe that if they are strong, this good energy will replicate in their families. We tell them : “You are the center of your home”.
Are things bothering you in the way the Church is working nowadays?
I can’t say that the way the church relates to the believer is perfect. There are and will always be challenges. But at least the church is doing a lot for the faithful to be close to the church. Unfortunately, there is a gap between church leaders and the faithful. I don’t think it is the fault of the Church itself, sometimes it is also because of people who lose their faith because of personal reasons like bad relationships with their priest or personal issues or misunderstanding. We have to work on the clergy. They are well educated and trained in theology. But I think they need skills in community building, on how to deal and be close to people with difficulties, and how to be close to them to heal their burdens.
Are religious leaders understanding the needs of the people?
I don’t want to blame them all the time.They also have their own problems. I can say from my 20 years experience with needy families, follow jesus to encourage them to be active member in the church to o pray to go weekly to the mass . It is their role to plant in them the seeds of faith, so that they can grow in wisdom and grace .The problem is, when people live at the margin of the church, the gap becomes too big for the kids. In the end, it is not good for the presence of the Christians in the Holy Land because there is a whole generation coming that has lost their faith.
Do you have a dream for the Church?
Part of my dream for the synod journey is that the church takes this opportunity to bring back many of those who are lost in the way. We have many people who are now far from the Church for whatever reasons, or no longer interested. They became margenalized by the community and the church. These people have a very important role and voice. We can’t continue to leave them. The Journey that I wish for is to work with the parishes to bring these people back to hear them and to listen to their pain and deal with them .