Will twinning with Holy Land Schools be pursued?   2013/03/08
By: JJ


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Initiatives in support of Christian Schools of the Holy Land are multiplying. While a study tour organized by Réseau Barnabé, during these days, is offering the opportunity to a group of school principals and French teachers to establish partnerships with local schools, another initiative, “Sentinels of Peace”, headed by Fr. Frédéric Fago of the Diocese of Vannes (France), is beginning to create, through the schools, relationships of friendship and volunteer service with the Christians of the Holy Land.


During the week of March 2-9, 2013, Réseau Barnabé provided at least twelve visits to schools throughout the diocese of the Latin Patriarchate: from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, passing through Jerusalem. Jean-François Canteneur accompanied him on the trip. He is the coordinator of Réseau, a “network” aimed at encouraging cooperation between French Catholic institutions and Christian schools in the Holy Land. More clearly, this study trip concerns “education teams that have a bilateral twinning project to be accomplished with a counterpart in the Holy Land or any other project in the service of the Christian Schools of the Holy Land,” the organizers announced on their official website.

To this end, a group of principals, teachers and catechists, representing a dozen French schools, has been formed. The group has also pastoral leaders, leaders in international relations or territorial managers for Apprentis d’Auteuil. They come from all over France, Marseille to Toulouse, from Roche-sur-Yon to Picardy and Paris.

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The delegation has already visited a school in Beit Hanina, two schools in Jerusalem and two in Bethlehem. On Tuesday, the day ended in the French high school in Jerusalem with a meeting attended by officials of the French Consulate. They also met with Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem. “The pace is maintained, but the expectations from both sides are great” confides Alice de Rambuteau, assistant to Jean-François Canteneur, who explains that “in every school, meetings with team teaching, especially with French teachers, allow us to consider together the educational activities that enrich one another.” For this reason, in order to better understand the context of the Holy Land, the study tour also offers the opportunity to meet some Israeli or Palestinian personalities, to go on a pilgrimage to some of the Holy Places, to walk in the desert or to learn the memory communicated at Yad Vashem.

“Sentinels of Peace”

And if “Réseau Barnabé’s interest is pooling the experiences and skills of each one,” explains Alice de Rambuteau, then an autonomous initiative of the Diocese of Vannes (Morbihan – France) completes the gamut with the “Sentinels of Peace” Association. She speaks about Fr. Frédéric Fagot, a delegate for Catholic education in the Diocese of Vannes and Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem: “Through our association we have at heart helping young people to discover the profound realities of Israel and Palestine by meeting and helping Christians of the Holy Land.” And this through personal meetings between junior high and high school students, as well as students from 16 to 22 years of the two countries. The association, which is taking its first steps under the patronage of Bishop Raymond Centene of Vannes and Bishop Shomali, is not trying to “institutionalize” twinning, but “letting Providence act,” in the words of Fr. Fagot.

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Concretely, this is about bringing the greatest possible number of young people from Morbihan (as well as other departments in the future) to the Holy Land during the academic school year. It is possible in two ways. On the one hand, establishing twinning between schools, for example: the Holy Land Secondary School of the Sisters of St. Joseph (of which Sr. Frida Nasser is Principal) with Saint François-Xavier High School in Vannes (17 of its students currently accompany Fr. Fagot in the Holy Land) and at the end of Apri, a twinning will be established between the junior high school of Sainte Anne La Trinité-Porthoët with the school in Zababdeh. The aim is to organize exchanges between school students so that young people are truly immersed in the everyday lives of their fellow believers in the Holy Land.

The second area of action covers summer camps for youth. This involves organizing “voluntary work–pilgrimages” of three weeks for groups of 10-15 young people at most. The program planned for this summer is as follows: volunteering in the communities in the morning (gardening, hospitality, health care facilities or work in orphanages …) Bible study in the afternoon and meetings with a well-known personality from the Holy Land in the evening. For 2014, Fr. Fagot is already planning to organize visits from July 1- August 31 for 3 – 4 youth.

Beginning with the principle that “every Christian was born in Jerusalem,” Fr. Fagot, otherwise a professor of the history of religions, would like to see every young person “become a sentinel of Peace” through prayer, service and pilgrimage, and then, returning to France to give witness to his/her experience. The young priest adds: “they will really be able to create bonds of friendship with the Holy Land only by meeting in trust the people who live there and the daily life by which they are confronted.” For now, the initiative is Diocesan and only involves young people. But it is not impossible that in the future it would also involve families and teachers … and not just Catholics.

Christophe Lafontaine


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