The Pope Paul VI Ephpheta School for the Hearing Impaired in Bethlehem made history last week with its first-ever high school graduation. Up until 2012, Ephpheta students would finish their schooling at 10th grade. For some, that would be the end of their formal education; others would be able to go on to regular schools. In 2010, discussions started to rectify the situation and add two more classes so that the students could finish 12 grades and receive a high school diploma. In 2012, after two years of planning, the school added two new classrooms, which led finally to this milestone. For more than 40 years CNEWA has been the primary financial supporter of Ephpheta, enabling generations of young people to learn how to lip-read, speak and communicate with the outside world. (Read more about the school’s work.)
I was privileged to attend the graduation. As a show of great support to the school and its dear mission, His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal presided. The list of guests included the Mayor of Bethlehem, Mrs. Vera Baboun; Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Bishop Marcuzzo; the Bursar of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. Ibrahim Faltas; as well as government officials representing the Ministers of Education and Social Services in the Palestinian Authority. The Sisters of Saint Dorothy who run the school were well represented with the presence of their Superior General, Sr. Luciana, as well several other sisters who serve in the school and within the country.
There were seven graduates—four young women and three young men, all ready to sit for the government-administered standard exam. We wish them all the best of luck in their future academic and/or career plans. During the ceremony, a number of speeches were given, the most touching of which was delivered by the valedictorian. He was clearly emotional about leaving his school after 13 years. As he put it, he feels “very sad to be leaving his second home and second family.”
It is worth noting that just a few days earlier the role of Ephpheta was highlighted during the visit of Pope Francis, as he acknowledged the four main institutions that were set up as a direct result of the visit of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land in 1964. The four institutions were Ephpheta; Bethlehem University; Tantur Ecumenical Institute; and Maison d’Abraham Guesthouse. What a great coincidence that the graduation of this very first class coincided with the uplifting visit of Pope Francis, whose message has always been to support the poor and the weak!
In the meantime, the wonderful mission of Ephpheta goes on — but not without you! Please visit our Ephpheta giving page to learn how you can play a vital role in helping young people connect and communicate. You can help bring sound into their world and, truly, give them a voice.
CNEWA is proud to have played a significant role in the development of the school for over four decades. Congratulations to the class of 2014!