ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

Room at the Inn: Bethlehem Orphanage

Children at the Pontifical Mission for Palestine Orphanage will never hear that there is no room at the inn.

“Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me…” (Mark 9:37)

In the town where Jesus was born exists a home where children who have no home are warmly welcomed. It is the Pontifical Mission for Palestine Orphanage, and it houses fifty or more youngsters between the ages five and eighteen. The girls in this home are supported by “foster parents” who send $14 each month through Catholic Near East, and to the delight of the girls, many of them receive letters from their sponsors.

Bethlehem Orphanage first opened after the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948, and is run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles.

A sense of responsibility for one another is fostered in the girls, who live together as members of a family. Everybody assists with household chores and in raising the apricots, avocadoes, and lettuce which are grown in the backyard garden to help balance the food budget. Uniforms are not worn and the girls select and sew their own clothes. School is attended outside the orphanage in Bethlehem in order that the girls have the opportunity to make friends with all types of children.

A pattern of loving care which has always characterized the home is continued by the five nuns who live there with the girls. The former “mother,” Sister Elizabeth Marie, persuaded her friends from all over the world to donate showers, a playground and even bedspreads so that the drab stone house could become a bright and cozy home for the children. Her successor, Sister Marie Emmanuel, who has been Superior of the Orphanage since the Fall of 1975, has perpetuated the homelike atmosphere, and is now in the throes of preparing for one of her charges’ favorite times of year – Christmas.

Christmas has a special meaning at this orphanage, for these are the children born in the town of the Infant. They celebrate the feast with prayerful gratitude and devotion. But all is not liturgy and solemnity. A giant Christmas tree, the exchange of gifts and a festive Christmas dinner are events which the girls – like all children – anticipate and cherish.

Monsignor John Nolan, President of the Pontifical Mission and National Secretary of Catholic Near East, has spent many a Christmas with “his children.” His greatest wish is that each child in need will find a home here as these happy youngsters have, and that no child in Bethlehem need ever hear the words, “There is room…”

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