Under the theme “From Memory to Commitment,” the Teresian Association is celebrating its first centenary in all 30 countries in which they have a vibrant presence. Founded by St. Pedro Poveda in the Spanish village of Covadonga in 1911, they began their work in the Holy Land in 1952. Shortly thereafter, they were asked by the Pontifical Mission to run the five Catholic public libraries that were opened to serve the youth in the Holy Land – specifically, in Nazareth, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Amman. Today, the Teresians continue to efficiently run the two remaining libraries in Bethlehem and Amman.
As we all know, with the technological advances of recent years, the role of a traditional library has become obsolete. This is not so for the Teresians, who have transformed the concept of a public library to meet the needs of the local populations – especially the youth. The Bethlehem library has become a vibrant community center, holding summer camp programs, yearlong workshops and various other learning opportunities. The library extends its services not only to youths, but also to women, the elderly and others seeking involvement within the community. The unlimited dedication of the Teresians helps to make this possible.
As an example, recent summer camp programs at the Bethlehem library catered to over 112 youths, organized into four age groups. Participants took part in a wide variety of activities including interreligious and intercultural dialogue, computer education, guitar lessons, Palestinian traditional Dabke dancing, storytelling, the formation of values, reading appreciation, art and drawing lessons, personality development and much more. Though this summer camp session has concluded, many of these activities will still be offered throughout the year.
In addition to their work at the library, the Teresians work locally to make available language education programs and to provide support for Bethlehem University. Internationally, they are active in schools and universities, usually involved in pastoral work, mass media, health care and research.
During the centenary celebration in Jerusalem, a number of local Palestinians young and old gave personal testimonies highlighting how the Teresians have touched the hearts of so many with their contributions and their quiet humility. I for one could not help but stand up and thank the Teresians for opening up their home to the entire neighborhood in Jerusalem during the 1967 war, providing shelter and hospitality for over 50 people of all walks of life. Those six nights I slept on the floor in their warm home shall never be forgotten.
We at the Pontifical Mission are proud of our long-term partnership with the members of the Teresian Association and look forward to continued collaboration, especially through the Pontifical Mission libraries.