Latest Posts


Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.

So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,


Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM

March 13th 2020

Hanukkah and Christmas

This reflection can invite us to listen to how these two feasts echo one another.

Light… for Hanukkah is celebrated with lights, eight small flames that are lit on each of the feast’s eight days.
Already Flavius Josephus called Hanukkah “the lights”, because the victory of the Maccabeans manifested the victory of light over darkness; and St. Jerome takes up this interpretation for his own purposes in his commentary on Jn 10:22, when he says: “the light of freedom”.

In rabbinic tradition, it is the victory of the Torah (“a lamp for my steps, a light on my path”) over the darkness of the Greek empire’s paganism, which forbade the Torah.

The Temple… for Hanukkah remembers the “dedication” (which is what the word “Hanukkah” means) of the Temple after its desecration by the Greek empire (cf. 1 Macc 4:36-61 and 2 Macc 10:1-6).

The Jewish commentaries on this feast strongly emphasize the significance of the Temple as God’s dwelling place in the midst of God’s people, whence the great importance that was given to its purification and renewed dedication.
Here an extract from a midrash on Num 7:12 (chapter 7 in the Book of Numbers is the main reading for Hanukkah): “So long as the Lord was alone in his world, he longed to live with his creatures here below. He only did so when the dwelling place was established. Then the Holy One, Blessed be He, brought his presence to rest.”

We can hear Jn 1 as an echo to this: “The Word was light… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The Messiah… for Hanukkah is a messianic feast.
The Emmaus story in Luke 24 confirms this by having Jesus join the two disciples who are on their way to a very precise place: Emmaus. They are going to a place of remembrance, namely that of the victory of Judas Maccabeus (cf. 1 Macc 4). That Judas did deserve to be a true messiah. But this Jesus was not capable of delivering them from the Romans. They are disappointed and very sad. And Jesus causes them to turn around both physically and spiritually: they too pass from darkness to light.

Moreover, let us note that Jesus is asked the messianic question (cf. Jn 10:22-23) in the context of the feast of Hanukkah.

The prophetic reading for the feast (Zech 2:14-4:7) also underlines this messianic aspect by introducing the “two anointed” (4:11-14): the one represents religious power (Joshua, cf. 3:1-8), and the other political power (Zorobabel, cf. 4:6-10) – two powers that should never be confused – and “my servant sprouts” (cf. 3:9).

The dates of Hanukkah and Christmas… for their relationship is not obvious.
The origin of the date for the feast of Hanukkah is controversial: was it linked to the winter solstice, the time of year when the days begin once again to get longer, whence the importance given to light?

The origin of the feast of Christmas is also complex: is there a connection to the “Mithra” cult, Mithra being a kind of mediator between heaven and earth, whose cult included invocations to the sun…? There was a need to find a date for the birth of Jesus, nine months after his conception on March 25… In any case, the first feast celebrating the manifestation of God become man was Epiphany and not Christmas. The emphasis was not placed on a date of birth but on the fact of the incarnation.

How can we be associated with the Jewish people during this week of Hanukkah and Christmas?
Let us remember that Christmas does not claim to be a historical feast; we are not celebrating “the anniversary of Jesus”.
Even if its date wasn’t chosen because of a connection with the feast of Hanukkah (this connection could have been the theme of light together with the winter solstice), the two feasts do shed light on one another and give us messages that are not contradictory.

Is not Jesus God’s dwelling place in this world, the divine light that drives out our darkness, the Messiah who makes no political claim, the Savior of the world?!

When we celebrate Christmas, why don’t we remember these two feasts and welcome Jesus, the Messiah, who did not come to abolish the Torah and the Prophets or the Jewish feasts and their traditions. He came to fulfill the history of salvation while leaving for us as humanity the space of what is not fulfilled, that of “marana tha”, which we can say with the Jewish people with a hope that is all the greater because we know Him who has already come and whose coming in glory we await.

The words of Edmond Fleg can be our prayer:

And now both of you are waiting,
You that he come, and you that he come again;
But you are asking for the same peace,
And you are stretching out your two hands
With the same love, that he come or come again!
So what does it matter? From the one or the other shore
Make him come,
Make him come!

Sr. Anne-Cathrine Avril NDS

Letter from St. John in Montana, 11/2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Winter has arrived in Jerusalem as temperatures drop during the night down to 6 ° it is cold and we hope for lots of rain in the coming days. After celebrating Christ, the king with the Ecce Homo communities we enter into the Advent season by lightening the first light on our Advent ride.

During this last month’s Erika and myself engaged in studding book 2 of our history “Origins of Sion” where a rich description of the Man Theodore is found. Sr. Carmelle gives us many letters he wrote that paint a picture of this delightful and wise man with his great capacity for relationships. The catechumenate the beginning of the ministry of education in Sion needed its own sign before Theodore was ready to begin it. Or as he states the characteristic of the work of our Lady of Sion must be Jesus Christ’s love for the Jewish people and the last sentence on page 72 where Theodore says Sion is about an attitude rather than an apostolic project or plan. Now we are reading book 3 and there we hear what Theodore believed, what he taught the first little group of sisters. When he speaks of Mary he roots her in the Bible and her people, this was unique during his time and is an aspect of our Charism. Page 184 tells us why John the Baptist is the Patron of novices and what is a Daughter of Sion you find in the pages 130 to 133.

We celebrated with Br. Tiago his ordination of the deaconate and on the last Sunday of October and we celebrated all the sisters Jubilees of 50, 60 and 65 years living in the country of Israel. The last day of the months of October was an online Assembly for our Region/Zone.

By the second of Advent and the feast of the Immaculate conception Erika ends her canonical year and begins her Apostolic year from mid of December to mid of September 2020 in St. Mary’s community where she will work aa a volunteer, sharing the ministry and life in Ecce Homo, within her community of St. Mary’s. So she would be a regular community member in initial formation. Here Sion community life and prayer life are fully lived and integrated within the mission of Ecce Homo. Also during the Biblical programs by giving her the opportunity of being of service in these programs through helping Sr. Marge and in other tasks related to the programs. We would see this ministry also as (1) a resource for her own Biblical formation and (2) a way to learn to be available while becoming acquainted with the necessary knowledge of working within the Biblical program setting. And she will continue her volunteer work in the restaurant once a week.

Sr. Colette is having her Cataract Operation on one eye on the 4 of December and that will give her hopefully a quite Advent time. Ces is back from her Family visit and I continue to enjoy my lectures within the frame of interreligious dialogue classes. Wishing you all a meaningful Advent with Greetings and blessings from

Juliana for the Novitiate Community

Serve to be a better servant

Well, in this article I will tell you about the joy I had when I started my volunteer work here in Israel.

I hope that one day everyone will be doing some volunteer work in the world. This would have great benefits for humanity: we would be more supportive, charitable to each other and loving to everyone.

The actions carried out by the volunteer work, more than solidarity works, are acts of social inclusion and citizen education. Through volunteering, which does not require complex actions or of great repercussion, but simple and efficient acts, any person who makes herself available to others, has the ability to develop a task and can promote social inclusion.

In addition to social importance, experience and personal satisfaction, volunteer work also makes us recover values (gratitude) that are sometimes lost in our society.

I started working as a volunteer when I was still a 12 year old teenager, my aunt taught catechism in a parish on the suburbs of my city, and had children who had difficulties with writing, so she would take these children to our house and help them write better, I was always around to help, she used to say that I was the secretary.

So, I grew up with a gratuitous desire to help for free, no matter what kind of work it was but to be available to do it.

And many other jobs came after that, and when I came to the novitiate, I felt the need to do something, but because of the conditions and planning for my canonical year it was not yet possible.

Until one day Sister Juliana told me about this possibility of doing volunteer work here, I was amazed and very happy! But I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know anyone other than the convent, I didn’t know what I could do to help, and I still had a question about the language, I don’t speak the local language and my English is simple.

So, I started my first volunteer work here in Israel on September 5, 2019. I was anxious, it was Thursday I woke up and I kept wondering what the place would be like, the people, the work etc…. Who provided this service was Sister Waffe, who has been working there the longest.  We scheduled to meet at the central station to go together. I arrived almost an hour earlier; I was really looking forward to it. When we got there, it was a restaurant for needy people, it is organized by a Rabbi, and Jews, Arabs and now me Brazilian work there. My service is to put a table, serve the juice and fruits, help serve lunch and collaborate with the cleaning of the environment. The people they frequent come from all over the world and all languages, young people, adults, men and women in situation of poverty, come for this delicious meal.

The place is not very big, it is basically home to 60 people, the kitchen is small and has bathrooms and a hallway with a sink to wash hands. On normal days about 50 to 60 people pass through there for lunch, but on special dates this number doubles, because along with the food there is always something more. For example, one week before the Jewish New Year, they gave out food baskets. The menu is varied, there are several types of hot foods and a salad. It’s been a very good experience and I’m feeling good about it.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25: 35-36)

Novice Erika NDS

Letter from St. John in Montana, 09/2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Before us are the High Holidays with Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the New Year, Yom Kippur in recalling the unique day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holiness and the congregation was ready to receive the pardon of God. Then at the feast of Sukkot the accumulation of joy (Isa: 55:6-7) is celebrated.

During these last weeks, Juliana and Erika emphasized the reading and sharing the Story of Sion and the Spirit of openness and commitment to the church through the reading of the books,  Origins of Sion.

Erika is taking one day of Volunteer work at the soup kitchen or as it is called here, “The Restaurant”. This is where street people who cannot afford a daily meal are served six days a week a hot and cooked meal sponsored by the different restaurants and hotels in Jerusalem. The food is already prepared by midday and brought to the restaurant for the people in need. Also Erika will begin her apostolic stage in her Formation from December 2019 to September 2020 in her apostolic engagement at Ecce Homo.

Juliana continues to be engaged in her weekly volunteer day at Yad Sarah and from the beginning of October until May she will take a course on Islam. This is a three years program of Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism offered at the Salesian Theological Program at Ratisbonne as a continuing formation.

Colette will soon be celebrating her 65th Jubilee of serving in the country of Israel. This will be done in November and a separate Newsletter will be sent out shortly of her faithful living and serving the poor and deprived in the country.

Celia is engaged during this month in the UNANIMA International Board gathering and then will be on her holiday in New Zealand and Australia from late October.

During this last month we welcomed some family of Sr. Anne Catherine to our house as she is saying good-bye after serving 50 years in contributing through her teaching to the church of Jerusalem, to the Hebrew speaking and Arabic speaking communities through her courses and over the years through her engagements with the tour guides in Israel and the Territories. Not to forget all the teaching and sharing she offered so generously to us here in the novitiate and all the sisters around the world. Where her knowledge of Judaism, the Jewish feast and love for the Jewish people opened a new look at Nostra Aeetate and its call within the church.

The Autumn time with its coolness of air contributes to the wellbeing of all of us here in the Ein Karem communities.

Greetings and blessings from  Juliana for the Novitiate Community
Ein Karem, Monday, 30 September 2019

Give thanks unto the LORD

“Give thanks unto the LORD; give honour unto his name, speaking of his doings among the people.”

(1Chronicles 16:8)

I am sheep!

I am completing one year here in the Holy Land – and I have much to thank and praise God, who gave me people who contributed to my personal and spiritual growth, so that I could complete this time.

Today I praise God! for this achievement, with Psalm 23, that one of my favourites!

This text brought to my heart a retrospective of these 365 days, made me look back a year in my history. And to perceive me as a sheep that is going through the shepherd’s care.

The Lord is my shepherd; (Psalm 23:1) God you are my King, you know everything about me, when I lie down when you wake me, you are always shepherding me. “My Shepherd is good, and puts all his benefits at my disposal, so that I do not fall, but if I stumble on the stones along the way He will carry me in His lap.

I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1) Behold my provision, my help in all my needs,

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters, (Psalm 23:2)

When loneliness, fear, or restlessness come to meet me, your gaze makes me plunge into the deep waters of your mercy and I fall asleep.

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness, For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

If I am troubled or distressed, then you come to my aid, and with a breath calm my soul, silence my noise and remain its peace.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Even if I go through danger or imminent risks, even if I go through some kind of “terror” I will not fear, because the God of Israel is with me! And even if the danger comes very close, my Savior will always be in front of me.

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my adversaries, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)

I thank you, my Lord, for all the battles won, and for others yet to come. May I rejoice in thy name for ever, and never forget thy benefits! thank you for feeding that poor soul thirsty for thy love.

Goodness and mercy will surely follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever and ever. (Psalm 23:6)

Hallelujah! Your Love Lord is unconditional, and your ways are unfathomable, help me to be more and more in love with you. Help me to walk on your paths, and be for others peace and goodness, and like your son Jesus Christ, spread love.

Thank you, Lord!


Erika Regina, NDS.




Letter from St. John in Montana, 07/2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

As time passes quickly we find ourselves already in the month of August where mornings and evenings are filled with cool fresh air and sometimes the Ein Karem valley is covered with fog in the early hours of the morning.

In the middle of July, we went to Kiryat Ye´arim, also called Abu Gosh today, for our 8 day retreat and it was a wonderful time to spend on the mountain where The Ark of the Covenant was remembered …. Short history: (The Ark of the Covenant resided in Shilo for 300-400 years. Then it was taken by the Philistines at the battle of Even-ezer (1 Sam. 4:3-11). The Philistines subsequently sent back the Ark after retaining it for seven months (1 Sam. 5:7, 8) because of the misfortune that befell them (1 Sam. 5:1-6). The Philistines returned the Ark to Beit Shemesh. The people of Beit Shemesh sent it on to Kiryat Ye’arim to the house of Avinadav. (1 Sam. 6:21) The Ark of the Covenant remained at this location for about 20 (or perhaps 50) years (1 Sam 6; 2 Sam 6).

Back in our daily setting we celebrated the 85th birthday of Sr. Colette and feasted all other birthdays during the month of July. Since Erika and I were engaged in a study of our Constitution these past months, we concluded our study with # 140 which tells us who we are and who we want to become. In deepening our understanding of our Constitution on Formation, both initial and continued Formation, we went back and forth between the Constitution and the Initial Formation Sion booklet (from entry to final commitment).

Our study time together now is following the guide that Sr. Elisabeth Losinski put together to study the books, “Origins of Sion.” These books give the story and the spirit of Theodore Ratisbonne, the early beginnings of the Congregation, the key persons and the events that influenced him. In her booklet, Sr. Elisabeth made sure that we do not overlook the footnotes which have fascinating details and colorful bits of information.

Sr. Anne Catherine worked with Erika on the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av. This is an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon’s Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem.

Sr. Maureena Fritz gave Erika a wonderful experience of a Shabbat Service followed by a beautiful meal at her place. So we go forward in hope and thanksgiving for all the moments that God was walking with us during these months of summer heat.

Greetings and blessings from Juliana, for the Novitiate Community