Bethlehem: a visit to the “Antonian Charitable Society” home for the elderly

Giacomo Pizzi31 August 2011

Come and see for yourself. This is the only way to learn about the reality of Bethlehem.

Through its project “Bethlehem is also for the elderly”, ATS pro Terra Sancta is trying to make sure that the elderly are not forgotten, in particular those who reside in the Antonian Charitable Society, a rest home that today cares for 28 elderly women.

Those pilgrims who out of curiosity decide to visit the facility are always marked by their visit. We would like to illustrate this through the words of one of them who had the opportunity to spend a morning with the residents of the Antonian Charitable Society, along with a volunteer serving in Bethlehem.

 My dearest,

I have seen a reality that deeply touched me. Since we met in Gethsemane to pray Vespers together, I have wanted to better understand the situation. I was in Gethsemane for a period of silence and it already seemed to me a great gift to be able to be in this situation. But when you mentioned to me your involvement with the elderly of Bethlehem, I couldn’t help but to think that, as a geriatrician, to have the opportunity to learn about the real situation of aid for the elderly would be the fulfillment of my prayers.

And it was also very generous of you to be at my side. In short, everything helped me to go one more time to Bethlehem…

This time the star did not bring me to bow before a Child who had come for all children, but to bow before those beings even poorer than He, because they lack so much: good health (as they are very old), joy for the future, hope.

These were very “intense” moments: that woman with her walker who repeatedly called out to me “See you soon” and with her head sought to reinforce the sincerity of this invitation that we should meet again.

And that other dear lady, who asked me why I was there. “To meet a a sweet lady like you”, I replied. And her response: “I, am I really a lady?” She was once again enjoying the pleasure of feeling herself to be somebody! And her hands clasped to mine communicated such a great tenderness. My name, my work, searching for her glasses to see me, her index finger raised while she repeated to me: “God made you a doctor”.

 And then the others… and my request: “Isn’t there a gown for me?”

Then the encounter with Sister Immaculate, the sweet eaten in the kitchen, offered by the Sister while it was still hot, and then…and then the memory of that day!

You graciously accompanied me to see once more the Basilica of the Nativity, but I must confess to you that as I kneeled down I was seeing not so much the face of a child Jesus as that of a Jesus in need. And you will recall that I was somewhat confused, almost embarrassed.

Dear Anna, I don’t want to lose anything of that day. I received so very much.

For this reason I want to return, I would like to contribute to your what you are doing and to be of use to those dear women. I hope to hear again from you soon.

A big hug.


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