The ten Franciscan tertiary sisters, daughters of St. Elizabeth who live in Jerusalem, come from Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Italy. The religious family, born in the upper Casentino area on May 26, 1888, has been on mission in the Holy Land since June 23, 2016. The founders, Mother Francesca Casci and Don Giuseppe Marchi, followed the apostolic teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Instead, for the contemplative aspect, just as present, they referred to San Romualdo, abbot of Camaldoli. For the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth the meditative vocation coexists with the apostolic one. Their day is marked by moments of sharing the word of God (they pray alone for at least an hour a day) and services for the poor, children, young people, the sick, activities in line with the charisma of the foundress. “In St. Elizabeth we find her love for Christ, poor and crucified, and her marked Eucharistic spirituality with an extraordinary attention to all creatures in need, traits that distinguish our religious family”, says Sister Mariangela, director of the house of Jerusalem.
Initially initiated with the reception of volunteers and young pilgrims at the Casa Maria Bambina, the tasks of the Jerusalem-based apostolate are varied and very different from one another. Each sister carries out her duties with care and attention: there are those who teach in the nursery school of the Terra Santa School, who does cleaning work in the sacristy or at the Sepulcher, who works in the kitchen, in the laundry and infirmary, and who, as a sister Elisabetta manages the staff of the Terra Sancta Museum, a cultural project supported by the Association pro Terra Sancta. “The chapel of the Flagellation has become my place of heart in Jerusalem,” says the Indian nun, one of the first nuns from India to enter the order. Sister Elizabeth has just arrived in Jerusalem for a year and her work at the museum allows her to be in contact with the pilgrims who come to the Holy Land to retrace Jesus’ steps: “Those who come to the museum often also look for a spiritual sign and so we ourselves become an instrument of witness ”.
The most evocative place for Sister Elena and Sister Mariella is the Holy Sepulcher: “When I clean the chapel of the Franks at Calvary, I feel I am very lucky to be able to clean and pray in such a holy place”. Sister Joella says she is able to isolate herself, despite the noise of the many visitors, and perceive “A peace and an inner silence that is not found in other places”.
“Being fortunate to be able to live in Jerusalem” is a phrase that recurs in the thoughts of all of them: “When I pray to Gethsemane I feel in communion with Christ Jesus, I feel I can have a privileged experience,” Sister Laura tells us. Comes from Indonesia and arrived in Jerusalem when the parent company was opened to take care of the Maria Bambina, a home for volunteers and groups of pilgrims who cannot afford hotel stays. In fact, the Sisters of St. Elizabeth also help the Franciscans in their mission of welcoming pilgrims who come from all over the world to visit the Holy Land. “I feel great gratitude from the boys and the people we host – Sister Laura says – and this fills my heart with joy”.
On November 18, the daughters of Saint Elizabeth celebrated the anniversary of the death of the princess of charity together with the volunteers, the guests of the house and the Franciscan friars. In the solemn mass celebrated in the Chapel of Maria Bambina the custodian Francesco Patton thanked them for the valuable daily service they carry out for the Custody of the Holy Land and for the community of Jerusalem.