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James Martin, S.J.November 24, 2009

A new blessed, story courtesy of CNS and, afterwards, a reader's research:

NAZARETH, Israel (CNS) -- A newly beatified nun from the Holy Land could serve as an inspiration for Christians who remain there, said the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.  The Nov. 22 beatification "breathes upon us a new spirit, renews our church and invites us to the happy hope that we ourselves, too, can be saints like her," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, referring to Blessed Soultaneh Maria Ghattas, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.

"What the church needs most is the witness of saints," he added in his homily at the beatification, a major step toward sainthood. "Holiness is the sign of the church's credibility."  Patriarch Twal beatified Mother Marie-Alphonsine, as she is known, during a Mass for more than 3,000 people, who began filing into Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation almost two hours before the ceremony began. They filled the first-floor sanctuary, where the main ceremony took place; a closed-circuit TV showed the proceedings to pilgrims packed into the ground-floor sanctuary.

By the time the Mass began there was standing room only in both sanctuaries, and people crowded into the aisles, inching forward in the main sanctuary toward the metal fence separating the section next to the altar where members of the Rosary Sisters sat along with other dignitaries, including Helen Zananiri, whose prayer paved the way for Mother Marie-Alphonsine's beatification.  Zananiri had prayed for the protection of her daughter following a premonition just hours before a group of girls fell into a collapsed outdoor septic tank six years ago. All of the girls, including Natalie Zananiri, who was under the toxic water for at least five minutes according to testimony given in the beatification process, were pulled out unharmed.  "This is a very big event for us, for Christian Palestinians in this land," said Helen Zananiri. "It shows all the world that there are Christians who speak Arabic. We are very proud we live in this holy land."

And a reader sent us this helpful summary of Mother Alphonsine's life:

On November 22, 2009  Mother Marie Alfonsine Danil Ghattas, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Rosary of Jerusalem, the only indigenous religious community in the Holy Land, was beatified in Nazareth.  In Rome at the noon Angelus, the Pope acknowledged the event and noted that "Mother Ghattas" has "the merit" of having founded "a congregation formed solely of women of the region, with the purpose of religious instruction, to overcome illiteracy and improve the conditions of the women of that time in the land where Jesus himself exalted their dignity."  The Pontiff affirmed, "The beatification of this very significant figure of a woman is of special comfort to the Catholic community in the Holy Land and it is an invitation to always trust, with firm hope, in Divine Providence and Mary's maternal protection."

Mother Marie Alfonsine was born Soultaneh Maria in Jerusalem in 1843, of a pious and hard-working Arab family.  At 14 she entered the congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition and after professing vows, was assigned to the sisters’ school in Bethlehem.  She was an outstanding catechist and educator and a tireless apostle, founding confraternities and associations that promoted the devotion to Our Lady through the prayer of the Rosary. During this period, she experienced repeated visions of Our Lady who asked her to found a congregation for the daughters of her land which would have the name of “Rosary Sisters.”  Her spiritual director, Father Joseph Tannous, Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate, prepared the goundwork for the new order. Three years after its foundation  Mother Marie Alphonsine obtained permission from Rome to join the new congregation.  

Mother Marie Alphonsine had a great faith in the Providence of God and a complete and filial confidence in the Virgin.  She is distinguished by two particular virtues:  a love for silence and the hidden life; and a love for the cross and for sacrifice.  Upon direction from the Blessed Mother, she told no one other than her spiritual director and the Patriarch about her conversations with Mary.  She suffered trials and lack of support with the silence, patience and dignity of Mary at the foot of the cross.

Over the years, the Rosary sisters have conducted schools, founded orphanages and other institutions and carried out pastoral and social work in the diocese of the Patriarchate and in other Arab countries. Mother Marie established a workshop in Bethlehem to give work to poor girls and helped found the first mission in Trans-Jordan.  In 1917 she was assigned to create an orphanage in the town of Ein Karem. There she could return to her life of prayer to fulfill Our Lady's wish that the Rosary be recited perpetually.  On March 25, 1927, Mother Marie Alphonsine died while praying the rosary with her Sister Hanneh Danil Ghattas.

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Bill Collier
13 years 4 months ago
Coincidence that Mother Marie Alphonsine died while praying the Rosary on the Feast of the Annunciation? I think not.
Maria Leonard
13 years 4 months ago
The ''Rosary Sisters'' are outstanding educators and continue the work begun by Mother Marie-Alphonsine in Palestine despite many difficulties. Their school in Gaza was twice destroyed in wars and is now being restored.  Anyone visiting the Holy Land would benefit from meeting these strong, faithful women and seeing the excellent education they provide to Christians and Muslims.

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