26 October 2015
In this image from 2011, Sami El-Yousef, CNEWA’s regional director for Palestine and Israel, visits with staff at the Pontifical Mission Library in Bethlehem. (photo: John E. Kozar)
On Sunday 25 October 2015, the Pontifical Mission Library in Bethlehem celebrated its 45th anniversary on the campus of Bethlehem University. The celebration started with a Eucharistic celebration at the Chapel of the Divine Child where the main celebrant was His Excellency Archbishop Guiseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, assisted by over ten priests. His homily concentrated on the need to have God in our presence in whatever we do, and for each person to find “light” in his/her life, especially amid the violence this land is currently facing. Mass was followed by a formal program where a number of speakers made comments about the history of the library and the great services it is providing to the local community in Bethlehem. Monnitte Monana, the current Teresian director of the library welcomed the guests, and formally opened the celebration by thanking all in attendance. I was privileged to make the opening remarks, emphasizing the three-way cooperation that has made the library such a success. I highlighted the role played by the Teresian Association for being entrusted with the leadership and administration of the library since its inception; thanked Bethlehem University for housing the PM Library in its main library building since 1978; and acknowledged the moral and financial support of CNEWA since those early days. I further highlighted the fact that the library has dramatically expanded its services since those early days and is now more of a community center providing educational and cultural activities for a wide variety of audiences.
The second part of the program included a video presentation narrated by previous and current members of the library. (You can watch the video at this link.) This was followed by short talks about the humble beginnings and history of the library by Brother Joseph Lowenstein, who was the Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University when the initial agreement to host the PM Library was signed back in 1978, as well as by Mellie Brodeth of the Teresian Association who worked in the Library in those early days and is now the director of the Bethlehem University Library. They both spoke eloquently about the importance of people in the life of the library and how it has evolved over the years.
As a way to show the diversified nature of the activities of the library, there was a surprise: a Palestinian folk dance performed by young members of the library who learned this dance as part their activities during the summer camp 2015. This was followed by a ceremony presenting awards to individuals and institutions who made significant contributions to the life of the library over the past 45 years — including, among others, Archbishop Lazzarotto, Br. Joseph Lowenstein, CNEWA, Bethlehem University, the Teresian Association, plus a number of library members. The ceremony concluded with closing remarks by the regional director of the Teresian Association, Dr. Nenita Tenefrancia, who reflected on the mission of the Teresians and how that mission is being lived in Bethlehem through their presence in both the Pontifical Mission and the Bethlehem University Libraries. Their founder Saint Pedro Poveda should be very proud as they fulfill the mission of “transforming society, and promoting human values in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel.” A reception followed in the Institute of Hotel Management served by students of the university.
You can read more about the library here and here.
And to support the ongoing mission of the Pontifical Mission Library, please visit this giving page.