A Letter to all Pilgrims of Ibillin from Abuna Elias Chacour
Archbishop Emeritus of the Melkite Catholic Church of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee
6 July 2014
Friends, Brothers and Sisters.
Are you still able to bear with me despite my long period of silence? I know, you would certainly say yes…
In fact, I am still here. I am coming back to a normal way of life after eight long years of church administration. Instead of being a man of prayer and of spiritual concern, as Archbishop I was cornered to become an administrator. To make a long story short, now I am retired because I have reached 75 years of age. I am supposed to be a jobless man but the reality is that I became busier than before (but no more in administration).
I spend my time reading – an average of at least five hours a day – and writing as much as I can concentrate. I started writing a book on The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount about Jesus Christ, the Man from Galilee. I keep learning more about him. I relate to him as being one among my many parishioners from Galilee. It was an honor to have Him as a member of my community but I tell you he is not easy to deal with. He would never budge. To accompany Him means to follow him, not to invite him to follow us. Since he is the light of the world, If we insisted to go first, we would be following our own shadow and he would be waiting for us to adjust, as the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son waited for his wayward son to come to his senses.
My experience as the Archbishop of Galilee taught me that in order to say anything about The Man from Galilee, Jesus Christ, one has to plunge into the active silence of prayer and meditation. This is what I do abundantly since I retired and came home to Ibillin. I think it is impossible to write anything meaningful about Christ that is not the fruit of a special relation with him. That we can obtain only with prayer and fasting. It is so marvelous that I wish every one of you Pilgrims of Ibillin to be given this unique experience of the presence of the Lord in your own life. It is possible. The way to that privilege is to pray to the Heavenly Father to reveal himself to you. You will start discovering God’s presence on the face of your neighbors. Until our own dignity shines on the face of our neighbor, we would never see our own dignity.
In Ibillin, I restarted living as a human being. I have time to walk around the campus and to receive guests, including many groups from overseas. In addition, I must care somehow for the Mar Elias Schools. The new generation of MEEI directors face deep challenges, but they bring vision and wisdom to their complex task. As a gift to MEEI in my retirement, I hope to build a museum for the schools in the village Ibillin. We want to document the history of MEEI, making it the first school in the country to have a museum for itself. In fact, the school has a story and a history to tell the wider community.
Presently the school is doing as fine as things could be fine. However, we face the very serious problem of drastic cuts in the meager subsidy from the State of Israel. This year the cuts amounted to 19% of the MEEI budget. This makes things extremely complicated as we try to pay the monthly salaries for teachers. This cut leaves us with a monthly deficit of at least 250 thousand shekels (almost $75,000). The only ways to manage this situation seem to be either to raise the tuition that parents must pay, or to reduce the hours of learning in the school.
This is a complex situation. If we raise tuition, parents will have a problem paying the tuition we imposed on them, and many among the parents would become our enemies. Why should we allow ourselves to become the enemies of those we try to help? However, if we make the school day shorter to save money we would send the children home around eleven in the morning. Meanwhile their mates at the governmental (public) schools are given enough subsidies to keep the children until 2:30 PM. We are confused about what to do! This is not a unique problem to MEEI but affects all the Christian schools alike in Galilee. As leaders of the Christian schools contemplate the problems together, we are even considering whether to go on strike or to close some schools. There is yet no final resolution what to do. We will be grateful for your prayers as we struggle with this difficult challenge.
I am living in Ibillin as I was before I accepted to become the archbishop of Galilee. I am still the archbishop emeritus of the same diocese of Galilee. My e-mail address is still the same: firstname.lastname@example.org
My telephone at the office is 972 4 8432108 my cell is 054 771 72 90.
The way to my heart – you know it well – is always wide opened and welcoming.
Abuna Elias Chacour
PS – A note from Pilgrims of Ibillin: If you can consider an extra donation to Pilgrims of Ibillin at this time for the purpose of helping provide scholarships for low-income students at Mar Elias, you can truly offer help and hope. Click here to make a secure donation by credit card. Or send your check, made out to Pilgrims of Ibillin, ℅ Cho Kwan, CPA; 311 Oak St, Suite 111; Oakland, CA 94607-4602.
Examples of tuition needs:
- $34 provides a month of high school tuition or $68 provides a month of elementary tuition
- $340 provides one student’s full h.s. tuition for a year or $680 provides a year for an elementary student.
- $500 provides half the cost of a new up-to-date computer with specialized software
- $1500 provides salary for a teacher to work with 15 students for a semester in extra-curricular exam prep tutoring.