Our twinned parish in Nablus

Mary Dillon from St Cecilia's Parish describes a long awaited visit.

We left Jerusalem today to continue the second part of our pilgrimage.  As we leave Jerusalem's busy streets; children going to school, shops opening and people rushing to work, Sunday is a normal day in Jerusalem.  We are making our way to Nablus, a journey of over one hour to the parish of St. Justin's, twinned with St. Cecilia's Tuebrook but heavily supported by many others around the Archdiocese.  We are spending the day with our friends from Nablus; Mass, lunch and a visit to Jacob's Well.  Along the journey we pass by many biblical sites which bring home to us the wonders of this Holy Land.  We prayed with hope that the checkpoints which Fatherr Mark has spoken so many times about will be open and that we will pass through them without any problems.  We know that in the past Father Mark has had to wait several hours at the checkpoint, so fingers crossed. However, things didn't go without a hitch. Our Bus Driver was taken off the coach supposedly for not wearing a seatbelt but was later told that the Security Forces wouldn't allow any Tourists into Nablus.  After a little time they let us through.  We were finally in Nablus with Father Johnny and his congregation waiting to greet us.

The Mass was celebrated by all the priests with Father Johnny and Father Mark as Main Celebrants with Fathers Grant and Michael concelebrating.  It was mostly celebrated in Arabic which was really lovely and even though we didn't know what was being said we could understand most of the Mass.  Father Johnny presented Father Mark with a lovely Arabic Bible which he said would keep in church.  After Mass we greeted each other with hugs and kisses, we were all very pleased to see and chat as we've been waiting for this moment for a number of years.

We then left for Jacob's Well whilst the parishioners prepared lunch.  Jacob's Well is situated in the Crypt of the Greek Orthodox Church.  What a sight to behold to know that we've been in the same place where Jesus met the woman from Samaria; such a sacred place!  The well is 40 metres deep and the water is brought out of the well in the old way by a bucket and rope manually.  The church itself is adorned by beautiful art work meticulously and tirelessly painted by the priest of the parish.

After our visit to the Well we returned to St Justin's for a wonderful lunch of Arabic Salads, chicken, rice and melon.  We paid a quick visit to the church to see the tabernacle which we bought for the parish along with the processional cross and the air conditioning.  The tabernacle is very beautiful and we felt very proud that we were able to pay for this special object and is a sight to behold.

We sadly said our goodbyes full of happy memories with friendships and ties renewed and strengthened.

We made our way to Tiberius thankfully without a hitch.  The green fertile lands of Galilee a sharp contrast to the dry and arid land we have left behind, but our hearts are full with joy and pride that we are associated with such a wonderful place and people.