Dedicated to improving the lives of Christians and others in the Holy Land, the Leadership, Volunteers, Board Members and staff of HCEF convened from nine states-California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia-and Washington, DC, to participate in HCEF’s Leadership Institute Working Retreat.
The three day working retreat included various meetings held at the HCEF offices and the general meeting, which was held at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center on Saturday, March 28, 2009. Several participants talked about their recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and shared their various experiences, including their eye witness account of the tremendous challenges Christians and others in the Holy Land face on a daily basis.
The participants listened to one another as presentations were made on HCEF’s services and support in the Holy Land, including the Living Stones Pilgrimages, Birzeit Senior Citizen Center, Child Sponsorship Program, Ecumenical Center for Research and Development, Holy Land Gifts, Ambassadors of the Mother Church, and the Housing Rehabilitation Program. Dana Baumann, Chair of the Raleigh Holy Land Support Network (HCSN) shared her excitement about being involved with HCEF and lending her expertise as she presented her personal experience with senior citizens in the Birzeit Senior Citizen Center. The exchange of ideas and level of commitment was energizing as everyone participated in planning for future HCEF endeavors and events. Kristin Woodard, (OH) Holy Land Gifts Program Chair made this statement “HCEF’s Holy Land Gift items are of the highest quality because we are extremely selective when choosing our crafts” as she discussed opportunities for working together and with others on a national level.
“With committed people like you, we can make miracles happen!” said Sir Rateb Rabie, President/CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, as he enthusiastically addressed the HCEF volunteers and staff representing various denominations, including Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholics.
Robert A. Destro, (DC) Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America, also addressed the gathering. Focusing on the need to promote health diplomacy in the Holy Land, he called for developing “Abrahamic” cooperation and interfaith understanding among Christians, Muslims and Jews in the United States and the Holy Land. The Interfaith Health Initiative of the Holy Land (IFHI) is an initiative supported jointly by Catholic University and HCEF.
Patricia B Parma, HCEF Board member and Associate Professor of Student Development at Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, felt energized by the high commitment of those present at the Institute and plans to spend several weeks this summer in Bethlehem to identify and assist with the educational and economic development needs of the Holy Land.
Longtime HCEF volunteer Bill Peecher (MD), Chairman of the Ambassadors of the Mother Church Program (AMC) shared his insight and commitment to HCEF and the living stones in the Holy Land as he continues to strengthen and develop the AMC program.
Commenting on what was learned at the Leadership Institute’s three day retreat, Saliba Sarsar, HCEF Board Secretary and Associate Vice President at Monmouth University, was deeply impressed by everyone’s commitment and urged others to volunteer and contribute to peace building in the Holy Land. “We are all obligated to help–morally, spiritually, and otherwise.”
This is your invitation! Join with us as we seek to “replace despair with hope, fear with security, and humiliation with human dignity.”