2007-2017: The Boy Home in Bethlehem celebrated its first decade. “Thinking about ten years is important, but thinking about 83 kids is even more important.” This is how Fr. Marwan, who has been managing the Home since the beginning, commented on this event. Since 2007, the structure belonging to the Custody of the Holy Land has been taking care of 83 children and teenagers with family issues. The important anniversary was celebrated on September 15 with a mass of thanksgiving in the presence of the Custos of the Holy Land and with a refreshment among the friends of the house.
“Today I see all the good that has been done in the lives of these 83 boys,” said Fr. Marwan. Maybe I’m a bit tired, but I’m excited because I feel that in these years, the Lord has been in our midst and has completed the work that he began with his Providence.” There are 27 boys in the house today: 12 stay overnight in the house, while others come after school until about 7 p.m. All of them were in the courtyard of the house, where mass was celebrated. A school desk was used as an altar with simple objects to contain the Body and the Blood of Christ, in the spirit of the Franciscan Madonna of Poverty.
SAYING THANK YOU. During his homily, the Custos of the Holy Land spoke with the children. “We have heard that ten lepers met Jesus, and they asked him to heal them, but only one comes back to thank him,” said Fr. Francesco Patton. “This shows us that when God does good in our lives, only one time in ten do we say thank you.” Responding to the smiles of the youngest children, he continued: “Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Boy Home means saying thank you to Jesus.” He then asked for a minute of silence for each one to think about something for which they wished to thank Jesus. Some children gave thanks for “protecting us and protecting our family members,” “for the family he gave us,” “for this home and for those who work here.”
Finally, the Custos reminded everyone that “Jesus left us his own mother so that our home can never get cold.”
THE BEGINNING. The idea of establishing the Boy Home was Fr. Amjad’s, who is now the parish priest of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Excited to be able to attend this anniversary, he talked about [the history of the home]: “Ten years ago, I was a pastor of the Bethlehem parish and, walking around the houses, I noticed the issues that some families were facing. So I had thought of setting up a home for children and I had already begun to set up the premises. Then, they moved me to Nazareth.” And that’s where Fr. Marwan came into the picture. “When Fr. Amjad was transferred, I continued the work,” said the friar. “I’ve been in Bethlehem for 13 years and at that time, I was the parochial vicar.” He proudly added: “We opened the home with the then Custos, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and ten years later, we are still here.”
DONATIONS. After the mass, those who have helped the Boy Home were thanked and they were given special recognition. There were also many benefactors present. “I call them ‘the Friends of the Boy Home’,” said Fr. Marwan. “They help as they can, bringing clothes, food and money. We started with [just] a few people, but then good speaks for itself.” Among them are many local residents, such as Mr. Michael, who owns a souvenir shop in Bethlehem. “Fr. Marwan is my good friend and I love children very much. That is why it is the right place for me, said Michael. “Here, they give the children a new home, making them feel safe. There is someone who provides for them and their education. Through the Church, you feel safer, moreover, that what you give will end up in the right place, and will go to the right people.” The Custody of the Holy Land supports the Boy Home Project also with the help of the ATS Pro Terra Sancta Association.
TESTIMONIALS. During the outdoor refreshment, the floor was given to some children, who shared their memories of the Boy Home.
“I did not used to have good grades before,” said one boy. “Then I came to the Home, I changed schools and I started doing much better. Four years ago, I ended my time at the Home, I got a degree in mathematics and now I teach at the Terra Sancta School.”
Aram said: “Fr. Marwan taught me how to study. I am now majoring in Hotel Management at the university. It is nice because here I have a second home and Fr. Marwan is like a father and a mother combined. Even my younger brother has been here and now he works.” His classmate agreed with him: “Living in the Boy Home has changed everything in my life [and] in my studies. Fr. Marwan is like a father to me.”
“This Home has helped me grow and it has helped me a lot. I came [here] seven years ago,” another boy echoed.
What do the boys love about their life together there? “I love the activities we do,” said Freddy. Another boy, who seems to be a bit tougher said, “The thing I like the most about the Boy Home is that we love each other.”