It was an invitation I received some months ago, and was very eager to accept: Could I travel to Lebanon to spend time with our RJM of the Middle East for retreat and some days of reflection? Arrangements were made, schedules worked out, and I landed in Beirut on the evening of July 19th.

Our two Lebanese sisters, Nawal Abi Karam and Youmna Zaarour, hosted me and the five Syrian RJM from Damascus in their house on the grounds of Jesus-Mary School in Rabweh. For the first days of my stay, Sr. Helen Mary Haigh, Provincial of Europe, was with us.

In addition to the times of retreat and sharing, my stay there also included visits to various sites, among them the ancient city of Byblos, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. The journeys to these places were as enjoyable as the visits themselves, as we traveled through beautiful mountain ranges and the fertile Bekka Valley.

Most memorable, however, was the experience of sharing prayer and reflection with RJM’s who have been living in or near zones of such violence and destruction. The imperatives of the gospel, the relevance of Claudine’s experience, and the present-day call of our Chapter Priorities take on heightened meaning in the face of such suffering.

More than once, as I listened to the stories, the concerns, the hopes our sisters, I thought of the motto of the Washington School for Girls: In the Spirit of Courageous Women! That surely is the spirit of our sisters there, as they work together to respond to overwhelming needs. I’m grateful that Claudine’s charism is present in this part of the world, and in admiration of the sisters who make that possible. – Rosemary Mangan, RJM

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