Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Parish Responsibilities

I thought I would give an update on the four parishes for which I am responsible.

These six places are distinct and typically do not overlap. I often feel like a first year teacher without a classroom because I have to start anew with each parish. We don't have any physical space resources or any storage capacity. Each parish has a different capacity to figure out what it means for them to be church in Amman. Many times, people will say that I'm pastor of the English-speaking church, which is technically true, but each parish group retains its separate identity and does not interact with any other. For all intents and purpose in practice, I'm the pastor of four different churches, a shelter, and a daily Mass community.

Mary of the Annunciation is on Jebel Weibdeh in what used to be the French Quarter. It is a charming residential village that is crowded but with a lot of artistic and cultural activities. The church is newly renovated and is tastefully furnished. Sunday Mass is held on Fridays because it is the primary day of the weekend for the Kingdom. Many employers will allow their employees to attend church since it is a day of less activity. Perhaps eighty-percent of the congregation is Filipino, but that leaves the other twenty percent to be Arabs, Americans, Europeans, Indonesians, Sri Lankans, and Indians. Most of the congregants are domestic employees and church is a big social outlet for them. A group of Filipino singers will perform their ministry loudly with songs that have been imported into the Philippines many years ago. I would like to offer a more universal liturgy that respects also the other twenty percent who come to worship.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Association shelter is run by the Philippine government and the Jesuits provide Mass for them on Saturday afternoons. Capacity for the shelter is around one hundred, but since the community greatly fluctuates, the population increases and decreases sporadically. This shelter is for those who Filipinas who have run away from their work experience because they have suffered some type of injustice or they did not understand the reasons they came for employment. They cannot be repatriated until court cases are settled. Some of the abuse is financial non-payment of services, physical, sexual, or emotional. Typically, fifty women will attend Mass and most of the residents are from the countryside. They are largely poor, uneducated women with few social skills.

Saint Mary's in Sweifieh is often criticized as the wealthy parish, but that reveals a lack of understanding of the congregation. It is true that it contains American ex-patriots and embassy staff from many countries, but around forty percent of the congregation is Arabs. Fifteen percent are Filipinos and there is a healthy group of Indonesians, Indians, Sri Lankans, and Europeans. It is quite diverse and well-mixed. It is the most active congregation because many want to contribute to a good liturgy. The parish choir has been receiving musical training that makes it easier for them to understand the parts of the Mass. We've been able to moderate and make the music more universal and hospitable.

St. Joseph's, on Jebel Amman near Rainbow Street, is the most Filipino parish of all. About ninety percent of the congregation is Filipino and it is the community that does liturgy the smoothest. It serves a great function of welcoming visitors because it is in the heart of the city and is in an area filled with restaurants and cultural activities. Many visitors are very pleased that there is both a mix of Filipino songs and then the songs that they know. Mass does not feel foreign to them.

Frere's College Church on Jebel Hussein is the largest space and though it has been repainted colorfully, it has a pre-Vatican II architecture. The Filipino population is typically low but the music program is resistant to any efforts to update it. Filipino and Indian nurses for local hospitals are some of the communicants. Also, workers from the Dead Sea will often drive an hour to come to Mass. It does make sense for me to say Mass for the workers and customers once a month at the Dea Sea hotels. American and other foreign students who are learning Arabic for a duration will attend Mass and then many Iraqi, Jordanian, and Arab travelers will attend Mass. Since we are near the houses of several religious, they attend Mass frequently. Also, many European ex-patriots and tours will take in the Sunday evening Mass.

Lastly, the daily Mass community cannot be neglected. We have a regular congregation that are quite active. Many religious come from their nearby communities and other regular Mass-goers will come. The sacrament of reconciliation and the practice of spiritual conversations are very active during this time.

2 comments:

  1. Wow! - that is some area of work, and yes it is work, sadly what one starts out on a Vocation, it can become an Obligation and then sometimes one can find they loose the dedication. To be a Catholic Priest in an Arab Country, cannot be easy. I attended a Catholic Church in Casablanca, and to say I was frightened right through the Service, yes I was in French, but that made no difference, as I did not understand a word anyway.
    Every Blessing to you ! !

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    1. Thanks, Colin. Yes, it is quite a bit of work. Thanks for the acknowledgment, but I'm entering my second year of it and I suspect it will be just a little easier this time around. It is not easy as you suggest. I think you would find yourself comfortable in a couple of my parish churches.

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