05/26/2014, 00.00
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Sisters of the Holy Rosary, female Christian witness in the Arab-Muslim world

by Fady Noun
It is the most important religious congregation in the Mashriq. During the Mass with Pope Francis, Patriarch Twal called for the canonisation of its founder, the Blessed Marie-Alphonsine. At present, it has 250 sisters and is present throughout the Middle East where they run orphanages, retirement homes, schools and hospitals.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Created in Jerusalem in 1880 by the Blessed Marie-Alphonsine, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem of the Latins is the oldest female order in the Mashriq (the countries of the eastern Arab world, east of Cairo and north of the Arabian Peninsula). Their activities extend from Jerusalem to Cairo, from Beirut to Kuwait City.

On Saturday, the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal called for the canonisation of the Blessed Marie-Alphonsine during the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Amman (Jordan), the first day of his visit to the Holy Land.

Born on 4 October 1843 in Jerusalem as Danil Ghattas, the future Sister Marie-Alphonsine, despite her father's initial strong opposition, joined the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition as a postulant at the age of 14.

During her many apparitions, Our Lady repeatedly told her about her pressing and urgent desire to create a congregation in Palestine, bearing the name of the Sisters of the Rosary.

The images of nuns wearing a blue mantle appeared with clarity in her frequent dreams, as the Virgin scolded her for the slowness with which she was responding to her request.

The apparitions of Our Lady led her to put herself totally into the hands and the will of God. "I was eager to bear every trial," she wrote in her diary. "I found everything that might seem bitter and painful light to carry. Loneliness was the paradise of my heart and obedience was the horizon of my mind. The orders of my superiors were easy to follow."

The congregation was finally set up in 1880, and included an initial group of seven nuns, a number that reflects perfection.

In her work, Sr Alphonsine was guided and assisted by a Palestinian priest, Fr Joseph Tannous, whose ancestors were linked to a prominent family in the city of Eden, the Yammine. He died shortly after seeing the birth of the women's congregation, assisted by Sr Alphonsine.

The life of the Blessed was marked by the recitation of the Rosary, interspersed by apparitions.

In her lifetime, in addition to the religious apparitions of the Virgin, she was able to carry out prodigious deeds. It is said that in 1885, a female student at the school run by the Sisters in Jaffa of Galilee, near Nazareth, by the name of Nazira Eid, fell into a tank full of water. Sr Alphonsine was able to save her by throwing her rosary at her.

On 25 March 1927, feast day of the Annunciation, at the time already previously announced, Mother Alphonsine let herself go into the arms of the Lord.

At present, the Sisters of the Rosary include 250 religious and are present in the Holy Land, Jordan, Lebanon, Cairo (Egypt), Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Rome. They run orphanages, retirement homes, schools and hospitals.

Most of the sisters who take their vows come from Lebanon, Jordan and the Holy Land. In Lebanon, they have ten convents and a hospital (Gemmayze).

Sent in 1887 by the Maronite Patriarch, the nuns contributed - under the guidance of Sister Rosalie Nasr and others - to the foundation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Lebanon (Ibrine).

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