By: Kathie Uhler, OSF
Greetings to All in this Easter and (coming) Passover Season! I write this from my convent in New York to let you know that the House of Prayer for All People is alive and well - in my mind and heart - and that I have fully recovered from my sciatic nerve problem of over a year ago.
More than all of that, please allow me to say a big "Thank You!" to each of you who have been so faithful and committed these many months to the concept and the development of the HoP. I am truly humbled and encouraged, astonished even, when you have taken the initiative to approach me personally with your concerns and well-wishes for yours truly and the project. I believe that these encounters are of God and bring blessings and energy to me to go on.
What is there to say since my last official Update of April 24, 2015? In some ways I withheld this Update while waiting for that one big, positive thing to happen to be its centerpiece. This positive thing - viz., a new location for the HoP outside of Israel - has not happened.
Understandably, perhaps, my contacts in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine have fallen silent. Yet, I guess in my naivité I wanted to press on: to follow up invitations from contacts on the ground and fly "there" to scout for a suitable site, as I did in February and March 2014.
Interestingly, some other sites have presented themselves, made attractive especially through their proponents.
One is Saint-Denis in France. This is the site of the Muslim cell from which the plans to terrorize Paris were laid. My contact, who has worked there for many years, says there is a Muslim community in Saint-Denis who are much in favor of activities for reconciliation and peace. To follow up with this suggestion, I contacted a French Franciscan friar, a long-time friend, now based in Avignon. He responded by saying
that there were enough religious leaders in the region who would understand how important such houses of prayer would be for accepting each other and to spend time praying together.
Another location could be Cuba. Some of the Core Group of the HoP had suggested this some time ago and looked into how we might get an entrée into the country. Subsequently, I met two Cuban guys in a sports bar, one of whom was very interested and said he knew a lobbyist in Cuba who could help. Not much has happened with this contact beyond a couple of emails. I include it to show you that I do indeed follow up on leads. One never knows when and where the graces will come!
Other sites with strong, on-the-ground backing are in Baltimore and here in New York City; and I made attempts to establish Franciscan contacts in Assisi.
I also offered the HoP project for a West Bank site to a congregation of sisters who have a ministry there. They visited me in Jericho in the Fall of 2014 when I was there rehabbing a house for the HoP. They are in full accord with the Mission Statement. Their leadership has not given them the go-ahead as yet.
Why haven't any of these locations gotten off the drawing board? For one thing, my life has become encumbered, especially since last summer (2015) with several role responsibilities: the presidency of the Franciscan Federation of the Sisters and Brothers of the Third Order Regular of the US; the local minister's position at the convent where I live; and membership on my religious congregation's General Chapter Planning Committee, with monthly face-to-face meetings till that event in late July this summer.
I accepted these commitments because I saw that I had the time while waiting for the Kairos** moment to establish the HoP. Now, perhaps these commitments are serving as a distraction from a grace? One never knows: I must go on from day to day in the belief of my fidelity to the will of God.
On the plus side, the HoP has been incorporated in New York State as a not-for-profit charitable organization. Papers are being readied to file with the IRS for tax exempt status. And I am into the fourth year of a five-year ban on entry into Israel. So, who knows? I may out-live that ban.
I need to hear from you. What do you think of all of this? What's the best bet? Where else would you see the HoP? Would you be interested in volunteering for any one of these possible sites? Or other?