The Ein Karem Community
Ein Karem was founded in stages. The starting point was in May 1968, at the first Branch Chapter, when the Brazilian delegates reminded us of Mother Christine’s great desire that La Solitude be implanted near Father Marie’s tomb in Ein Karem.
At that time, the Grandbourg community numbered 35 sisters, a number for which the space available was definitely proving to be too small. Thus, the idea of swarming out yet again was relevant. After some tentative steps, the opportunity came at the end of 1968 for renting a small métayage house from the Sisters of Nazareth. Four and then a fifth sister moved there in May 1969: located on the hill above Nazareth, the view was magnificent, to the north, the house very modest, and the strongly sloping grounds needed work. This brought us the grace of coming into contact with the Orient and its Arab population – Christians of every denomination and Muslims. The sisters began to learn the local Arabic and Hebrew. Their work was hard, and spiritual help was not frequent
In the meantime – and we are now at the beginning of 1971 – contact had been made with the apostolic community in Ein Karem, and it was decided that four sisters would arrive there for August 29 to begin a small contemplative community. After making some arrangements, they moved into the rooms surrounding the large chapel
The beginnings at Ein Karem were marked by) the active and the contemplative sisters’ (as they were then calle) discovery of one another, and by a progressive adjustment to one another
Those first years were also marked by our learning of the Hebrew language, especially for the liturgy.
With four of us, we felt a little lost during our Office in the large chapel. The project of transforming a basement room under our rooms into an oratory-crypt. was realized in 1980-81.
At that time, the community had become larger, as the decision was made in January 1976 to close the house in Nazareth.
In 1983, we were again experiencing a lack of space in our “apartment”, and we felt the need to be farther away from the comings and goings of the visitors. Thus the idea was born of building something new, after having verified previously that the “old house” was not functional for us. Plans were begun in 1984, handed in 1985, and we waited for three years to have the building permit. In spite of advice to give up the plan because of the first Intifada which had just begun (in December 1987), work began in May 1988 and was completed on June 22, 1989, the day of the official inauguration.
In particular, we had thought about the architecture and furnishing of the chapel so that this would express something of our vocation in the Church.
The site of Ein Karem itself is full of significance: the place of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth and of her song of the Magnificat; the place where John the Baptist, the precursor, was born and of the song of the Benedictus; an Arab village where Christians and Muslims lived, and which then, after 1948, gradually became a suburb of the Israeli Jerusalem; the place, also, of the important hospital of “Hadassah-Ein Karem, which receives, in addition to the sick – both Israelis and Palestinians and others – many victims of violence; a place very near “Yad Vashem” which keeps alive the memory of the Shoah. This geographic insertion corresponds to our vocation which is both one of praise and of supplication – the two fundamental dimensions of the Psalms; it reminds us that we are called to unite in the same love which comes from God: the Jewish people and the Nation, no matter what the current events might be.
For 30 years now, the apostolic community and the guest house have lived through several developments which we have accompanied, adapting as we went along