Holy Land Pilgrimage

To See the Imago Dei

January 24, 2020

“My grace is sufficient,” Burghard said as we entered the facilities of LifeGate, a community of Christians on mission to serve children with disabilities in Palestine. Burghard was describing his reliance on Jesus in this difficult but rewarding ministry. Besides LifeGate, there are very few services for people with serious disabilities. Children with genetic disorders, Down syndrome, autism, and physical abnormalities are often left without assistance in a society that has not yet fully understood what disabled children need.

Behind the Church of the Nativity live the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin Matara, a congregation of religious sisters. They, too, have devoted themselves to the service of children with disabilities, especially since 2005 when a conflict resulted in a number of local children without a home and without care. A few of us went to visit the sisters who showed us around the joyful yet chaotic place where they serve children with special needs physically and spiritually. I observed that the care provided by the sisters was marked by a profound kindness and warmth; that gave me hope and joy.

As we listened to Burghard, the team at LifeGate, and the Sisters share their experiences of ministry, I simply thought “these people are real Christians.” Here in Bethlehem, the place in which Jesus was born, are people who live out Jesus’s mission of love for the poor.

Catholic social teaching has, at its heart, the dignity of each person. Each and every person, regardless of their abilities, radiates the image of God, the imago Dei. God confirmed this truth, established in the beginning with the creation of man, when he entered into his creation as a man, being born of a woman in Bethlehem. Christians at LifeGate and the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin Matara remind us of this truth by their lives and ministry.

Jacob Dunne

Archdiocese of Dubuque

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