I would like to dedicate this small chronicle to our seminarians. To those who, by God’s grace, will be future missionaries in distant lands.

It has been just over six months since my arrival to our mission in Holy Family Parish, the only Catholic parish in the whole of Gaza Strip. Besides parochial work, the parish administers two of the 5 Christian schools in the place.

In this chronicle I would like to present my first impressions about this mission.

1. Circumstances of my arrival

Divine providence prepared the best time for the announcement of my new destination to Gaza [1]. I was preaching the monthly Spiritual Exercises to the SSVM religious sisters in Italy, preparing the points for “Great courage and generosity”, when I received the news about my destination to Gaza. Thus, there was nothing else to do but to accept it with courage and generosity.

A few days after the announcement, while I was on vacation in my home, war broke out in Gaza and I saw on TV what my future mission would be. Arriving in Bethlehem, I had to stay there a few days, because I could not enter Gaza due to the war.

Finally, the war being over, I could enter the mission, but here the circumstances were not the best because when I entered Gaza, I found myself alone: Fr. Jorge Hernandez had to leave to work on his papers.

Passing through the wall that blocks off Gaza, I had the sensation of entering a prison, with many checkpoints, questions and more questions, long hallways, etc. On the other side, the SSVM Sisters were waiting for me, and before taking me home they took me to visit parts of the city destroyed by war. The sight was amazing and it was a tremendous welcome to the mission in Gaza.

2. Change of perspective

If the first point has impressed you, do not panic as I begin to recount how beautiful the mission is in these lands.

Perhaps the saying of Pildaro comes true here [2]: “Dulce bellum inexpertis” (The war is sweet to the inexperienced) since, after all the gloomy circumstances of my arrival, the good things about the mission began to appear. I have started to know the Christians of Gaza.

On the day of my arrival, a group of ten young people of the parish, knowing that a new priest had arrived, came to visit and welcome me. You cannot imagine what that was like. They were about ten young people who only spoke Arabic; only one spoke English, I say only one because it was he alone, not me. I understood nothing, and during the time I was with them I only understood that pressing a button will turn on the water heater and that Fr. Jorge lit a candle every day to the image of the Holy Family in the house. Then I thought of the advice of St. Paul that we should “laugh with those who laugh and mourn with those who weep” (Rom 12, 15). So when they laughed, I laughed, and when they put on a serious face, so did I, and just in case had they begun to cry, I would have cried with them. Beyond the words, I was really impressed by the charity of these young Christians.

Then I began to understand the Christians of Gaza, a people tried through suffering and therefore very good, always willing to assist the priest in everything. They participate in the activities of the parish; about 100 children come to the oratory on Saturdays and 30 youth on Wednesdays. For Christmas we had about 450 people during Mass and festive dinner. For the sick visits during Christmas time many young people came (they took turns between them because there was not enough room for them in the cars); they helped us in the visits with the singing of Arab carols.

So adding and subtracting the difficulties and joys of the mission, we must say that the mission here in Gaza is beautiful; we cannot deny that it is difficult, but it is more beautiful than difficult.

When people ask me: “How is Gaza?” I answer: “Gaza kitir helwa” which means: “Gaza is very beautiful.”

3. Conclusion

I have dedicated this chronicle to the seminarians because they will be future missionaries in difficult lands, so that they may not be afraid because the gifts that God grants us are greater than the difficulties that are. As St. John of Avila says: “God is stronger than sin, and therefore He gives a greater love to missionaries than the lack of love that sin brings upon sinners” [3]. Let them be thus encouraged to not fear the difficulties that arise.

Let them also pray for the missionaries and for their apostolic fruits, as one always hears in the seminary: “we pray for the missionaries in mission lands, especially for those who are most tempted and tried”.

In Christ and Mary,

Fr. Mário da Silva, IVE.

Video of the mission in Gaza:


[1] I was assigned to the Middle East Province, but was not sure of the precise destination.

[2] Pindaro, a Greek poet, cited by St. John of Avila in his letter to Fray Louis of Granada.

[3] St. John of Avila, Obras completas, Epistolario, BAC, carta 1, p. 7.