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Three New Deacons for the Holy Land

by Cécile Klos

‎ ‎BEIT JALA – On Sunday, December 11, 2016, the Apostolic Administrator ‎ordained three new deacons for the Diocese of Jerusalem in the Church of the ‎Annunciation in Beit Jala. Many priests, family members and faithful came to ‎witness the ordination of three new transitional deacons: Salem Lolas, Saqer ‎Hijazin and Joseph Al-Sweiss.‎
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Sunday, December 11, was a day of celebration and joy for the Diocese of ‎Jerusalem as three young men committed their lives to serve the Lord in the ‎Latin Patriarchate. Salem Lolas, a native of Beit Jala, Saqer Hijazin of Al-Aqaba ‎and Joseph Al-Sweiss of Fuheis, came forward when Archbishop Pierbattista ‎Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, called them. ‎Present at the ordination were Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for ‎Jerusalem and Palestine, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar ‎for Israel, Bishop Kamal Batish, Vicar General Emeritus, Fr. David Neuhaus, ‎Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel and Fr. Jamal Khader, ‎rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jala.‎
The diaconal ordination is a fundamental stage for these young men because it ‎marks their consecration to the Lord and a step leading them to ordination to the ‎priesthood next year.‎

For a closer look at this significant event, Joseph Al-Sweiss graciously ‎answered some questions.‎
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Could you introduce yourself and tell us what is your background?‎
My name is Joseph Al Sweiss, my home parish is Fuheis in Jordan. I am 26 ‎years old and I am the youngest of my siblings. At fourteen, I asked to enter the ‎minor seminary where I finished my secondary education. Subsequently I had a ‎propaedeutic year, then a year of teaching French because it is the language in ‎which the courses are given at the seminary. I went to the major seminary ‎for two years of philosophy followed by three years of theology. In the sixth year, ‎I did a year of practical pastoral training in the parish of Husson. This year I ‎completed my training in theology and I must submit my thesis – which I write in ‎French – and take the last exams prior to priestly ordination.‎
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This Sunday December 11th you are ordained deacon, the final step before ‎ordination to the priesthood. At this stage, you are particularly committed to a life ‎of celibacy for the service of the Church. Can you share your feelings at this major ‎phase of your life?‎
By the diaconal ordination, I live a life of celibacy to love God, with an undivided ‎heart. As a result, I forsake marriage for a higher and more complete love. ‎Consecrated celibacy, if not lived in a continual relationship with God, becomes ‎an unnatural thing. The person who wants to become a priest also lives in ‎poverty, not even having one person in particular. The priest is in a complete ‎way dedicated to God and God exists in every person.‎
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This is the result of an intense spiritual journey. What prompted you to take the ‎path toward the total gift to the Lord?‎
I was called, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed ‎you to go and bear fruit.” (Jn 15:16). I perceived my vocation as a grace. To take ‎this path is obvious to me. And even if there are still many questions that remain ‎unanswered, I am confident and I trust.‎
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This commitment is the sign of a deep trust in the Lord. How would you ‎encourage young people-but perhaps the younger ones, to remain in such trust?‎
Trust is the principle of faith in God. And this is what drives us to follow God in ‎our world. But the seminarians are not the only ones who need to trust in God; it ‎is the case for all Christians who live in this world, but they are not of this world ‎because they are witnesses, and witnesses go against the current of this world ‎to evangelize and preach Jesus Christ crucified. “In the world, you have to suffer, ‎but courage! I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)‎
Jesus Christ has defeated by the Cross, because the Cross is the way of the ‎Resurrection. This is why there is no contradiction between evangelization or ‎joy and the Cross: one must live the Cross with confidence, because it inevitably ‎leads to the Resurrection.‎
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