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Mission Accomplished
by Dorothy Humanitzki

28 Mar 2006 – James McCormick of Traverse City, Michigan, fulfilled a promise he made a year ago to the Terra Sancta School for Girls in Jerusalem when he returned in February to present a check for $12,000 for school renovations.

When his parish, Immaculate Conception, was planning its 100th anniversary in 2005, the pastor, Father James Hayden, wrote in its Centennial Project that a goal was to share its “blessings with the church in need.” Mr. McCormick, a longtime friend of CNEWA, suggested funding a project in the Holy Land. After consulting with the papal agency, the parish chose Terra Sancta, founded in 1848 by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

On a “pilgrimage of solidarity” to the Holy Land in December 2004 sponsored by the diocese of Gaylord, Mr. McCormick, a retired district court judge, and several parishioners visited the school, located in the Old City.

With the principal, Sister Victoria Giacaman, a Sister of St. Joseph of the Apparition, as a guide, the group toured the classrooms. Immediately apparent was the overcrowding. Most of the children, Sister Victoria pointed out, come from families who had depended on tourism for their livelihood. With the outbreak of Palestinian-Israeli hostilities and the collapse of the local travel business, she said, the families’ incomes plummeted and the school could no longer count on the parents for financial support.

Sister Victoria explained that the school receives assistance from the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land; it pays the teachers’ salaries and other expenses. Some 400 girls from kindergarten through 12th grade are taught by 30 lay teachers and 7 religious.

Realizing Terra Sancta must look elsewhere if it was to upgrade its facilities, Sister Victoria applied to CNEWA for financial assistance. She was pleased when Immaculate Conception parish assumed responsibility for the renovations.

The project as outlined by Sister Victoria, a Palestinian – as are many of the members of her congregation – was to ease the overcrowding beginning with the kindergartens. She planned to expand the smaller of the two rooms into an adjacent courtyard. At the same time, she wanted to install bathrooms nearby, rather than have the youngsters walk some distance to the restrooms.

At the conclusion of the visit, the sisters presented Mr. McCormick not only with detailed plans but a bill. Immaculate Conception pledged $10,000.

Back home in Traverse City, parishioners accepted the challenge. And despite donating to tsunami survivors in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina victims closer to home, Immaculate Conception surpassed the original request and raised $12,000. On his recent trip – leading a group of Michigan priests and deacons to the Holy Land – Mr. McCormick returned to the school and personally presented the check. The work will begin in June when school is in recess.

A plus, Sister Victoria told Mr. McCormick, is that the renovations will be a project of the labor-intensive community development program developed by CNEWA. Under this plan, unemployed Palestinians are hired for jobs such as rebuilding houses, shops and schools and repairing roads. The work not only restores the community but provides heads of households with jobs on a rotating basis, allowing more workers to earn wages. Everyone gains, said Mr. McCormick, in this project.