Celebrating Human Life in the Holy Land

Michele Bowe of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation

I was recently able to interview Michele Bowe, DM, President of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation (headquartered in Washington, DC, and supporting the Hospital itself in Bethlehem). Michele, who is a “Dame of Malta” (DM), is a member of the international Catholic Order of Malta, the world’s oldest Christian charity.

Enjoy Michele’s insights regarding the efforts in support of human life carried out by the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation.

1.) Please share a little about your faith journey – what role does your faith play in your life?

My faith is central to my life. My husband and I will celebrate our thirtieth anniversary in February. We have five children, mostly grown. We still have a junior in high school, but the others are grown. We integrate our faith into our daily life; we don’t save it for Sunday.

2.) Could you describe for us the efforts of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation? Also, how does Bethlehem being the place of Christ’s birth correspond to the Foundation’s mission?

It’s an interesting place – it’s an infant and maternity hospital. We delivered just over 4,300 babies last year, and provided 30,000 services to women and children, between the Hospital and the Mobile Clinic (which has a set path that it travels each week, between villages and Bedouin encampments). Children are all about hope – when a couple learns that they’re expecting their first child, they experience so much hope. We have a NICU to help take care of babies. It’s a very beautiful Catholic witness to life, and to our faith. We are there for a number of reasons: we’re associated with the Order of Malta, which started in Jerusalem over 900 years ago, caring for men, women, and children, caring for Christians (then all Catholics), Muslims, and Jews.

 

The Order of Malta took care of pilgrims and the inhabitants of the region. We care of the sick and the poor. This is particularly important for a place like Bethlehem, which is such a holy city – King David’s city. On the outskirts is where the first Christians (the shepherds) came from. They shared the Good News. The Holy Family went to Bethlehem to deliver Christ. We employee 170 Palestinians, many of whom are descendants of those first shepherds, who have been there for two thousand years. It is really a privilege to deliver babies right in the place where Jesus was born.

3.) How did you come into the role as President of the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation?

I was a supporter of the Foundation for a number of years. They were looking for a Board member. Since I speak Arabic, and had spent a lot of time in the region, I was first a Board member for a number of years. After a few years, there was a change in the leadership, and they asked me if I would take it. I took a few days to pray about it, to see if that was where I was called, and I said yes.

4.) How does the Foundation’s headquarters in the United States interact with the Hospital itself in Bethlehem?

Two of the Board members from the Foundation are also Board members of the Hospital. I am one of those Board members. The purpose of our Foundation is to deliver life, peace, and hope in the Holy Land. We were founded to share the Good News of Bethlehem with the people in the United States – with parishes, with people who are interested in peace, in education (for instance, we have a residency program where we train OBGYNs and pediatricians). We teach peace through medicine. There are also many members of the Order of Malta.

We have two mottos for the hospital: “The best for the poor” and “The door is always open.” You know that this is a Catholic hospital: we have crucifixes and other Catholic imagery everywhere. We are preaching the Gospel through our actions.

5.) I typically ask this question of my interviewees – what is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?

My favorite Gospel passage is the Road to Emmaus: “Were not our hearts burning within us while [Jesus] spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Sometimes, we think that Christ is behind a veil without realizing that he is right there with us. Also, the Fiat: “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). When I was praying whether or not I should accept the role of president, I meditated about this a lot. Another one is “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4), because that is what the Foundation does every day. In the Old Testament, we have Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

6.) Do you have any parting words for readers interested in supporting the ministry provided by the Foundation?

Donating to Holy Family Hospital should be a family decision. Parents should make a nice donation to the Hospital, maybe on their birthday or other birthdays in the family. Take out a Nativity scene and talk about the Infant Jesus and Mary and Joseph, about the angels and the shepherds. I would encourage families to make as generous of a donation as possible. Speak with your children about what it means to share that gift of life, in Bethlehem, 1,500 steps away from where Christ was born.

***

I greatly value Michele’s time and her uplifting remarks. Please greatly consider making a generous donation to the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation. You can learn some more by watching this YouTube video: “Holy Family Hospital – Bethlehem.”

image: By Britchi Mirela (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Justin McClain

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Justin, his wife Bernadette, and their children live in Bowie, Maryland. Justin has taught theology and Spanish at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, since 2006. He has degrees from the University of Maryland - College Park, the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), and Staffordshire University (England), and he has studied philosophy and theology at Seton Hall University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Notre Dame's Satellite Theological Education Program. Justin has written for Ave Maria Press, Aleteia, EpicPew, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic365, Church Life, and various other publications. He is on Twitter (@McClainJustin).

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