Accompanied by three bands, by a statue of St. Anthony that was decorated with flowers, and by parishioners from around the world, the Father Custos made his solemn entry into Jaffa. On Saturday, June 11, he joined in the celebration of Saint Anthony of Padua, who is the patron saint of the Custos.
The procession departed in the late afternoon from St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa. The Catholic Scouts of Jerusalem led the way, followed by the group of the Child Jesus, which is composed of Indian musicians, and the Latin Scouts from Jerusalem who also participated in the procession. The statue of the saint was carried at the end of the procession, surrounded by children and parishioners wearing the Franciscan habit to honor him. Among those present were representatives of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Coptic churches, as well as a Melkite priest who came to welcome the new Custos. “We have a good relationship with the Latins, and if I am here today it is as much to share in their joy on this festive day as it is to welcome Fr. Francesco Patton,” explained Armenian priest, Fr. Diran Hagopian.
Different communities were present for the parish feast: Palestinians from Jaffa, Filipinos, Indians, Africans, Sri Lankans, as well as Spanish and Hebrew speakers. Dressed in their Sunday best, they all gathered in the courtyard of the Terra Santa School for an outdoor Mass, Fr. Francesco Patton’s first solemn Mass as Custos.
In his homily, the Custos thanked everyone for their presence and welcomed parishioners, in addition to members of the diplomatic corps representing different nations. He then recalled the life of St. Anthony of Padua in order to better explain how it can serve as an example. “Throughout his life, St. Anthony sought to do God’s will. We do not direct our lives; God guides us and it is for us to be open to surprises, without resistance.” Using traditional images of the saint, he urged the congregation to imitate him on their path toward God’s love.
At the end of the celebration, Br. Dharma, OFM, spoke so as to address Fr. Patton.
“You came from St. Anthony’s Province in Italy to celebrate St. Anthony in Jaffa! This is a delicate mission that you have accepted’ some may use the term ‘difficult,’ but God chose this mission for you. Whatever your position was in the church in Italy, you have come as a humble servant, and whatever happens, we will be with you!” Then, addressing the crowd, he asked, “Are you willing to pray for him? Every day?” And the faithful replied with an enthusiastic and reassuring “Yes!”
After a few words by a representative for the Arabic-speaking parishioners, highlighting his community’s need for spiritual direction, and by Br. Zaher Abbou, OFM, the pastor, a buffet prepared by the faithful awaited the assembly. The evening continued with a concert and small shows and even a cake contest. And the Father Custos Francesco Patton was appointed as judge of the competition,and as such he was responsible for tasting everything and choosing the winner: a foretaste of the responsibilities that await him!