How Catholics in central and southern Indiana can help keep a Christian presence in the Holy Land

(The Criterion) After 11 days on the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I believe that were it not for the presence of the Franciscan order as pilgrimage site custodians, the Christian presence would all but evaporate from the region.
For centuries, the Franciscans have maintained the properties of numerous shrines, chapels and churches in the Holy Land, making them available for pilgrims to visit for veneration, prayer and spiritual renewal.
So what can we in central and southern Indiana do about the situation for our brother and sister Christians in the Holy Land?
The first and most obvious answer is to pray. Pray for Christ’s peace to reign in the region. Pray for the Christian families—and all of those negatively affected in terms of economy and freedom.
Next, when your parish hosts visitors from Bethlehem selling religious items, please buy something. It is not a scam. As of December 2013, the unemployment rate in Bethlehem was 23 percent. Those vendors truly need your financial support to help feed their families—and rather than just a donation, you get something lovely in return.
Third, consider donating to the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (, which exists to help stem the Christian emigration from the region through educational, humanitarian, job placement and housing programs.
Finally, if at all possible, make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We heard time and again from our Palestinian Catholic tour guide how much our presence means to the Christians there. Not just because we help them economically when we visit, but because in a world where Muslim prayers are broadcast over loudspeakers into their neighborhoods and churches, and where 75 percent of the country’s population is Jewish, it helps them know they are not alone in their Christian faith. 
(By Natalie Hoefer)