December 12th, 2007 04:48 EST
Birthplace of Hope
A mere 500 yards away from the traditional site where the laboring Mary found shelter in a stable and a safe manger to deliver the Baby Jesus, the poor women of Bethlehem find hope and a safe place to give birth. Holy Family Hospital is an obstetrical/gynecological facility - the only one in the region that can handle the complicated medical conditions of women living in extreme poverty. Here modern state-of-the-art birthing facilities and neonatal intensive care units for preemies serve the needs of all Bethlehem women regardless of creed, ethnicity or ability to pay.
The need is great. Living in poverty and under pervasive political stress creates a high-risk-situation for pregnant women. Twenty-five percent of the women served by the hospital live in refugee camps. The hospital is the designated care provider for four refugee camps operated by the UN and every month over 200 women overcome curfews, road closures and roadblocks to deliver here. Thirteen percent of the infants born need intensive neonatal care and Holy Family Hospital is the only facility in the region to serve this need. Despite all these hazards and hardships, since 1990 the hospital has delivered over 40,000 babies.
Colleen Marotta, Executive Director of the U.S. based Foundation which supports the work of the hospital, sees the facility as a birthplace of hope for the expectant mothers and fathers, "The women who give birth may have different traditions but they are united in that primal need of all laboring women for safety and care as they bring their children into the world. Like Mary and Joseph, these families are on a journey to find a place of refuge, a place of hope and promise, a place where their babies can be delivered safely. In the entire Bethlehem region, only one place is their destination - Holy Family Hospital".
In 1989, at the request of Pope John Paul II, the Order of Malta, an international charitable organization, took over the hospital facilities -- a former general hospital, -- and determined to provide medical services to women and infants. In the year 2000, the late Holy Father named Holy Family Hospital one of his top 100 priorities for the new millennium.
According to the familiar Christmas story, the Virgin Mary traveled with Joseph to the city of Bethlehem, arriving just as her labor began. Desperate for lodging that could both shelter them and provide a safe place to give birth; they found "no room at the inn" and were forced to make do with a stable. This may all make for charming nativity scenes with oxen and donkeys and hay-filled mangers, but there is not an expectant mother in the world who would not want better accommodations for her own newborn.
Says Marotta, "Outside Holy Family Hospital's doors, the primitive conditions in which Our Lord was born still exist and women often find themselves delivering their babies in the most unsanitary and unsafe of conditions. Holy Family Hospital is a haven for the Mary and Josephs of the modern day"
For more information about The Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation and how they help make the work of the hospital possible, please visit their website www.birthplaceofhope.org. For interviews, please contact Walker at 678.990.9032.