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Besançon School, Minet el-Hosn

Christian civilization, the great light which has illuminated man’s life from the time of the Pharaohs, passing through Plato, and taking substance over the last two thousand years in Christ the Messiah, bringing a religion of love, self-sacrifice, emancipation, freedom, equality, and all the values in every domain of science, art, holiness, research, etc., this Christendom given birth to many religious orders devoted to helping others, the destitute and the poor, with charity, education, hospital service and every form of care.

The mere mention of Mother Theresa of Calcutta and of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits (with the Holy Hearts Sisters) and the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul is enough. These orders have shown themselves all over the world and have spread around the globe like the wheat of the sower who throws his seed to the wind.

In Lebanon there are many orders actively living their mission, and here we are going to take particular note of the Sisters of Saint Anne of Besançon.

Besançon is a town in the Southern Jura in France. The sisters who bear its name have spread all over the world and have a special place in Lebanon, with their convent at Minet el-Hosn in a building belonging to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Their work grew and flourished, with the giving of courses of literature, philosophy, plastic arts and domestic science. The school for the latter, for girls and grown women, works for the formation of household assistants and for the protection of young girls.
In 1911 Sister Herman-Joseph founded three schools teaching free, one for young girls, another for children of the parish, and a third attached to the domestic science school, so earning the Médaille de la Meute in 1913. Sister Herman-Joseph bought a plot of ground and built premises in downtown Beirut.
During the period 1914-1918, all activity stopped. Sisters of French nationality were obliged by the Ottomans to leave Lebanon, being replaced by Lebanese and Swiss nuns. These distributed provisions in the district and provided aid.

In 1924 a house for education and an orphanage were set up. In 1969 these premises were transferred to a more spacious ground, adding junior and senior high school classes. In 1976 the two foundations of Beirut and Hazmieh were closed down for the duration of the war and the sisters opened a school in Kfour, a village of Kesserewan. However, in 1977, the institution of Saint Anne in Beirut opened its doors once again and they have remained open up to the present.

The house at Minet el-Hosn is both picturesque and attractive. The school garden is rich in flora and is one of the most beautiful gardens in Beirut. It is carefully tended, and various kinds of trees grow there, with a cedar tree in front of the main building which is considered historic.

One can but admire this fine undertaking, humanitarian, which is social and educational, all at the same time. The nuns are richly deserving. They have devoted themselves to the formation of girls in Lebanon belonging to every religion and community.

It is well said, “Open a school and you close a prison” and such action is ever needed in Lebanon.

Joseph Matar - Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer

- Besancon School : >> View Movie << (2006-01-15)



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