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