Holy Child Program, established by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Bethlehem in 1995 

By Sr Naomi Zimmermann, FSE

Sep 6 2023

The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist run a program near Bethlehem to provide care and a future full of hope for children with severe behavioral and emotional problems.

The Holy Child Program is a unique educational and psychological treatment center located in Beit Sahour–the town of the Shepherds who heeded the angels’ announcement that the Savior (the Holy Child Jesus)–was born for them in nearby Bethlehem.

Response to a need

Founded in 1995, by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, the Holy Child Program is one of the only centers in the Bethlehem area serving children with severe behavioral and emotional problems in a therapeutic day treatment setting.

It started due to the requests of parents whose children were suffering from psychological distress from the first Intifada in 1987.

The Program began with four children; currently it serves 35 children and their families. It provides additional outreach programs in the West Bank, including being a training center for local universities such as Bethlehem University, An Najah University in Nablus and Birzeit University, and other agencies serving children and families in the region.

Healing leading to healthy lives

The mission of the Holy Child Program has always been to instill hope through healing. It is a safe place for those who manifest emotional behavioral problems resulting in difficulties at home, at school and in the community.

While the attitude in this region is slowly changing toward those who have a disability, these children are still seen as outcasts in their society. L

ike St. Francis kissing the leper, these children and their families are given the time, attention and love necessary to heal. And not only to heal, but to become integrated and giving members of society. Graduating students are followed and supported for a minimum of two years after graduation.

Success rate

The Holy Child Program boasts a high success rate of 96% for its graduates.

This means that those completing the program are engaged in productive community-based programs such as attending educational/vocational programs or financially supporting their families through work. Program graduates are productive, contributing members of their local community.

The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church provide the framework for the services the Holy Child Program offers.

Students begin each day together in this Catholic milieu, with a time of prayer. The student population of the Holy Child Program for the 2022-23 school year was 59% Christian and 41% Muslim.

By praying together, they learn to understand and respect each other’s beliefs and form lasting friendships. – Vatican News

Celebrating Christmas Mass, Holy Child Program, Bethlehem