Dear Magdala Family,
We continue to find ourselves living in and through this unique period of time.
In Magdala we recently reached an important anniversary, the tenth year of our volunteer program. I want to share with you a brief historical recap and reflection of it.
It was back in 2009 when the first archaeological excavations, initiated by the Israel Antiquities Authority, took place. Upon realizing of the magnitude and importance of the discovery we decided to call Professor Marcela Zapata from Anahuac University of Mexico, a university directed by our religious congregation the Legionaries of Christ.
Prof. Marcela visited Magdala in November and December of that year. It was then that we decided to continue the excavation and development of the site under her leadership. To achieve this, an idea emerged to seek volunteers, following the example of many major archaeological sites in Israel, to help us excavate Magdala. We determined that the summer of 2010 would be the best time to start the excavations.
This wonderful adventure began as planned in July 2010, and God began unveiling another part of his plan for Magdala. The first year was thrilling. Between January and August of 2011 alone, close to 250 volunteers from different parts of the world came, with particularly large groups from Chile, Germany, Mexico, the United States, Italy and Ireland. We received support from novitiates of the Legion of Christ in Europe who were lucky enough to fulfill their required one month of physical labor that year, here in the excavations at Magdala.
We continued this type of volunteer program for nearly four years, welcoming both groups and individual volunteers. Most came to serve during the hot summer months, a fact which is exceptional for any archeological site in Israel.
In 2014, we opened the archaeological park of Magdala and Duc In Altum, an important milestone in our journey. At this time our volunteers began to shift their time and energies into developing and serving within the park and Duc in Altum. It was then that it dawned on me that Mary Magdalene and the other women described in Luke 8,1-3, where in fact the first volunteers of the Gospel. It became clear that volunteers form an essential component of Magdala, and their presence is needed because it is the personification of service to the Word.
During a visit to Medjugorje, this belief intensified. It reaffirmed my conviction that the presence of volunteers is a must! It is for these reasons that our volunteer program continues, with volunteers serving in a myriad of ways. We have volunteers with us even now during the pandemic (many had come with the idea of remaining for an extended time, and others continue because they could not find flights home.)
To serve out of love for God; to serve those who come in pilgrimage to the Land of Revelation; to accompany pilgrims, helping them pray, journeying with them… Being a volunteer in Magdala is truly an exciting task, and I am convinced that, in time, the program and the service the volunteers offer, will achieve its full brightness and light.
Of course, for now, the pandemic has paused our work. We are working hard, however, to prepare ourselves for the return of new volunteers and pilgrims as soon as the borders reopen.
This anniversary is a truly singular occasion. I believe it is the perfect moment to send a special greeting to the more than 2000 volunteers over the past 10 years who have come to serve in Magdala. May God reward your generous self-giving, and may all that you received in your heart as a volunteer, produce rich fruits for you and all those around you.
With my best wishes and eternal gratitude,
Fr. Juan María Solana, L.C.