The Catholic Church in the Holy Land is blessed with the presence of many religious orders and congregations that have come to the Mother Church of Jerusalem in order to bear witness and serve. Theirs is an apostolate of prayer, witness, charity, education and companionship.
The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land is the largest community of religious in the Holy Land, maintaining 31 convents. The Franciscan Province of the Holy Land was created in 1217. Franciscan friars are custodians in most of the Holy Places and also form an important part of the clergy serving in the parishes and schools of the Latin Church. They also have important institutions of formation.
The Carmelites, deeply linked to the figure of Elijah the Prophet, established themselves on Mount Carmel and the city of Haifa from the year 1631.
There are 30 other religious orders and congregations of men maintaining convents, monasteries, schools, hospitals, academic institutions and social programs. Among the most numerous are the Salesians of Don Bosco, the Monks of Bethlehem, the De La Salle Brothers, the Benedictines, the Dominicans, the Cistercian monks, the Incarnate Word Missionaries and the Missionaries of Africa. Three of the congregations are oriental rite (one Greek Catholic and two Maronite).
There are 73 women religious orders and congregations in the Holy Land.
The largest is the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters, founded in 1880 by a Christian Palestinian from Jerusalem, Blessed Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas. This congregation runs many schools and other institutions and the Sisters serve in many of the Latin parishes.
The first congregation of women to arrive in the Holy Land, in 1848, was the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition, serving in schools, hospitals, parishes and a retreat house in the diocese.
Among the other congregations there are: Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Teaching Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Nuns of Bethlehem and of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, Benedictines, Religious of Nazareth, Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, Carmelites, Little Sisters of Jesus, Salesian Sisters, Sisters of Saint Elizabeth, Comboni Sisters, Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa, Sisters of Saint Bridget, Daughters of Saint Anne, Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, Franciscans of the Sacred Heart, and Adorers of Most Holy Sacrament. Eight of the congregations are Eastern rite.
In addition to these orders and congregations, there are 20 institutes of consecrated life in the Holy Land.