With Thanks, Regards and Love

Allow me to express sadness for our Archdiocese, whose buildings got struck once again, this very morning, suffering damage from a rebel-launched bomb that pierced the roof. No one was inside, thank God!

Allow me to stand by numerous families in Aleppo who are in mourning and to suffer with them! Because of this ugly and barbarous war they have lost so many loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and cherished children.

Allow me to worry about the faithful of this city. Insecurity is wearing them down, depressing them, adding more each day to their anxiety and sadness.

Allow me to be distressed by the homes that are destroyed, churches rendered unusable, shuttered businesses and destroyed shops, an ancient city crushed by the destruction of a priceless architectural patrimony.

Allow me to be bitter when comforting countless parents mortified by the deprivation that robs their children of the basic necessities needed to promote dignity and the ability to grow up healthy.

Allow me to be concerned about the survival of a growing number of elderly, to focus on getting them the minimum amount of aid needed for their serenity, which is already sorely tested by suffering and constant danger.

Allow me to raise my voice to call on all men and women of goodwill to hear our plea. ISIS, which has already killed thousands in the region, is terrifying the faithful of Aleppo. After Maloula, Mossul, Idleb and Palmyra-what is the West waiting for before it intervenes? What are the great nations waiting for before they put a halt to these monstrosities?

Allow me to cry out in anger and to revolt against a global system inclined toward barbarism, hungry for power and drunk with insatiable corruption. Let me cry with my people, violated and murdered. Hundreds of thousands of victims, sacrificed for the promise of a better society that I don’t know, and the promise and hope of an Arab spring they will never see!

May all those who believe in the Good and Merciful God, and all those with compassion for the innocent, raise their voice with us and call on civilized countries to take action to bring about Peace-before it is too late and more innocent victims add to this gruesome spectacle.

+ Jean-Clement Jeanbart
Archbishop of Aleppo
May 27, 2015

Posted in General

Testimony of A New Bishop in Syria

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Please feel the sorrow and the joy of service of our brother, the newly elected Bishop of Latakia Syria, Bishop Antoine Chbeir. Let’s work to assist him.

+ Gregory

“Thank God, he puts you on my way ever since I was elected for serving the beloved diocese of Latquieh. I hope you’re doing well, as well as yours.

The situation in our diocese is quite well. We have to deal with the outflow of Christian and Muslim refugees both from Damascus, Alep and all over the country. But all is not gloom and doom, what is economically and existentially disastrous God turns it in a true spiritual richness. The Cathedral is almost full during the days of the week and packed on Sundays, where everybody is invited to coffee after mass. The daily mass is anticipated by the office prayer and followed by the rosary and “ya oum allah.” People spent almost two hours in a row in the church.

I undertook visits to the parishes of the diocese beginning with the distant ones especially those who were hard hit by the war, because my diocese is five times as big as Lebanon (55000Km2) and includes four departments: Tartus, Latquieh, Hama and Homs.

It is also the biggest Maronite diocese with fifty thousand people who outnumbers those of Damascus and Alep, less than three thousand and one thousand respectively.

Last Sunday I visited Rable near Homs on Lebanese border and the Sunday before Homs; on my way to these parishes there are many barricades of the Syrian army along the road to counterbalance the danger of the snipers in a part of it. In the neighborhood of rable the war wreaked havoc. In Homs, many quarters are completely destroyed, others partly, still others unharmed. St. Maroun Church was hit by three friendly rockets because it was taken by “Daesh,” wherever there is a cross in the church or elsewhere was shot, but there is a strong will to fix the damage and to give back hope to the population especially letting the church’s bell echoing again.

When the war started in Lebanon, I was thirteen years old and ever since I get used to live with uncertainty. Uncertainty of the economic situation, uncertainty of the car bombs, uncertainty of shelling, uncertainty of snipers, uncertainty of the political situation where every time you have to form a new government or elect a new president you have to wait for months to have the password from abroad to get the job done.

Now it seems God wants me to live the outcome of another war, thank goodness. Ever since I was elected I feel a huge peace deep down as if another one is in charge of the diocese.

Some of our churches lack the simplest equipment for pastoral activities: chalice, cross, infrastructure and the priests are horrified when they are assigned to such a task but they accepted it with a lot of love and devotion.

My first and foremost preoccupation is the priests of the diocese and the refugees. I am fully committed to provide them spiritual, pastoral, cultural and financial support. There is a French saying: “starving stomach has no ears”.

Our budget is exhausted by the salary of the priests. The single salary is 160 dollars. I pegged it to the dollar because the slump of Syrian currency is huge. It may lose twenty or thirty percent of its value in one single day.

We have thirty-two priests, twenty six of them are active, not all the rest, inactive because of old age or sickness; they’re still ours, which means we need more than five thousand dollars a month to only cover the priests salary. We need as much as this sum to provide refugees shelter and food.

We have to add $11,200 per year for the medical care of 32 priests, and $13,500 tuition for two seminarians at Ghazir Seminary.

Our revenues are very slim, the starting salary in Syria is about 60 dollars, which means a Syrian citizen has to do with two dollars each single day. Could you provide us dear Mgr. stipends for the priests, mobile clinics serving refugees and poor?

As I told you on the phone, I had biblical studies in the Gregoriana in Rome. My thesis was on the book of Job. I graduated in 1993. I can give lectures both in New and Old Testament if you need a hand in this domain. May God bless you, thank you for the consideration of all these matters and remain in sentiment with you in the Lord.”

+Mgr. Antoine Chbeir

Posted in Religious Education

INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION FOR THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE

International Joint Commission For Theological Dialogue Between The Catholic Church And the Oriental Orthodox Churches entitled:

The Exercise Of Communion in The life Of The Early Church and Its Implications For Our Search For Communion Today

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/anc-orient-ch-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20150513_exercise-communion_en.html

This statement gives much hope to the possibility of future communion and is a real theological gem. I thought you would like to read it.

+ Gregory

Posted in Religious Education

Prayer Service at the In Defense of Christians Summit

This prayer service at the In Defense of Christians Summit in Washington, D.C., was an historic and beautiful event, bearing witness to the communion and solidarity all Christians feel at this difficult time, using prayers from each of the traditions of the church .
+ Gregory

 

Posted in Religious Education

Homily for the Funeral of Sister Lillian Allam

Homily for the Funeral of Sister Lillian Alam

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Along with Monsignor Michael Thomas and James Root, I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the Alam family and to the Franciscan Family of Sister Lillian. We will miss her.

The Sisters chose the readings of this day, and so I would like to reflect with you on them. From the Book of Proverbs was read:

“When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; when he fixed the foundations of earth, then was I beside him as artisan; I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing over the whole of his earth, having my delight with human beings.”

This profound and mystical description of Holy Wisdom (Santa Sophia) is a beautiful way of describing God’s love for his creatures. The Holy Spirit in the Syriac Tradition, much like Holy Wisdom, is referred to in feminine terms. This is God’s playful, loving and delightful side, made known to us in Holy Wisdom. It is beautiful. It is also a beautiful way of describing Sister Lillian Alam, the trustworthy daughter of Francis and Clare, and who also delighted God, delighted in God, and was a joy and delight for each person she met, honoring and defending them no matter what was their state in life.

From Lebanon to Morocco, from Egypt to America, and from El Paso to New York, Sister Lillian, in her own radical, feisty, dynamic and creative way delighted God’s creatures. She advocated, fought and loved her way through life. She was so very well loved by her family in Lebanon and by her spiritual Franciscan family as well, and she has deeply touched the lives of so many.

I don’t know how we became so fond of each other, as bishops and nuns are not supposed to get along! But we did. And I loved her.

In the second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to Timothy it reads:

“I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered my trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.”

This prayer of Saint Paul, which is the prayer of an older disciple encouraging a younger one, is also the prayer of Sister Lillian. I loved her maturity. She was truly that wise and mature disciple who was strengthened by Christ. Even though she left this world far too early, in our commonly held opinion, she was not only strengthened by Christ but she can be considered trustworthy in all she did.

What first attracted me to her was her passion for what she was doing; advocating for those troubled with problems of immigration and human trafficking. Likewise, with her most recent UN advisory work, we have heard from so many people, was stellar. Whatever and wherever she was, most of us don’t know all that she was doing, but she was doing God’s work! I can only imagine this strong Lebanese woman standing up to border patrol agents and human traffickers alike; and how about UN officials? Sister Lillian was faithful to those people whom Pope Francis reminds us of so very often, those who are in the shadows: the refugee, the abused, the migrant, the undocumented, the imprisoned, the forgotten. May all those you assisted in this life, dear Sister Lillian, meet you one day in the next.

And the last passage, from the Gospel of Luke reads:

“Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be…Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

This passage from Saint Luke has special meaning for the sons and daughters of Francis and Claire. First, the treasure is in fact where the heart is, and Sister Lillian lived by the passion of her heart with so much joy and gusto. To be honest, for a woman so full of life, it was hard for her to suffer like she did. I would often say to her I hope we will both be able to “suffer well,” as Bishop Fulton Sheen urged us to do: “to live well, to suffer well, to die in his embrace well.” This is a special grace. I think she suffered as well as anyone could do in her difficult situation.

Second, Sister Lillian lived and loved the poor. During her first years in the Borj Hammoud neighborhood of Beirut, she struggled with the poor and the refugees. This was told to me by Bishop Samir Nassar who alongside of Sister Lillian worked each day for all those in need.

Third, we hear the words, “Sell all you have and give alms.” This is one more Franciscan trait and Sister Lillian did it well. But the last sentence “much is required of the person entrusted with much,” was true of Sister Lillian, and she delivered well. Well done good and faithful servant. May you rest in peace.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord….

 

Posted in Religious Education

Aleppo Archbishop is Emotional in New York

The Archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, has been in New York raising awareness of Christians being persecuted. He had much more to say.  Please watch this video  https://youtu.be/C6ytPk8dnzQ

Posted in Religious Education

Homily for the Funeral of Monsignor Ignace Sadek

Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, Brooklyn, New York, April 22, 2015

Monsignor Sadek has been an extra ordinary gift for the Church. He has excelled in all of his assignments, the Seminary in Lebanon, Pastor in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Pastor of the Cathedral Parish in Brooklyn, Priest in Residence at Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary and at our Parish in Washington, DC, interim Pastor when needed in Olean, Buffalo, Flint and lastly, Dayton. Wherever he served, he has left an indelible mark on the lives of those he served. I know of no other priest who is more loved and respected than our own Monsignor Sadek. He has brought dignity and distinction to the holy priesthood.

Was he a saint? He would be the first to say no; but did he love God and seek to serve him and his people? Yes. And for this we thank God for him. I hope and pray that by the time I reach his age, I will have had the same zeal, stamina, love for Christ and desire for holiness that he has had. He is eternally young, because of his love for Christ and His Church.

When I first came to Brooklyn as Bishop, one of the great blessings I experienced was to have Monsignor Sadek as Rector of the Cathedral. At every liturgical celebration with him I took away some lasting spiritual treasure. I will miss his homilies at Noon Liturgy. Each homily was like a mini-retreat, as he encouraged us to personal holiness. Who can forget his stories of the Holy Land (geography and culture) or of his favorite saints: Theresa the Little Flower, and Pius X (among others!)

In his farewell to the good people of Our Lady of Lebanon parish in Flint, Michigan, my hometown, he wrote this:

“Since my retirement in 2005, God gave me the joy of consecrating me as a traveling priest, filling my time with the consolation of preaching his name all over America. I visited a great number of parishes in both eparchies. I loved them all, but Our Lady of Lebanon in Flint, Michigan left in my heart an indelible mark.”

(I believe he would have said something like this also to our parish in Dayton, Ohio, who loved him so well, especially in the person of Bassam and Rema Zoghieb. And we may never forget how devoted his niece, Zmroud, was and is to him and we thank God for you.)

Then Monsignor concluded his letter to the Parish in Flint in this way:

“A farewell from an octogenarian person could be a real “Adieu,” “Adios,” in Latin “Ad Deum” which means “to God”, it means a definitive parting with no hope for “au revoir”, “see you again.” However, life is in the hands of God. We work as if we were to live forever, and we pray as if we were to die tomorrow. Anyhow, as long as I will be on earth, you will have my heart or otherwise you will have my intercessions. You must know the traditional prayer addressed to Mary, “Wa in kana jismaki baheedan minna” which means “even if your body is far from us, your prayers will accompany us.” This is what I am intending to do.”

Monsignor Sadek, thank you for your life of faithfulness, your priestly zeal for souls, and for your personal desire for holiness and goodness. Thank you for your promise of prayer and love. Thank you for being a happy, holy and humble priest, throughout your entire life, even and especially in your retirement, in which you took on several assignments for me, and Bishops Shaheen and Zaidan. You have left an indelible mark on all of us. May God grant you eternal rest. And as you used to say ever since 9/11 here at the Cathedral after every Divine Liturgy: “May God bless you, and may God bless America.”

Go in peace to Lebanon, our beloved Monsignor, to your final resting place in your beloved hometown of Zain, Lebanon. May the prayers of the Virgin Mary be with you.

 

Posted in Religious Education

Death of Msgr. Ignace Sadek

Dear Brother Priests, Deacons/Subdeacons, Religious Men and Women, Lay Faithful:

Monsignor Ignace Moawad Sadek passed into eternal life on April 14, 2015, while in the hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Monsignor was born to Sadek and Zmerod Hanna (Hokayem) Sadek on December 4, 1930 in Batroun, Lebanon. He was ordained on April 15, 1956 by His Excellency Bishop Antoine Khoreiche in Beirut, Lebanon.

He received degrees in Philosophy, Theology, French Literature and Physics and was fluent in five languages. From 1956 until 1988, he taught various subjects at three seminaries and three colleges in Lebanon and served as pastor of a parish; he served on the Saint Sharbel Canonization Committee; and was a Preacher of the Patriarchal Diocese in Lebanon.

Father Sadek was appointed Pastor of Saint Anthony Maronite Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and served from 1988 until 1997. He was elevated to Periodeut with the title of Monsignor in 1996.

He was named Rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral, Brooklyn, New York in 1997 and was appointed to the Eparchial Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors serving from 1997 until 2002. He also served on the Priestly Formation Board from 1994 until 1997.

When the World Trade Center in New York City was attacked on September 11, 2001, Monsignor Sadek rushed from the Cathedral to the Brooklyn Promenade where he saw nothing but clouds of smoke and debris caused by the falling towers. Many news articles described the image of him with hands raised, giving absolution to all those who lost their lives while also comforting the distraught people nearby. His trademark black suit and beret was covered with the white dust and debris that the wind carried across the East River to Brooklyn.

In relating Monsignor’s actions that day, one newspaper article was even entitled, “Amid the Chaos, A Sign of Order.” He was personally touched by the death of eight of the parishioners of the Cathedral for whom only memorial services could be performed since no bodies were recovered from the falling tower’s tragedy.

Although Monsignor Sadek retired in 2007, he assisted the Rector at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary, Washington, DC from 2007 until 2013 and then assisted both Eparchial Bishops with serving in special assignments in a variety of different parishes: Olean, Buffalo, Flint, and lastly Dayton where he served with much love and devotion.

Monsignor left behind his beloved brother Youssef, many nieces and nephews, as well as many relatives and friends. He is predeceased by a brother Amine and a sister Julia.

On behalf of Monsignor’s family, friends and many well loved former parishioners, I extend the sympathies and prayers of the entire Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn- clergy, religious and laity. May he rest in peace.

With prayerful best wishes, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Gregory

Viewing and Funeral Liturgy

Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, 113 Remsen street, Brooklyn, NY  11201

Tuesday, April 21, 2015:  Wake from 4pm – 8pm  with a prayer service at 7:30pm

Wednesday, April 22, 2015:  Wake from 4pm.  Funeral Divine Liturgy at 7:30pm

 

Posted in General

Joyous news to share .. an Easter blessing

I received this wonderful news from one of our parishioners who wanted to share her joy with others. Here is her story :

Good evening, Sayedna. I always hesitate in writing to you out of respect for your busy schedule. However, this Easter blessing is one that may be of assistance to you in counseling those who pray for lost souls. To fully appreciate its significance, you need to know the background information.

I am a love child; my mother turned 16 one month prior to my birth. Back then, a pregnant teen posed scandal for the family. Since abortion was illegal in the US, they offered to send her out of the country, but she was defiant (thank God!). She dropped out of Catholic school and lived with an aunt until the end of the pregnancy. I was born in Doctor’s Hospital in Manhattan. My mother was placed in a ward with other women in the same situation. All were encouraged to consider placing their children up for adoption. My mother remained defiant. At that time, NYS law mandated that I be placed in foster care until my mother could provide proof of employment in order to financially support me. Meanwhile, her family moved to a new neighborhood where they concocted a plausible explanation for a teen with a child.

One week after my birth, my mom and her step father stopped by a church in NYC to have me baptized before relinquishing me to foster care. After a serious employment search, she was hired by Scandinavian Airlines System and I was returned to her and my family, several months later. While working for SAS, she dated a man who proposed marriage. He had been raised by non practicing Lutherans who never had him baptized. My mother being Catholic, wanted to be married in the Catholic Church. I was 8 at the time. They met with the parish priest who insisted that my future father raise me in the Catholic faith. He agreed. Two years later, he formally adopted me.

Over the years, he would join us for mass at Christmas and Easter but never made any commitment. Meanwhile, I began to pray for him, asking our Lord that he be baptized. While working for IBM, one of his coworkers became a Baptist minister. My dad considered becoming a Baptist but realized that such a decision was predicated upon his admiration for the man and not the faith. My prayers continued.

Two weeks ago, following a funeral at St. Ann’s, my mother called to say my dad had asked to be baptized .. a Catholic! Sayedna, I broke down in tears. Beginning at age 10, I had prayed for this day and now, 56 years later, that prayer had been answered. My dad is 82 and, for now (he will have knee replacement surgery in May), confined to a wheelchair. Since he could not go to the church, the priest came to him. He met privately with my dad for about 30 minutes before the ceremony. My daughter and I were his witnesses. He received the 3 sacraments of initiation and chose Francis as his Confirmation name. The priest explained that he had been ordained 22 years ago and this was his first home baptism.

Please feel free to share this story with those who are beleaguered by what they perceive to be unanswered prayers. Yesterday, for the first time in 56 years, I sat down with my family and we discussed the Catholic faith, a topic that had previously been forbidden. I gave my dad several gifts – something like a Catholic “starters kit.” This included a youth handbook on the Catholic faith. Here is a photo from the big day.  May this tremendous gift serve as an inspiration to those who have abandoned hope.

IMG_3619

 

 

Posted in Religious Education

Pope Francis Sends Condolences on the death of Assyrian Patriarch, Mar Dinkha IV

To His Beatitude Mar Aprem

Locum Tenens of the Assyrian Church of the East

Having learned with sadness of the death of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to Your Beatitude, to the Bishops, clergy and all the faithful and to assure you of the spiritual closeness of all Catholics at this time.  The Christian world has lost an important spiritual leader, a courageous and wise pastor who faithfully served his community in extremely challenging times.  His Holiness Mar Dinkha suffered greatly because of the tragic situation in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and in Syria, resolutely calling attention to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters and other religious minorities suffering daily persecution.  I recall how we spoke of this at length during the recent visit of His Holiness to Rome.  I give heartfelt thanks to Almighty God for the enduring commitment of His Holiness to improving relations among Christians and in particular between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.  May the Lord receive him into his kingdom and grant him eternal rest, and may the memory of his long and devoted service to the Church live on as a challenge and inspiration to us all.

                               FRANCISCUS PP.

Posted in Religious Education