I was born in November 1955 by the grace of God and the marriage of George and Gloria Mansour. I was born anew in December 1955, by the grace of my baptism with my parents and godparents present. Almost twenty years later, in September 1975, once again, by the grace of God and the Gospel of Christ, I was born anew through a personal conversion that brought me to my knees. Ever since, personal renewal and conversion have been part of my life. The gift of life and the Gospel go hand in hand for me.
George and Gloria were, and still are, my greatest teachers in life and in Faith. The Gospel of Christ was, and still is, for me the only true measure and guide. Today, I celebrate 25 years of priesthood, given as a gift from God, and I thank Him for each person who has brought me to the grace of this day.
As a child, I was impressed with the stories of the North America Martyrs. These priests gave their lives for the Faith in noble fashion. I also remember a beautiful old priest and how good it was to grow up Catholic with a faith that was helpful and beautiful. As a teen, like most my age, I spent my days looking for love and friendship.
As a college student, I drifted from my faith and my Church with many unanswered questions. Like most students my age I did not want to do things just because I was told. So my first months living away from home, I lived with much freedom and little responsibility. Yet, this experience helped me think for myself, and I was touched by the faith witness of college age peers willing to talk to others about their Christian faith. I wondered why I, growing up Catholic, never made faith in Christ my own. Was I just going through the motions? Finally, born anew by grace, I gave my life to Christ, without conditions, on the third Saturday in September 1975.
Around the same time, back in my hometown of Flint, Michigan, several families were working closely with Father Ron Beshara, to establish a Maronite Church. My own parents were among the first parishioners. They were supported by a group of dedicated women called the Morning Star Society. With God’s grace, and the intercession of Our Lady the Morning Star, they succeeded. Our Lady of Lebanon parish was established. I was in the first Maronite Youth Organization (MYO).
Through my experience at college and by virtue of the development of our Maronite parish, I was in a position to discern whether or not God was calling me to priesthood. Was I generous enough? I finished college, and decided to ask Archbishop Zayek if he would accept me as a seminarian. He did and I was sent to Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary in Washington, DC. There, I took one year of Philosophy and three years of Theology at Catholic University and was then sent to Rome to specialize in Spiritual Theology. During my two years of specialization, I was ordained a priest by Bishop John Chedid, on September 18, 1982, ironically the same third Saturday of September on which I gave my life to Christ, seven years earlier.
I spent my first year of priesthood as a student in Rome. Then I spent six weeks in a monastery in the Qadisha Valley in Lebanon during the war. Returning to the United States, I spent six weeks in Philadelphia assisting Monsignor Sharbel Lischaa. Then, for the next eleven years, I was assigned to Saint George, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. As a young priest, I thought I knew it all, but the good people there taught me more than I could ever have taught them. I learned one of the most important lessons of my life: that love and priestly service go together.
My next eight years of priesthood were spent in Los Angeles, California, where Bishop Chedid showed me the value of prudent service for the good of priests and parishes. From there I came to St. Louis, Missouri where Bishop Shaheen taught me the meaning of generous and hospitable service. More than three years ago, I came to Brooklyn, New York as Bishop, to learn what service conformed to Christ means.
I have not chosen any of my priestly assignments, nor for that matter, my service as bishop. However, I have chosen Christ, and have sought to serve him in priesthood. All the rest is grace.
When I was ordained a bishop, the words of St. Augustine rang in my ears: “with you I am a Christian, for you I am a bishop.” How much more today do I feel these words resound in my heart. With a grateful heart for all the Lord has given me, I sincerely ask the prayer of my father, mother, sisters, brothers, friends, detractors, believers and those still hesitant to believe. I hope you will pray for me that I may be worthy of the title, Christian, priest, bishop and disciple of Christ.
+ Gregory J. Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)