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“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
His Excellency Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet
Priest: Father Henri Imad
History of St. Charbel Church in Ottawa Narrated By: Peter Manor.
A Documentary By: Johnny El-Alam
The history of the Maronite Church is a story of a people who were continually willing to sacrifice their lives and possessions for religious convictions and human liberties. Its origins can be traced to the hermit Maron (350-410 AD), who converted a pagan temple for worship. Over 800 monks later followed in his footsteps, adopted the lifestyle and way of St. Maron, and became known as Maronites. Today the Maronite Church is established throughout the world. In Lebanon and abroad there are approximately ten million Maronites.
Maronites are also credited for using the Aramaic language, in their liturgy, the same language Jesus spoke during his earthly life and ministry. The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See of Rome.
History of the Maronite Association in Ottawa.
The need for a church for the Maronites in Ottawa became imperative during the growth of the community in the late 1960’s. A series of meetings and petitions led to the formation of the Maronite Association.
May 23rd, 1970 was a remarkable day for Maronites in Ottawa as it witnessed the establishment of the Maronite Association by a group of committed Lebanese Canadian notables and intellectuals. A President and board members were elected and shared the responsibilities in serving the Maronites in Ottawa. In 1990 the Maronite Association was replaced by the Parish Council.
Year after year, the Maronite Association, as well as the Parish Council gathered Senior Public Servants, Engineers, Corporate Managers, and numerous intellectuals who were active in various fields of Canadian society.
The late Father Elias Najjar from Montreal celebrated the first mass June, 1970 at St Paul university — Main Street. Father Najjar had served the Maronites in Ottawa for two years. Masses were further celebrated at a church located at Dalhousie St. Notre Dame church located at 179 Murray Street, Ottawa, St Bridgit at St. Patrick street, St Charbel at 87 Mann Ave and finally St Charbel at 245 Donald St, Ottawa.
Pastor Najjar was followed by Fathers, Francois Eid and Butros Tarabay. Reverend Simaan Abou Abdo from Montreal also dedicated his services to the Maronites in Ottawa every Sunday for a couple of years. Fathers Najjar, Eid, Tarabay and Abou Abdo used to travel from Montreal to Ottawa to serve the Maronite parish in this city. Reverend Abou Abdo settled in Ottawa to better serve the parish. He was later followed by Father Georges Jalkh from 1983 until the end of 1985. Father Jalkh was succeeded in January, 1986 by Father Raymond Hanna who was the pastor for over 20 years.Currently, Father Henri Imad is the administrating priest at the parish under the leadership of Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet, who is the pastor of the parish. The Maronite Catholic parish at Saint Charbel Church in Ottawa counts to today (October 2014) over a thousand families.
St Charbel’s History
After many years of renting churches to serve the small but committed Maronite Catholic Community in Ottawa, and prior to the establishment of St. Maron Diocese of Canada in September 1982, and the appointment of its first Bishop, His Excellency the late Elias Shaheen, the Maronite Catholic Community in Ottawa was in the process of finding its own church in Canada’s capital.
In the beginning of 1983, members of the Maronite Association board began achieving its goal. Donations by faithful members of the Maronite community in Ottawa were collected. The dedicated efforts by members of the Maronite Association led to the purchase of a church located at 87 Mann Avenue. These humble beginnings led to what is presently known as St-Charbel ‘s Church (the parish was dedicated to St. Charbel Makhlouf who is the first Saint of the Lebanese Maronite Order).
While the parish was initially small in numbers, the war in Lebanon forced many Christians to flee the conflict. Ottawa welcomed many of them. As the influx of Maronite Catholic immigrants reached its peak in 1991 – 1992, the number of families in the Ottawa parish of St-Charbel passed from a mere one hundred fifty to as much as seven hundred families. This important increase precipitated an urgent need for a spacious church. This idea was pursued vigorously by Reverend Raymond Hanna, and materialized in 1994 with the approval of His Excellency Bishop, Georges Abi Saber. With his blessing, the Maronite parish in Ottawa purchased the church located at 245 Donald St., with its additional parking facilities that accommodate more than 300 automobiles.
This great achievement was also in large part due to the generous help of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa and to the moral support of other Canadians, who have helped the Maronites in Ottawa to develop their own Eastern Catholic Church in the Ottawa area.
In 1998, under the capable direction of Monsignor Raymond Hanna, and with the approval and blessings of our present Bishop, His Excellency Joseph Khoury, parishioners of St-Charbel’s parih purchased a school property as well as 6.2 acres of land adjacent to the parish building. The large piece of land was dedicated to our Saint Rafqa, the second saint of the Lebanese Maronite Order, and the school was also consecrated to the third saint of the Lebanese Maronite Order, Saint Hardini, (St. Charbel Makhlouf was one of his students).
It should also be noted that several Antonine Sisters were sent in 1983 to Canada both to further their education and to become acquainted with the North American educational system. They followed the words of Jesus and the example of St. Anthony the Great, they left everything behind to follow God, their sole treasure. The Antonine sisters later succeeded in building their own convent in Ottawa, the Providence Academy. While living in Ottawa, and working in the St Charbel Maronite community, the Antonine sisters assisted in all of the parish’s spiritual activities, forming the parish choir and preparing more than eighty children per year for First Communion.
– The entirely self-sustaining and debt-free St Charbel Parish has become the spiritual and social home for the Maronites and for other Christians from Canada and the Middle East. It offers a strong and respectful identity to a minority group in a foreign land.
– In addition to a weekend religious school for the Fersan, Talaeh Al Adra, Harake and church services with bulletins in English, French and Arabic, the Church organizes a number of social & sport activities and bible studies.
– Many pilgrimage trips are also organized for members of St Charbel Parish to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Oratoire St. Joseph, Montreal, Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal and the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, Italy.
– The establishment of a Religious / Cultural Library.
Other Pastors whose important contributions have not been forgotten and other names live on for all generations:
• Reverend Georges Jalkh served this parish from 1983 until 1985. During his term, The Youth Committee of the Maronite Association (YCMA) was born. Members of YCMA worked hand- in- hand with their new pastor and they saw in him a kind father.
• Because of his multiple visits to his family in Ottawa, Father Boulos Onaid has and continues to assist Mgr. Hanna in serving St-Charbel’s parish. Mgr. Hanna and his parishioners express to Father Oneid their respect, love and esteem.
• From 1986 until 2012, Mgr. Raymond Hanna was the following Pastor who served the parishioners at St-Charbel’s church. With his exemplary dedication, even under the toughest economic circumstances , the help of the church’s committees and with the support of his parishioners, Mgr. Hanna managed to build a beautiful parish united in harmony and peace that is financially liable and accountable.
• Today Father Henri Imad (2012 – to present), who has joined the St Charbel community with great joy, is now serving parishioners at St-Charbel with the assistance of Father Boulos Oneid.
We cannot also forget our first distinguished Maronite immigrants who came to Ottawa and worked hard to have a pastoral care. Those Maronites excelled in maintaining their ties with their mother church. Undeniably, they were the corner stone of today ‘s St-Charbel church.
Maronites in Ottawa express their gratitude to those pastors for their dedication and faithfulness.
In one word, St-Charbel ‘s Church in Ottawa is a place for the glory of God and the preservation of the Lebanese heritage. Many thanks go to the parishioners, volunteers, pastors and bishops. The church was dearer to them than their own homes and it is through it that they will reach “House not made with hands”
( 2 Cor. 5:1).
Since 1972, The Ladies Auxiliary of St. Charbel Church (presently known as The Daughters / Sodality of the Immaculate Conception / The Al Akhaweya) has been an integral part of this parish from the beginning. The ladies auxiliary / Al Akhaweya offer their time and work in order to raise money for the church and help bring us together as a family.
Since its birth in 1984, the Apostolic Marian Movement at St Charbel has endeavoured to unite the youth of our Parish as one, to bring them closer to God and to bring God’s word to them. It has also aimed to help our parish retain its proud and rich Maronite Lebanese heritage. To achieve its aims, the Apostolic Marian Movement organises many social and spiritual events throughout the year.
By working hand — in — hand with Mgr. Hanna, Members of the Confraternity of Sacred Heart of Jesus at St Charbel Church, who hold monthly prayers at the church have shown that they are truly the children of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
A new era in the history of our parish had begun now, and was marked by what was to become a traditional annual event — beginning in August 1994 the Annual Family Gathering around the Virgin Mary. Held at St Rafqa land and Dar Al Hardini Center. For 16 years this Annual Family Gathering around the Virgin Mary, popularly known by all the Christian believers as Eid As Saydy became our major social and spiritual event of the year, bringing together as many as 20000 Lebanese Canadians from all over Canada and the United States. Everyone looked forward to this special celebration at the Feast of the Saydy (Assumption) which ends with an outdoor Mass, live play, traditional Lebanese folklor activities and fire works.
Each organization of the parish took charge of specific duties and the cooking, baking was zealously prepared by volunteers.
In Novembre 2000, Ottawa residents and other religious figures witnessed a popular faith expressing itself in a very surprising way when the Maronites Catholic Parish in Ottawa welcomed at St Charbel church the Relics of St, Therese de Lisieux.
In March 14, 2001, another success beyond all expectations was achieved that year, when the Parish of St Charbel Maronite Church in Ottawa was honored to be the first to greet their Church Leader, His Beatitude, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, as he hit Canadian soil. After celebrating his Liturgy at St Charbel Church, His Eminence was guest of honor and principal speaker at a banquet attended at the Ottawa Congress Center by 1200 guests, including a number of religious leaders, Canadian Cabinet Ministers , Members of Parliament and Members of the Canadian Senate.
Biography of the late Monsignor Raymond Hanna,
former Pastor of St Charbel Ottawa.
• Mgr. Raymond Hanna, son of Joseph and Georgette Hanna, was born in Tarshich,
Lebanon on April 21st 1955.
• January 1st., 1967, he joined the Seminar of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik — Jounieh.
• In 1970, he entered the Novitiate at the Monastery of our Lady of ‘Maounat’ )(Notre Dame de Secours) in Jbeil, Lebanon.
• In 1972, he completed his secondary studies in Hemena, Lebanon.
• In 1977, He completed his Baccalaureate Part two, Philosophy in Kaslik, Jounieh Lebanon.
In 1982, he was ordained Priest by His Excellency Archbishop Roland Abou Jaoudi at the University of the Holy Spirit after he completed his courses and studies in philosophy and theology and became the Principal of St. Antoine High School, in Hemena, Lebanon.
• In 1983, he was appointed a Vicar of St. Jean Marc parish in Jbeil, Lebanon.
• In 1984 – 1985, he moved to Montreal where he continued his responsibilities as a Vicar at St. Antoine Parish. He also travelled to Quebec City to the serve the Maronite community there.
• In 1986, he was nominated Pastor of St-Charbel Maronite church in Ottawa by H.E. the Late Archbishop Elias Shaheen.
• In 1995, he was elevated to Rank of Monsignor (Abbot) by his Excellency Archbishop George Abi Saber.
• In 1997, he completed a Master degree in Canon Law at St. Paul University , Ottawa
Achievements of St-Charbel’s Parish under the patronage of
Monsignor Raymond Hanna
• The purchase of a large church (245 Donald Street) that is financially stable and fully accountable.
• The purchase of the adjacent property and community center ( HARDINI Center & Rafqa Land) that will form the building blocks of the Maronite community of the future.
• The leasing of space in this complex to ensure it is self reliant and does not deplete church funds.
• Construction and positioning of the Shrine of our Blessed Virgin Mary at the church’s entrance.
• Development of a St-Charbel’s Maronite Cemetery. (A statue of St-Charbel was also positioned at the entrance of the cemetery).
Construction of a Huge tent at Saint Rafqa land.
Total interior and exterior renovations and expansion of St Charbel church, the Lebanese Hall and the house adjacent to the church.
The traditional annual event — beginning in August 1994 – the Annual Family Gathering around the Virgin Mary.
Mentoring pilgrims during their pilgrimage trips to the most important religious shrines around the world i.e. Lourdes, Fatima and Rome among others.
• Most importantly the leadership and community development of the Maronites of Ottawa into a strong group, with a home and a solid foundation of stability, harmony, peace and growth that is well respected throughout the Ottawa area.
We are indeed fortunate to have had Mgr. Hanna, a vigorous and apostolic man of God serving our parish.
And a Blessing Upon Blessing Words By: Soeur Eva Chamoun, Translation:
Jamaya Abi-Saada, Voice: Soeur Eva Chamoun and Johnny El-Alam,
Archival Documentation: Vola Hage, Realization: Antoine Abou-Arraj
and Soeur Eva Chamoun.
Ottawa, May 1st. 2011.