Catholic Church in the MR

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  • In 1885, when the Lebanese arrived in the Monastic Republic from Lebanon, they were accompanied by a priest, the Reverend Youssef Ghanem, and four Sisters of the Holy Family. Father Youssef had received instructions from the Patriarch of Antioch to care for the spiritual well-being of the refugees. In the beginning the refugees were housed in one of the abandoned monasteries and Father Youssef was able to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in a former meeting room turned into a chapel.
  • With the help of monks from the Monastery of St. Maroun, buildings were gradually erected and, after the houses were built for the 25 families, a school and a church were built. The church was dedicated to St. Ephrem.
  • After the towns of Prosforion and Ammouliani were founded, Lebanese families began to move to these towns to find work, so that, in a few years, Maronite Catholics could be found in all three towns. Soon churches had to be built in these two other demes and priests had to be recruited from Lebanon to serve as pastors. Until pastors were located, monk-priests from the monastery served the needs of the people.
  • Because of the world situation and the distance involved, it was difficult for the patriarch to come from Lebanon for pastoral visitations. Other than ordinations, the pastoral needs of the Maronite community were directed by the abbot of St. Maroun Monastery. During his last visitation in 1935, the patriarch elevated the Monastery of St. Maroun to the dignity of a territorial abbacy with complete and autonomous control of the Catholic Church in the Monastic Republic, saving the conferring of Holy Orders. The patriarch promised to ordain any men that the abbot deemed qualified for the priesthood and to send any of his own priests to the Monastic Republic should there be a need. Seminary training for the candidates for the diocesan priesthood takes place at the Monastery of St. Maroun.
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