Maronite Servants On Mission

By Therese Touma

Our travels over the last two weeks have been awesome as we have ventured on different missions throughout New York (NY), Ohio (OH) and Pennsylvania (PA). Our road trip began 16 October as we drove from Boston to La Trobe, PA for our spiritual retreat and concluded Wednesday 29 October with our return to Mother of the Light Convent in Boston. Below are the highlights of our travels:

October 16-22: Our six day Spiritual Retreat held at the St Vincent’s Archabbey, Latrobe PA was a grace-filled. Sister Marla Marie and I had structured time for prayer, silence, reflection, sharing, conferences, daily exercise and spiritual direction from a wise Benedictine monk. We thank God for his providence and the kindness of the people who took care of us at the Abbey.

October 23: Our visit to the Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine and the martyrs trail at North Jackson, OH was a memorable place. This beautiful shrine and chapel reminded me of the famous Shrine in Lebanon: Harrisa overlooking the mountains and embracing her beloved children wherever they are. Although, this shrine in OH is a mini version but still lovely as you can walk up the stairs to the feet of Our Lady. Sister Marla Marie and I were also fortunate enough to have Divine Liturgy in the chapel below the shrine offered by Monsignor Anthony Spinosa, the rector.

October 24: The “Vocations Fair” at Franciscan University, Stuebenville OH was a great day to be a part of, as religious communities show cased their spiritualities and missions seeking potential vocations to their communities. The Maronite Servants had a unique display and I believe one of the best, among them. The illuminating presence of the display consisted of a light rope outlining the table and a professional display which enhanced the name of Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. I believe this genuinely interested people to came forward and inquire about this new mission in the Maronite Church. I noticed a number of people were attracted to our new Mission and particularly to the Maronite Liturgy and the use of Syriac (the language that Jesus spoke).
Also, on the table, a number of Maronite books were displayed including references to our early Church Father, St Ephrem, Maronite Hymns and the book for the Divine Liturgy. I found this display to be enlightening as it gave passersby an insight into our deep Eastern spirituality. It also motivated people to get to know more about our rich Maronite heritage. Throughout the day, we made friends with a number of religious, students and other Maronites. We even managed to find other Maronite Lebanese Religious and took a ‘Maronited’ photo shot all together.

October 25 & 26: St. John Maron, Buffalo NY. Our weekend stay and visit to this vibrant Maronite parish impressed me as I felt a great sense of community. The pastor, Father George El-Khalli was very welcoming and supportive towards the vital Mission of the Maronite Servants. Sister Marla Marie was inspirational as she shared with those present at the Liturgies about her vocation story. Her talks were informative as she spoke about the mission of the Maronite Servants. A mission not just for her but for all Maronites! So let us all get involved some how...spread the word, pray that this mission will be fruitful and attract holy vocations, be open and generous to the Holy Spirit if you have a desire to serve as a Maronite Servant. If you would like to help out in any other way please visit the website for more details.

October 27: Niagara Falls: an awesome sight and so impressive! The amount and the impact of the water is incredible and definitely a wonder of God’s creation and love. On the morning of our visit the rainy and windy weather was quite unpleasant especially as we attempted to take photos. After we watched an informative film on the history of Niagara Falls we came outside to find the sunshine and a double rainbow. What a gift!

October 29: Our return trip home was dotted by snow storms as we drove through New York via Route 90. This was the second time in my life to see snow fall. As we passed through central New York, we made a short visit to the North American Martyrs Shrine where several Jesuits gave their life for the faith in the mid 1600’s. Once we reached Albany, the snowfall stopped only to pick up again as we crossed into Massachusetts. The contrast of weather was interesting; upon reaching Boston there was no sign of any precipitation.
Watch the following slide show for pictures of our visits.


Maronite Theology: Biblical-Poetic-Creation-Centered View

View of God as Mystery-Presence
In the twenty-one Eastern Churches of Catholicism God is described as MYSTERY. The Maronite mind has always been in awe of this mysteriousness and un-approachability of God. It presumes a great distance between the Creator and the creation. Since the human mind cannot fathom, grasp nor understand God, then any knowledge of God is just that, knowledge about God and not experience of God. Narsai says: “we are able only to say God is, but to research how he is, the door is closed.”
Maronites believe that the inner life and being of God is a divine, ineffable, inexhaustible mystery always beyond limited human knowledge and understanding. St Ephrem, and other Syriac Fathers, write of God as Mystery saying: “when one tries to describe the mystery of God in words, he can only stammer.” However, this great distance is bridged by God’s self-disclosure – what we call revelation. Since God opens and communicates himself in the act of creation then God can be known by experiencing his loving actions.
This Maronite sense of otherness and mystery of the inner life of God is attributable to two things:
1.its Jewish Christian origins where the ‘name’ God was not even spoken since no one could be that familiar with or know God, who is beyond human understanding;
2.its familiarity with the scriptures which addressed God by various titles reflecting his love for his creation.
While one would expect that this un-approachability of God would lead to a detached relationship with the divine. In fact, this process leads to mystical union; for the more that one searches for God, the more one encounters God. The search then for God, leads to wonder/awe, communion/intimacy and conversation/prayer.

(Taken from "The Maronite Church" by Msgr. Ronald Beshara, S.T.L., J.C.L.)


Come, See and Explore…

I am Therese Touma currently in Boston from Sydney, Australia to discern my vocation with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. With God’s help, my six week visit will be to explore, pray and to get to know more about this great mission.

So far my time here with Sister Marla Marie has been positive, prayerful and enjoyable. Our visits to the Maronite parishes have also included a trip to see the famous Lady- the Statue of Liberty. Sr. Marla Marie and I will be visiting some Maronite parishes in New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio, sharing with them this new and exciting mission.

When I first read about the mission of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light on its website, I was refreshingly taken back. Deep within, I was impressed and thought to myself now this is the “gift” that our Maronite Church has been waiting for and definitely should embrace with open arms.
The charism and spirituality of this mission spoke to me personally. What better inspiration can the Maronite Servants have than in following the example of our Blessed Mother- the Greatest of all Servants. In imitating the humble and faithful response of Our Lady, the sisters are called to offer their spiritual motherhood, talents and service to the Maronite people. What a beautiful and challenging call to service! As my patron, Saint Therese says “everything is a grace”.
When I reflect over the purpose of the Maronite Servants, I see myself alligned with a number of its goals and ideas:
• The ultimate aim to be holy and give Our benevolent God praise in serving the spiritual and corporal needs of our Maronite people
• To return the gift of my life including all my talents, weaknesses and desires back to God in joyful service to his people and at the same time deepening my Eastern rite spirituality and traditions
• To be a humble presence of Christ’s light and assist the priests in radiating the spirit of God’s love
• to live a deep Eucharistic prayer life
I perceive that this community will be a great aid to our Maronite people, particularly to our priests in assisting them to cultivate spirituality into the parishes through the various missions of religious education, the visitation of the sick, elderly, the youth, family and children. I believe in this mission and I pray that it will constantly draw its light and energy from Christ who is the ultimate Light.
I especially pray for all those discerning their vocation to the consecrated life and the priesthood. In particular, I pray for holy vocations and the growth of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. May this mission radiate Christ’s awesome love and light! …Why not come and take the time to explore your vocation with the Maronite Servants?


The Service of the Holy Mysteries at the Convent

The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were privileged to celebrate the Divine Liturgy for the first time at Mother of the Light Convent, offered by Father Dominique Hanna of Our Lady of the Cedars parish here in Boston. Sister Marla Marie and Therese Touma participated in this awesome prayer of praise and thanksgiving in St. Maron’s Chapel.
The beauty of the Divine Liturgy of the Maronite tradition is captured well in this prayer sung during the Communion Rite:

“You have united, O Lord, your divinity with our humanity
and our humanity with your divinity;
your life with our mortality
and our mortality with your life.
You have assumed what is ours,
and you have given us what is yours,
for the life and salvation of our souls.
To you, be glory forever.


Mother of the Light Convent

On Sunday September 28, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light opened the doors of their temporary convent, a guest house on the grounds of the Daughters of Saint Paul Provincialate in Boston. The Daughters were most hospitable and generous in providing the use of this house to assist the Maronite Servants as they seek to purchase a permanent residence.
After prayer and consideration, Sister Marla Marie desired the name of the convent to reflect both the image of light and that of our Catholic devotion to Mary. The name, “Mother of the Light” was chosen. It was with great joy that the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the convent Chapel by Fr. Dominique Hanna of Our Lady of the Cedars Church in Boston. The Chapel, dedicated to St Maron, founder of the Maronites, expresses the significance of preserving and the living out of our Maronite heritage.

Pictured with Sister is Therese Touma from Sydney Australia visiting on a “come and see” experience.