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.