By Bernadette Bousamra of Sydney Australia
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you from our Maronite Eparchy of Australia ‘Beit Maroun’. I met Sister Marla during her visit to the Maronite Heritage Centre where I opened our community’s museum on its day off. Sister was intrigued to know how the Australian Maronite youth are eager to learn about their traditions, and she asked me to write a snap shot about my life experience.
I was introduced to my Maronite heritage at home and through my Primary School. Bishop Ad Abikaram, when he was installed Bishop of Australia, emphasised the importance to knowing our heritage so to know where we are heading. I was lucky enough to attend a Maronite Primary School in Australia, then was transferred to a Latin Catholic High School to complete my high school studies. I have experienced a phenomenal difference between the practices and rituals of the two Catholic Rites.
In Australia, despite the fact that there are over 50,000 Maronites, the community did not know what “Maronite” is nor did they know if they were Christian. I used every bit of information I could to explain our similarities and differences. Most of my information came from my parents, parish priests and church groups such as the Marium Apostolic Movement and the Adult Faith Formation. At many occasions at our Solemn Divine Liturgies our current Bishop, Ad Abikaram, would always emphasise to us “you must live out your ‘Maroniteness’ as it is a way of Life”. As you can see, our Eparchy helped the evolving English Language rebirth a Noun of ‘Maronite’, to a new log in our hearts ‘Maroniteness’. In the last 6-7 years, Bishop Abikaram has reached out to a wider Australian community and we have found the courage to say we are Maronite and live the ‘Maroniteness’.
Currently, I witness my ‘Maroniteness’ by studying Theology at university and continue to take part in as many activities and committees that our unique Eastern Church has to offer. Personally, I believe it’s best to keep your faith and hold it up as an everyday living, especially because you are a part of the wider Catholic and secular community. So if you are ever in Australia, don’t hesitate to come and visit the Maronite Heritage Centre located at the St Maroun’s Cathedral Hall, 627 Elizabeth St, Redfern on Saturdays from 11am to 3pm.