Maronite Servants Visit Australia

By Therese Touma

Sister Marla Marie’s presence “down under” was warmly welcomed by our Maronite community in Sydney during her visit from February 19 and continuing through March 4, 2009.
Among her travels, Sister Marla Marie met with Most Reverend Ad Abikaram, Bishop of the Saint Maroun Eparchy of Australia. ‘Maroniteness’, the vital word Bishop Ad strongly emphasised in their lively conversation, encompassing the living out of our whole Maronite Spirituality and tradition. Sister shared with Bishop Ad explaining the unique mission and charism of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light, in imitation our Blessed Mother to serve as spiritual mothers alongside the priests in our parishes. Sister added how she perceives this “much needed mission of the feminine presence to be a source of new life in our Maronite Church”.
Voice of Charity, the twenty four hour Maronite Radio station in Sydney, interviewed Sister Marla Marie for some of their programs. In the interview, Sister shared her thoughts about the importance of making the Divine Liturgy the center of our lives and at the same time realizing who we are as Maronites and why we do what we do in the Liturgy. Personally, I appreciated how Sister used our own terminology to express the significance of learning and living out the treasures our Maronite spirituality (i.e. Divine Liturgy instead of Mass).
During her two week stay, Sister Marla Marie experienced a taste of Maronite flavor on visits to some of Sydney’s seven Maronite parishes. In three of her parish visits to the Youth, she gave informative presentations on the mission and spirituality of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. Specifically, at St Joseph’s in Croydon, Sister presented an insightful discernment talk on her personal “Witness to Vocation and Mission”.
I pray that the good news of the MSCL continues to spread, encouraging young women especially those within our Maronite community to be generous and open in considering a vocation to this new mission. To learn more, visit their website maroniteservants.org.

(Therese Touma is an applicant in the process of joining the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. She is pictured below with Sister Marla Marie.)


Los Angeles CA - Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon

Please read the articles below contributed by two parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon - St. Peter's Cathedral Parish.

Reflecting on God's Call

(Picture: Rebecca El Khoury and Sister Marla Marie)

By Rebecca El Khoury

“Sister, I am not worthy.” Whenever my father would ask my sisters and I if we thought about becoming a nun, I found myself hesitant and always told him that if God calls me, then of course I would. But deep down in my heart, I always felt that I was not worthy. In my nineteen years, I have not had the opportunity to speak with a nun before, and have only occasionally even saw a nun when visiting the convent of Saint Rafqa in Lebanon. I was very recently blessed to meet Sister Marla Marie for the first time, and in her I saw what had been missing from our Maronite Church here in America: the feminine aspect of our church, a “spiritual mother.” I had questions, and wondered about many things; the one thought that was constantly on my mind was exactly what Sister Marla Marie addressed. When Sister told us how she first realized that God was calling her, and her reply was “Sister, I am not worthy,” it made me realize that like me, she too is human. And that I too, if I open my heart to God, can dedicate my life to Him and serve Him, yet it does not always have to be by taking the path of becoming a nun.

I find myself praying more so that I can listen to God and truly hear what He wants me to do with my life. I realized that unless I open my heart to Him, I may not hear God’s call. I must open my eyes and my heart to listen and see what God truly has planned for me and follow the path that He has written and set before me, whatever it may be.

How I Found My Way

“I moved into this neighborhood a few years ago, but kept driving to my old neighborhood parish for Mass.” Mary Jane recounts how she came to the Maronite Church and became an active member. For several years, Mary Jane drove past Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon in Los Angeles enroute to the Roman Catholic parish where she worshipped.

By Mary Jane De Simone
“I am on the Senior Board at another parish and one day our meeting was to plan future excursions for our seniors. Another Board member, Marti Sacker, suggested a trip to her church – it is Maronite Catholic. She said she would speak to the pastor, Fr. Zaidan, and perhaps he would give the history of the Maronite Church, celebrate Mass, and then (of course) we would go to lunch.

All was arranged for the seniors and the day came four our trip to Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon Cathedral. I was one of the last ones to enter and I just stopped – stunned or stricken. I looked at the altar and up to the crucifix. I was frozen. I was humbled. The open arms of Christ simply said to me ‘you are here where you belong.’

I have never had an experience such as that before. I have traveled to many countries and continents – so I have visited many churches and cathedrals …but never have I felt as I did when I entered this Cathedral. I started to ask questions of Marti. When she and her family invited me to different Cathedral gatherings, I went and enjoyed the happy occasions, feeling very welcomed.

One day I went to a daily Maronite Liturgy. I continued each day and, after becoming familiar with the celebrating priests and the variances between the Roman and Maronite Rites, I began attending the Sunday Maronite Liturgy.

And, I have come to feel as one of this loving and spiritual community…So, little by little, I moved from Roman to Maronite Rite…I feel I have moved closer to Jesus Christ and all I can say to summarize is – I am home!”


"Light of the East Radio"

Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB ,MA, host of the radio program, "Light of the East", interviewed Sister Marla Marie on the February 8th broadcast which can be heard on-line at http://www.byzantinecatholic.com/radio.htm. Regular broadcasts of this program are on various radio stations in the United States including the Relevant Radio network and Ave Maria Radio. In addition to the Sunday broadcasts of "Light of the East", Fr. Thomas can be heard live every Thursday morning on Relevant Radio at 7:00AM (CST) or online: http://www.relevantradio.com/.

Our Lady of Lebanon - Waterbury

Youth Retreat
by Beth Majewski

The MYO at the Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Waterbury, CT, was honored and grateful to Sister Marla Marie of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light for being the presenter at our mini-retreat on Saturday, February 7, 2009.
The young adults of our MYO especially enjoyed the fun activity of “The Cell Phone vs. The Bible.” In addition, Sister Marla Marie taught the youth, a well needed lesson of how to locate and cross reference scripture passages in the Bible.
Finally, the most relevant message that Sister conveyed was to dig into the Word of God (who is the basis of our faith) to nourish ourselves with prayer, guidance, and inner peace.


The Best Wine for Last

I have often meditated upon the eschatological meaning of John 2: 1-12. My heart resonates with the oft-heard metaphorical connection: the best wine for last and the eternal heavenly wedding banquet. John Paul II said that the Liturgy we celebrate on earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly Liturgy. In my five decades as a Catholic and nearly one as a permanent deacon in the Latin Church, I have tasted many different vintages. It was not until my introduction to the Maronite Divine Liturgy that I truly drank the fullness of the great Mystery. Through this Rite of the West Syriac Antiochene Tradition -- a Tradition that is as ancient as Christianity itself -- Christ speaks to me in a way that I have never before experienced. The poetry of the prayers, the chanted Syriac (dialect of Aramaic) in the Words of Institution and the overall structure of this service (called Quorbono, trans. Offering) with its dynamic movements and its festal observances combine in such a sublimity that my heart and soul cannot but be raised on high.

Across the Mediterranean basin, my Sicilian heritage somehow connects me to the way of the East as if through ancient ancestry. In the Divine Liturgy, I savor each word prayed in Syriac (a language that is very similar to that of Christ’s) as they ring in the depths and connect me with one who is indeed my Father. Since childhood, I have been intrigued by monastic settings. The tender integration of the psalms and the liberal use of incense in the Quorbono create an atmosphere of reverence where I am assured of the Holy Spirit’s presence – the same Spirit that guided the early Maronite monks and ascetics some 1700 years ago.

As my experience with the Quorbono is only five years young, I am yet a neophyte. My kinship with the Maronite Liturgy and tradition – like the story of salvation – is an ever-unfolding love story. I owe many thanks to the Maronite priests who have supported me in my quest. I am very grateful to both my Latin Bishop and the Maronite Bishop for their blessing on my service in the Maronite Church. And all glory and thanks be to God for leading me to the wine that is served last while my feet are still on earth.

Beloved Deacon

(The above reflection is written by Nicholas Mammi, a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, who also generously serves at St. Elias Maronite Catholic Church in Roanoke VA.)

Knights of Lebanon -- Wilkes-Barre

Back row-Dave Lewis,Father Hanna,Tony Thomas,Danny Decker,Leo Ellis.
Front row – Sr. Marla Marie , Pete Atie, Mona Atie.
Special thanks to the Knights of Lebanon from Wilkes-Barre PA who invited Sister Marla Marie to a dinner meeting at "Pete's Place" (Lebanese cuisine) on January 31 to pledge their support by hosting a local fundraiser for the Maronite Servants mission. Tentative plans are for an event in the early summer.