St. Theresa’s Conducts First Maronite Heritage Day

 By Fr. Anthony J. Salim
Brockton, Massachusetts

On 6 November, Saturday of the Weekend of the Consecration of the Church, our liturgical New Year, the parish Religious Education Staff conducted the first of six Maronite Heritage Days of the 2010-11 Religious Education Program. The parish has, of course, a weekly Sunday School program which is conducted before the Sunday Qoorbono (Divine Liturgy). This program is composed of students attending area public schools.
But what about those children whose parents send them to Latin Catholic schools, and who get religion classes five days a week? Traditionally the parents of these children often think that this education is enough for the Faith. Consequently, too often they do not see the need to send them to the parish Sunday School program. The problem with this, of course, is that while getting a Catholic education from the Latin-rite vision, how will the children learn about anything Eastern and Maronite?

To address this common eparchial problem, pastor Fr. Anthony Salim, working with the parish religious education staff, notably Coordinator Gordon McKinnon and catechist Alison Saade, Heritage Days Coordinator, has developed six sessions to address this need. These sessions are called “Maronite Heritage Days.” Held on selected Saturdays from 1:30 to 3:40 pm (ending before the 4 pm Saturday vigil Qoorbono), the program offers teaching in 4 areas: Maronite Identity; Maronite Worship; Syriac Culture, and Basic Catholic Beliefs. Helping with these special days are Sr. Marla Marie Lucas and Postulant Therese Touma, of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. Alison taught about the background of the Maronite Church; Sister and Therese taught about St. Maron, and Fr. Anthony explained about the Syriac—the written form of Jesus’ Aramaic—that we use in the Qoorbono, and focused on the meaning of the Trisagion (Qadeeshat Aloho) and how the variable responses of the Liturgical Year help us to enter into the spirit of the seasons and their meanings. The children impressively sang this ancient hymn in Syriac and leaned to sing it in English as well.

Our first session was a big success, with about 35 children—of both public and Catholic schools—and a dozen parents, some of whom stayed for the entire session, then took their children to Divine Liturgy. All in all, with staff, about 50 people participated.

The next session, on Saturday 4 December, will focus on the Righteous and Just (i.e, the Saints), including St. Barbara (feast day 4 December) and St. Nicholas (6 December). The children will plant legumes, according to the custom, and the sprouted plants will be brought to the Créche-Manger for Christmas. We will also begin to explain the Service of the Word and about our Lectionary, among other items.