Divine Mercy Mission – Philadelphia, PA

By Sr. Natalie Sayde

The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were on mission at St. Maron’s Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 21-23rd. At the invitation of Reverend Vincent Farhat, pastor, the Sisters offered a parish-wide retreat, “Living Divine Mercy”. The theme was especially fitting as it was Divine Mercy Sunday for the Universal Catholic Church on April 23rd.  

On Friday evening, Mother Marla Marie gave a presentation to the adults of the parish on God’s mercy in our lives, and the message of Divine Mercy, as received by St. Faustina, and its relevance today. What is God trying to tell us through His message of Divine Mercy? He was very clear with St. Faustina, and the answer appears on the bottom of the famous Divine Mercy image, He is asking us to TRUST. Jesus, I trust in You. Mother Marla Marie guided the adults through a time of prayer before the Holy Mysteries, and encouraged them to take up the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a devotion in their everyday lives.

We facilitated a children’s retreat on Saturday morning, which included games, crafts, activities, prizes and lunch. We also guided the children in a time of prayer in the Church and taught them how to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

On Saturday afternoon, we had lots of fun and laughter with the MYO of the parish in Bumper Bowling.

On Saturday evening, we met with over 25 of the MYA for a relaxed evening of fellowship which included dinner. This was a very special evening as a number of the MYA had attended from other regional parishes including Our Lady of Lebanon in Brooklyn and St. Sharbel’s from Somerset, New Jersey. It was awesome to see them all trying to get to know each other and bond on a deeper level. The message of Divine Mercy was also a central theme, which generated much discussion and thought-provoking questions. 

During the course of the weekend Divine Liturgies, Mother Marla Marie spoke on vocations and the message of Divine Mercy. We met with the parishioners at the coffee hour on Sunday. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend with the beautiful parish family of St. Maron’s. We thank Abouna Vince and the parishioners for their warm hospitality, support and goodness in welcoming us and responding so positively to our mission. We look forward to being with them again in the near future.

“‘I am love and Mercy Itself.  There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases.  The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” (from the Diary of St. Faustina, para: 1273, page 459)


Simon, Son of John, do you love Me?

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on April 20th at the Mother of the Light Convent

True faith is rooted in humility which enables us to let go of ourselves, to let go of our own will, and to let the power of Jesus work in us.

As we look at this Gospel, Jesus very delicately and lovingly engages with Peter in a pivotal moment that will enable Peter to see for himself his great love for Jesus and the power of that love which is greater than any opposing power that might try to keep him bound in the memory of his toxic shame and human failures.

The use of the word “shame” is of significance. It is very different from “guilt” although we too often use the terms interchangeably. “Guilt” might be called the voice of conscience. It is the voice of God inviting us back to healthy relationship with Him. “Shame”, on the other hand, is never healthy, nor from God. It is a feeling of disruption, division, from God which makes us feel alienated. Shame can persist even after guilt is healed.

Peter and the others had already received the Holy Spirit, the gift of Forgiveness, peace, serenity, and had been told to share these gifts with others. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven (Jn 20:23). The name of Jesus (Yeshua) has an authority and a power that goes beyond simple memory. It is active and forceful and cuts to the very heart.

They had been pardoned, but something was still eating inside of Peter. His eyes were riveted on the charcoal fire, perhaps reminiscent of the charcoal fire in the courtyard of Caiphas on Great Friday. Perhaps due to this intense physical focus, Peter was unable to recognize the “man” on the shore; at least not until John, who now seemingly is in peace and serenity is able to recognize and to share with Peter the identity of this “man”.

Peter, who was stripped naked, probably customary for fishermen out on the waters, “cloths himself”. The Greek text here makes a clear distinction which is lost in English translation. The clothes with which Peter covers himself is not his, his own, but his, that of another person, of Jesus’ cloak of righteousness.

Now Peter makes a deliberate decision to jump in the water and swim to the Lord. I firmly believe this is no coincidence. I believe that the Evangelist in his final chapter is drawing a deliberate contrast with the opening pages of Genesis, where the first humans were deceived to fear and hide from God in shame. They no longer felt worthy to be what God had created them to be: the image of God, the children of God.

As Jesus stepped forth from the stone-blocked tomb liberated from death; Peter was now released to come forth from his stone-crusted shame, liberated from the power of evil. Jesus’ desire for Peter and for all of us is to recognize while we are human and make mistakes, the power of love is able to overcome a multitude of sins, of evil choices.

This is the most encouraging intervention that anyone can experience.

As Jesus takes Peter deeper and deeper into the healing of shame, asking him three times, healing that three-time denial at the first charcoal fire; Peter is brought to understand that in spite of his imperfections, he could still serve Jesus faithfully and fully.

Jesus seeks to have this same exchange with us. To burn away the dross of doubt and to enkindle in our hearts the fire of love. We will continue to make mistakes. Only God is perfect. But as we publically declare our love for Jesus, and our love for the power of His Name (Yeshua); that love will become visible proof of His ability to make His kingdom of serenity and peace a reality on earth.


Celebrating the Glorious Resurrection

Great Saturday of the Light
The Church awaits the resurrection of the Lord—the long “Awaited Light.” After his crucifixion the Lord remained in the tomb before his resurrection and, as the creed reminds us, he descended to hell—the place of the dead—that his light might shine upon them and that they might rejoice in the light of his face. 
As we await the resurrection of Christ, may his death and burial be for us a symbol of faith and repentance. We are called to bury the old man of sin and corruption and put on the new man of glorious life. Thus we shall live in justice and holiness of truth. 
On this day of waiting and personal preparation for the resurrection, the Divine Mysteries are not celebrated nor is the Holy Eucharist distributed, instead the prayer of forgiveness is celebrated. We thus close the great week of the passion of the Lord by washing our hearts with contrition and penance and by reconciling ourselves with one another.

Sunday of the Glorious Resurrection 
The Church celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord as the “feast of feasts”. After being plunged into the darkness of the crucifixion and death of Jesus we are now filled with the light of the resurrection. The cross, which was the instrument of death, has now become the glorious beacon, which enlightens the world.
In order to express its joy the Church extends the celebration of the resurrection for a week of weeks, that is, for fifty days. The season of Resurrection begins with the feast of the Resurrection and ends with the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. On the fortieth day of this season (the Thursday after the Fifth Sunday of Resurrection) the feast of the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated…
The joy and peace that flow from the Lord’s resurrection are expressed today by the Rite of Peace, which follows the gospel in the Divine Mysteries. The cross is removed from the tomb where it has rested since Great Friday and is draped in white. It is carried through the Church accompanied by hymns of praise and joy. The priest solemnly blesses the congregation with the glorious cross and then presents it to them that they might adore it.
By his living cross Christ has saved us from going astray and given us a way to heaven. Through the cross, peace and harmony reign among God’s people and we are led to perfection.

Excerpts taken from the Maronite Divine Office


Youth Retreat - Richmond VA

"Discover Jesus" Youth Retreat - Richmond VA

This past weekend (March 31-April 2) Sr. Therese Maria, MSCL assisted at the MYO Regional retreat held at Saint Anthony Maronite Parish in Richmond, Virginia. She gave a talk on her vocation story, the gift of confession and led the adoration and worship before the Blessed Sacrament. The theme for this year's presentation, activities and games was "Discover Jesus." During the fun-filled and spiritual weekend, we were blessed to have youth from the following parishes attend: Washington DC, Roanoke, Richmond and North Carolina.

Maronite Young Adults

On Sunday night Sr. Therese Maria also met with Maronite Young Adults from the parish of Saint Anthony for a lively and interactive discussion on their identity as beloved sons and daughters of God and our purpose here on Earth. Our purpose is to love and be loved and how do we do this? As Saint John Paul II emphasizes it is in giving ourselves away in loving service to our neighbor that we find our true self and fulfillment. The "something more" that we seek is a life-giving relationship with Jesus. We enjoyed great laughs, pizza, ice cream, and concluded the evening with a fruitful sharing on the Sunday's Gospel, Jesus curing the Blind beggar. With one heart we prayed: "Lord have pity on us, help us to shed our sins, and see with your light."


Lenten Mission – Jacksonville, Florida

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
St. Maron’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida invited us to offer a parish mission on March 24-26th.  The Maronite Servants collaborated with Reverend Elie Abi-Chedid, pastor, in scheduling this lenten retreat.

On Friday evening we joined the parish in praying the Benediction of the Cross, followed by a supper where we were able to meet and greet the parishioners. During supper, Mother Marla Marie facilitated a lectio divina on the Sunday’s Gospel of the Healing of the Paralytic, and taught the adults of the parish this method of prayerfully reading the scriptures.

On Saturday, we facilitated a combined retreat with the MYO and MYA of the parish. The theme was “Be Made Clean” and was based on the Gospel of the Healing of the Leper. The day included presentations and interactive group activities, adoration, confession, abundant laughter and fun.

We had two presentations for the day, one from Mother Marla Marie, on the cleansing gift of confession; and the other from Sr. Therese Maria, on the gift of Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. I also gave a personal testimony on how the gift of confession has made a tremendous impact in my spiritual growth and healing.

The morning included small group discussions, which focused on some of the fears and distractions we may have on approaching confession, and, more positively, how confession improves our relationship with God.

Following the close of the retreat day, we were joined by a number of the MYO at Mandaloun Lebanese Restaurant for dinner and a dabke party. A very big thank you to owner and chef, Mr. Pierre Barakat for hosting the evening.

On Sunday morning before Divine Liturgy, we facilitated an hour of catechesis with the children of the parish. We walked the Way of the Cross with them in order to highlight Jesus’ great love for us, especially in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

In the afternoon, we spent some time sight-seeing with a number of MYA and adults of the parish, which included a visit to the beautiful Cathedral of St. Augustine, and St. Augustine Beach. We were blessed with very fine weather, typical of the Florida climate that everyone raves about.

We would like to thank Fr. Elie Abi-Chedid and the parish and volunteers of St. Maron for hosting this event and for their outstanding hospitality. A very big thank you to Dr. Gabriella Assi for helping to coordinate this event at the local parish level. And to all those families who genuinely opened their hearts to receive us. We were most grateful for their positive feedback, warmth and receptivity to the healing message of the Paschal Mystery.  



Our Maronite Servants’ Week of Service

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh

MYO Night – St. Theresa’s Church, Brockton
On Friday evening, Sr. Therese Maria facilitated a night of prayer, reflection and activity with the MYO of St. Theresa’s parish in Brockton.  The theme was “Be Made Clean” and was based on the gospel of the Second Sunday of Lent, the Healing of the Leper.  The teens enjoyed decorating their own Lenten crosses, and Sr. Therese Maria encouraged them to write on the back of their cross, what they would like Jesus to cleanse them of this Lent.

Day of Recollection – Mother of the Light Convent
On Saturday, March 18th, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light hosted a Day of Recollection at the Mother of Light Convent for ladies from the Daughters of Mary of Our Lady of the Cedars, Boston. The theme of the day was “Welcome Beloved Daughters to the Father’s Embrace”, and was based on the Gospel of the Prodigal Son.
Mother Marla Marie challenged and encouraged the ladies to rest on the Father’s merciful heart, to experience His embrace of mercy, and allow God to draw them close to His tender and compassionate heart.  The day included presentations, quiet reflection, faith sharing, prayerful communion before the Holy Mysteries, and an abundance of sisterly fellowship, support and laughter.                                                           Plan a similar day for your parish group at the convent or at your parish, call the Sisters 508/996-1753.
Young Adult Afternoon of Recollection – Mother of Light Convent
On Sunday, March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, we hosted an afternoon of recollection for young adults, followed by Ramsho and Supper at the Mother of Light Convent.  The focus of the afternoon was the Gospel of the Prodigal Son, which included a video presentation, a lectio divina facilitated by Sr. Therese Maria, and prayerful adoration before the Holy Mysteries.

Fatima Message to the Ladies Guild – Fall River
On Monday evening, March 20th, Mother Marla Marie, invited by the Ladies Guild of St. Anthony of the Desert Parish in Fall River, to gave a presentation on the apparitions and message of Our Lady of Fatima, in honor of the Centennial Anniversary of the Apparitions.
Mother Marla Marie highlighted how ultimately Our Lady’s message in Fatima is one of conversion, repentance and consecration. The message of Our Lady of Fatima is still very relevant  and urgently needed in our present time.
Our Lady of Fatima made several predictions, all of which have come true. In one of these predictions, Our Lady said to the children that if people do not heed her message, a war far worse than the Great War would break out again, as it did in 1939. During the June visit of 1917, the children said that Our Lady told them to say the rosary daily in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace and bring an end to war.

Vocation Panel – Freetown MA
On Wednesday evening, March 22nd, Sr. Therese Maria and Sr. Natalie Sayde participated in a Vocation Panel at St. John Neumann Roman Catholic Parish in Freetown, MA.  At the invitation of Pastor, Fr. Greg Matthias, the Sisters joined with three other panelists for a Q & A session with the parish’s confirmation class of 2017. There were approximately 40 teens for the session, and they had curious and interesting questions on the topic of vocation.
The sisters were asked excellent questions such as: “If sisters are poor, how do they get around, do they have a car?” “Do sisters have time for recreation and if so, what do you do”? “How much do we pray”? “Have we ever had boyfriends?” and so forth.
It was a night filled with laughter and fellowship all round. Please join us in praying for all those who will be making their confirmation this year.