FOCUS Leadership Conference 2020 - Phoenix AZ

By Sister Therese Maria Touma, MSCL

Sr. Therese Maria along with a few  Maronites attended the SLS20 Leadership Conference in Phoenix Arizona, December 30 to January 3. There were more than 8,500 Catholics from across the world present at this conference hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, (FOCUS). The SLS20 conference which brings out amazing speakers to talk on discipleship, mission and evangelization is geared to college students, FOCUS missionaries and catholic leaders from parishes. Training and small group sessions are provided throughout the conference to impart tools and formation in discipleship and accompaniment. 

Our Maronite group participated in the Making Missionary Disciples track. As I reflect over my notes my ten biggest take aways are: 
  • Getting the fire and zeal to share the faith for the salvation of souls and the glory of God. 
  • The importance of cultivating a daily relationship with God in prayer and in frequenting the sacraments. 
  • Knowing your core identity as a beloved son and daughter of God and sharing your testimony with others. 
  • We are all made for mission. To give of oneself like Jesus without holding anything back. 
  • The importance of caring for others and intercessory prayer, and being present to the moment in discipleship. 
  • Developing good and virtuous friendships that help one to live out their faith. 
  • Not being afraid to go out and share Jesus‘s hope and mercy by getting involved in people’s lives in order to earn their trust.
  • Praying in small groups the Scriptures and allowing the Word of God to transform and inspire your journey of faith. 
  • In sharing the Gospel we need two vital convictions:
    • The Gospel is my story and part of my life. 
    • The Gospel is everyone’s story. We are made for life-giving relationship with the Trinity. We break that relationship in sin. Jesus comes to restore us through his life, death and resurrection, and invites us into a relationship with Him. He wants each one of us to participate in sharing this good news. 
  • Being spirit-filled evangelizers in sharing Jesus and not ourselves... this is our mission! 

We were so blessed to have participated in this awesome FOCUS conference. Next year’s SEEK conference will be from December 30- January 3 in St. Louis MO. For those who are interested you can see some of the live talks from this past conference at this link: https://sls20.org/
I pray that more of our Maronite Young adults and leaders from our parishes can experience this week of transformation and training. 


MYO Adore Retreat 2019

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL

The MYO Adore Retreat for northeast region of the Eparchy of St. Maron was on December 13–15 at the Wisdom House retreat facility in Litchfield, Connecticut. Sister Therese Maria, eparchial director for youth, the Maronite Servants' sisters,  and seminarians planned a dynamic weekend centered on the example of St. Joseph and how he can inspire us in preparing our hearts to welcome the birth of Jesus.

In attendance were 100 teens and advisors from several parishes: St. Maron’s in Philadelphia; Our Lady Star of the East in Pleasantville, NJ; St. Theresa’s in Brockton, MA; Our Lady of Purgatory in New Bedford, MA; St. Anthony’s in Lawrence, MA; St. Anthony’s in Danbury, CT; Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY, and St. John Paul II in Sleepy Hollow, NY.

We were especially blessed this year to have among us His Excellency, Bishop Gregory Mansour, who gave a talk to the teens on the silence, purity and prayerfulness of St. Joseph on Saturday morning. Also, Fr. Dany Abi-Akar, pastor at St. John Paul II in Sleepy Hollow, presented on the obedience of St. Joseph. 

Over the weekend, the teens participated in a variety of events, activities and prayer which included Eucharistic Adoration and confession. Sr. Therese Maria faciliated a Q&A panel of speakers which included Fr. Dany Abi-Akar, Seminarian Vincent Michael, Vivian Akel from the eparchial office of child protection, Mother Marla Marie and Bishop Gregory Mansour. The teens asked a variety of good questions including vocational and the teachings of our Catholic faith. 

Many of the youth expressed their joy at having made new friends, having an opportunity to bond with God and one another, and at being free to just be themselves and have fun. One of the icebreakers which generated much excitement was the “Santa Beard Relay”, where the youth were divided into 6 teams, and with Vaseline-smeared faces had to dunk them into a tray of cotton balls to see how many would stick.

Our retreat concluded on Sunday morning at the Divine Liturgy at St. Maron’s Church in Torrington, followed by brunch. A special thankyou to the entire team of advisors and volunteers who generously donated their time, talents and treasures in making this retreat such a special event. A special thank you as well to Fr. Tony Saab and the parish of St. Maron’s for their gracious hospitality.


Are you a Rooster or a Compass?

Sunday, December 8, 2019 homily by 
Father Fran├žois Beyrouti, Ph.D./D.Th

Are you a rooster or a compass?
On top of some churches in Europe there is a rooster with a compass underneath it. The origins of the use of the rooster and compass go back to sometime between 590 and 604, when Pope Gregory I noted how the rooster is a good symbol on Churches because it reminds us that Saint Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. This further developed in the ninth century when Pope Nicholas requested that all churches put a rooster on the top of their steeples.
Since Churches were usually at the center of village and city life, there was also a practical element of having a rooster and a compass on top of Church buildings. The rooster moved and was used to determine the direction of the wind while the compass showed direction that never changed. The rooster moved depending on which way the wind was blowing while the compass remained constant despite the day or the temperature.

When we look at our lives as Catholic Christians we need to ask ourselves whether we are like the rooster that changes direction with every wind and passing fad or are we like the compass that despite the weather, despite the location, and despite the time of day are always facing the right direction.

This imagery of the rooster becomes particularly important for us as we prepare for Christmas. We always combine a period of fasting prior to major feast days. The traditional Christmas fast started on November 15, but we can also start today. The Church term for Christmas is “The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Our liturgical year therefore combines periods of fasting and feasting to remind us to prepare ourselves for special holy days in the year.

The word “Christmas” simply means the “Christ mass.” It is very odd that many Catholics prepare for Christmas by decorating their homes, getting a nice tree, buying gifts for everyone, but forget to prepare every day for the coming of Jesus Some even forget to come to Church on Christmas. We should never forget that Christ is the reason for this season.
Amidst the extra busy-ness that this time of year throws at us, this is a perfect time to think of whether we are more like the rooster or the compass. With all the emphasis on buying and eating are we like the rooster on top of a building that blows in every direction or are we like the compass that clearly sees the importance of the coming of Christ into the world and into our lives?

When we read the Gospels carefully we always see that Jesus was very purposeful and clear in His life mission. He did not follow the wind but was like the consistent focus of a compass. In today’s Gospel we see how focused Jesus was on teaching and healing. He was teaching in the synagogue on a Sabbath and no work was allowed to be done on that day. He then healed a woman who had been sick for 18 years despite knowing that he was going to be criticized for doing a miracle on a day when no work was supposed to be done. He saw the sick woman and immediately focused with the precision of a compass and was not intimidated to turn away and spin like a rooster because of what people may say about Him.

The entire life of Jesus was like a compass and never not like a rooster. He knew what He needed to do and remained focused throughout his life. Jesus’ life should always be a model for us. He calls each one of us to be his disciples today and to have that same focus that He had. If we are like the rooster that blows in every direction, we will end up denying Jesus more than the three times Peter denied him.

Let’s look at this in some more practical ways. Fasting forces us to be conscious of the decisions we make so that we don’t spin around with every wind that hits us. We need to be conscious every day that we are making our life decisions for Christ and with Christ. We can ask ourselves a simple question: “Is what we are doing influenced by the life of Christ or by what others will think about us?” If we are influenced by Christ then we are like the compass that has a clear direction, but if we are more influenced by changing opinions then we are like the rooster that changes direction with every passing hour.

We need to always make our faith practical for it to be real. We do this when we are specific about the things in our life that are drawing us closer to a life of faith in Jesus and the things in our life that need to be set aside. For example, I love music. I love the sounds, I love to listen to how instruments are used, I love poetic lyrics, I love the different kinds of voices, and so many other elements of music. Unfortunately, I am also aware that many popular songs contain lyrics that are inconsistent with my desire to dedicate my mind, my words, my thoughts, to Christ. While listening to a song on the radio I often think “I don’t agree with what these lyrics are saying.”

The choice I make in situations as these will determine if my faith is real or not. What I do when I listen or watch something inappropriate will determine if my faith is like a compass that is clearly directed towards Christ or whether my faith is so shallow to allow me to be influenced by what is on the radio or on TV.

Saint Paul tells us: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). We keep our compass focused on Christ by committing ourselves to live by whatever is true, honorable, and just, not whatever is trendy, new, and entertaining.

Roosters and compasses were put on top of Churches to remind us that if the wind blows us in every direction we are denying the power of Christ in our life, however when we have a clear and consistent direction in our life, we are as stable as the compass.

As we get closer to the celebration of the birth of Christ there is no better time to check whether the wind is blowing us in every direction or whether our direction is towards our savior, the child who is about to be born in Bethlehem.


Confirmation Retreat – New Bedford, MA

The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light facilitated a Confirmation Retreat on December 7, for 22 teens from the combined parishes of Holy Name, St. Lawrence, and St. Francis of Assisi at the invitation of the Pastor, Fr. Michael Racine.

The retreat consisted of prayer, reflections, group discussions, and games, centered around the theme of God’s “Everlasting Love” from Jeremiah 31:3.  The confirmands were asked to ponder life’s questions, such as “Who are you?”, “Why are you here?”, “What is the purpose of your life?” and “What gives meaning to your life?”.  Sr. Therese Maria led a beautiful Eucharistic Adoration which included the praying of the Psalms, and Praise and Worship music. They also focused on the significance of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation as part of living out their great dignity as beloved children of the Father.

The day concluded with the Vigil Liturgy, and the promise of our prayers for the teens who will be confirmed in 2021.