MYO Regional Retreat -- Philadelphia, PA

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh

On the weekend of February 19, 20, and 21, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were on mission at St. Maron’s Parish in Philadelphia, PA, focusing on the theme of “Mercy” in honor of this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Our mission weekend began with the regional MYO retreat on Friday night, which gathered approximately 60 youth from St. Maron’s, Philadelphia; St. Anthony of the Desert, Lawrence, MA; Our Lady Star of the East, Pleasantville, NJ; and St. Charbel’s, Newtown Square, PA.

Sr. Therese Maria began the MYO retreat by focusing especially on how the Father has shown each of us great mercy in sending us his only begotten Son to save and redeem us on the Cross, and encouraged the teens to think about how God manifests His mercy personally to them in their lives.

On Saturday morning, Sr. Therese Maria focused on the Corporeal and Spiritual Works of Mercy with the teens, especially during this time of Great Lent when we are encouraged to live out our faith in prayer, fasting and works of charity. In light of this discussion, the teens participated in a service project on Saturday morning where they cleaned the local Catholic Church, St. Cyprian, and got to hear an amazing choir practice. The teens were buzzing as they returned from St. Cyprian, describing how they had raked all the leaves, and how beautiful the outside of the Church looked, and of course, how they got to hear an African choir in action!

Also on Saturday morning, as Sr. Therese Maria was with the MYO, Mother Marla Marie was with the adults of the Parish, also helping them to focus on this Year of Mercy. Mother Marla Marie taught the adults the ancient way of praying with the Scriptures, that is, Lectio Divina or Divine Reading. Mother Marla Marie facilitated a Lectio Divina for the adults on this Sunday’s Gospel of the Prodigal Son.

On Saturday afternoon, the MYO participated in adoration and confession, where Sr. Therese Maria taught them and helped them through the four movements of prayer – (A) Adoration, (C) Contrition, (T) Thanksgiving, and (S) Supplication – ACTS.

During the evening on Saturday, the teens enjoyed themselves at RiverRink at Penn’s Landing (Ice Skating Rink). Even our very own Sr. Therese Maria put on a pair of skates and joined the kids on the ice. I enjoyed watching them maneuver on the ice and witnessed many a fall, but no broken bones thank God. The teens then headed back to St. Maron’s Hall for their hafle’.

On Sunday morning, the teens gave us some feedback on what aspect of the weekend they found most enlightening. Many loved adoration and confession, whilst others enjoyed the service project and having a chance to give back to the community. Many of the teens enjoyed being with one another and forming new and deeper friendships.
After Sunday’s Divine Liturgy, during which Mother Marla Marie, addressed the Congregation and told them a little about our mission, we had a chance to meet and greet the parishioners of St. Maron and visit their CCD classes.

In the evening on Sunday, we spent a night of meditation and reflection with the MYA of St. Maron’s. Sr. Therese Maria also taught the young adults Lectio Divina and facilitated a Lectio Divina also on this Sunday’s Gospel of the Prodigal Son. We followed a very fruitful night of recollection and prayer with a nice meal with the young adults.

Thanks be to God for a wonderful mission. We would like to thank Fr. Vincent Farhat, Pastor of St. Maron for his invitation to his parish and his support, presence and guidance all throughout the weekend, and his delightful crew of parish volunteers. It was a joy serving alongside them all.     



What is discernment?

With Deacon Joseph Abisaad at his ordination Saturday Feb. 13, 2016 at
St. Anthony, Lawrence.  Monsignor Georges, pastor of Our Lady of
the Cedars (l) Sister Marla Marie, Petra.  

When someone uses the word “discernment,” most people connect it with a person trying to decide about joining the priesthood or convent. Discernment is what should happen before we decide.  It is a journey of seeking God’s will in one’s life.  Here are a few suggestions for a young man or young women to consider as part of a religious vocation discernment journey. 
·      It is walking with the Lord, accompanying him and recognizing his presence. It is listening to your desires, feelings, and distinguishing God’s voice from other voices.
·      It is friendship with the Lord and becoming one with him through living the sacramental life (e.g. going to daily Eucharist, and confession regularly).
·      It is growing in self-knowledge (what are my strengths, weaknesses, what do I need to surrender to God so that he can transform me into his image of Love?)
·      It is a desire to serve and to “be" for others…It is being led by the love of Jesus to discover who he is, our merciful and loving Savior, friend, Lord and God…
·      It is not being afraid of our weaknesses and entrusting all to his merciful love. Jesus will lead us because he is with us.

The gift of a vocation is to be received in a spirit of love because it is an encounter with grace, with Jesus who is mercy incarnate. The best love is readiness to give and lay down one’s life for the other!   The journey of discerning a religious vocation can be summed up as a daily falling in love with Jesus.

(If  you have questions about discerning a religious vocation, contact the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light at maroniteservants.org or the vocation directors in your Eparchy.)


My Religious Name as a Novice

Sister Natalie Sayde Salameh

As a postulant, I would go by the name - Natalie. With deep gratitude to God, I entered the Novitiate of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light on Cana Sunday, February 7. I received the religious habit, a white veil (not grey), which is the traditional veil color worn by a novice, and a new religious name, Sr. Natalie Sayde. The novitiate usually lasts for two years where the novice begins to learn more about the rule of the community and vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, which she will profess when the novitiate concludes.

So my first name doesn’t change, but its traditional in the Maronite Servants that when a candidate enters her novitiate, she (along with the Mother Superior and of course the Holy Spirit) chooses a second name in honor of the Blessed Mother of God. With the approval of Mother Marla Marie, I chose the name “Sayde”.

The name “Sayde” in Arabic literally means “Lady” in English. But the name “Sayde” has become a familiar word used among Lebanese speaking people to refer to “Our Lady of Lebanon” in Harissa, Lebanon – “Saydet Luban” (Arabic). So they would say [I’m paraphrasing], “we’re going up to visit the Sayde”.

When I entered religious life as a postulant on February 2nd, 2014, Mother Marla Marie placed around my neck the medal of Our Lady of Lebanon, and I wore it every day for the last two years. The Sayde was my constant companion; everyday as I would place the medal around my neck I would give her my vocation, my cares, my joys, my concerns. I handed over everything to the Sayde, trusting and knowing that she was smiling at me and telling me “your mother never leaves you.”

As postulant, I also got into the habit of praying a special prayer everyday to the Holy Spirit before I would begin my Adoration Hour. 

Heavenly Father, through the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Lebanon, Our Lady of the Church and my Lady, to send upon us your Holy Spirit to illumine our minds with the light and splendor of your truth and inflame our hearts with the fire of divine charity. I ask this in the most Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.

There are no accidents, all prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that the Holy Spirit was sending me a big message when I started praying to Our Lady of Lebanon (the Sayde) everyday. So I was delighted when both myself and Mother Marla Marie decided that the name “Sayde” would be the religious name for me.

In our religious, we celebrate each sister’s name day instead of birthdays. Each sister has a feast day, and mine will be the first Sunday of May each year, which is the feast of Our Lady of Lebanon.

Please continue to pray for me as I journey in my novitiate.


Cana Sunday – Entrance into Great Lent

 In the Maronite Church this Sunday, February 7, we celebrate the Wedding of Cana and the entrance into the next Liturgical Season, Great Lent.

Why is the Wedding of Cana chosen as the Gospel in the Maronite Church for the beginning of Great Lent? What is its significance?

The theme of the Wedding of Cana is transformation. The Evangelist John records that at this event, Jesus performs his first public “sign”, or miracle by changing water into wine, thus making known the beginning of his “hour” of glorification (cf John 2:11). Our Church uses this sign of transformation to begin a series of Lenten Sunday celebrations that highlight other transformations, both physical and spiritual. This series culminates in the greatest miracle story: the Resurrection, the sign of the new Earth and the New Heaven, the New Creation. This focus on change should lead us to make the changes necessary in our own spiritual lives. We move from an earthly wedding story to considering our life at the eternal Wedding Banquet.

(The above is a summary from “Captivated By Your Teachings: A Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics” written by Rev. Anthony J. Salim, pp. 136 – 137, 182).

Just a reminder that for Maronites, Ash Monday, is a day of fasting and abstinence. The Maronite Servants join you in prayer and fasting during this time of Great Lent. As they say in Arabic, “Sowm Mubarak”.