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.


MYO/MYA Regional Retreat – Sleepy Hollow, New York

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh          
The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light facilitated a MYO/MYA Regional Retreat at the St. John Paul II Maronite mission in Sleepy Hollow, New York on Saturday, March 11th. The theme was “Be Made Clean” and was based on the gospel of the Second Sunday of Lent, the Healing of the Leper. We were blessed to have among us and as one of the keynote speakers, His Excellency, Bishop Gregory Mansour.

This Regional Retreat brought together over 130 teens and young adults from the following parishes, including their dedicated volunteers: St. John Paul II mission; Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, Brooklyn, NY; St. Louis Gonzaga Parish in Utica, NY; St. Sharbel’s parish in Somerset, NJ; Our Lady Star of the East parish in Pleasantville, NJ; Our Lady of Lebanon parish in Easton, PA; St. Maron’s parish in Philadelphia, PA; and St. Anthony’s Parish in Danbury, CT.
A number of pastors from the parishes mentioned were in attendance:  Msgr. James Root (Brooklyn, NY); Fr. Dany Abi-Akar (Sleepy Hollow, NY); Fr. Kamil El-Choufeiti (Pleasantville, NJ); Fr. Simon El-Hajj (Easton, PA); and Fr. Aaron Sandbothe (Utica, NY).

This retreat day was filled with activity, prayerful communion with God, and with much laughter and fun (and even a surprise visit from the ice cream truck).  We had two presentations for the day, one from Fr. Dany Abi-Akar, pastor of the host parish, on the cleansing gift of confession; and the other from Bishop Gregory, on the power of the Eucharist to heal and bind our wounds.
The morning included small group discussions, which focused on some of the fears we may have on approaching confession, and, more positively, how confession improves our relationship with God. The MYO small groups were facilitated by our dedicated volunteers, and Sr. Therese Maria led the MYA.

One of the highlights was the large number of young people who went to confession despite the many misgivings and fears they expressed earlier. We had priests stationed around the beautiful church offering the saving mercy of Christ. It was uplifting to see these young people approach Jesus with tears in their eyes during Exposition of the Sacred Mysteries.

The day concluded with Divine Liturgy, dinner and a dabke party.  We would like to thank Fr. Dany Abi-Akar and the parish and volunteers of St. John Paul II mission for hosting this event and for their outstanding hospitality. Thanks for all their hard work, the preparation and service of the meals, and the donation of the ice cream truck. A very big thank you to Mrs. Frances Mourani for coordinating this event at the local parish level.   


Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on March 6th at the Mother of the Light Convent

The Maronite Liturgy moves us from the first week of reflection on fasting as a spiritual discipline, which leads us into the virtue of detachment not only from food but anything that becomes an obstacle to growth in grace and relationship with God.

St. Matthew gives us a passage today to help us with this transition: Do not be anxious about your life or what you eat or what you drink! Do not the birds have everything they need; and are you not much more valuable to the Father than a flock of birds? …do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself! (cf. Mt 6: 25-34). This beautiful passage shows the value of all the ordinary things of life, and to put our trust in God’s fatherly protection. He is teaching us that trust means to abandon ourselves from ourselves or anyone/thing that is an obstacle to Divine Providence.

Union with the Divine is our ultimate goal, but distractions of various kinds can detour us from that final destination. As we saw in our last reflection we get back on the straight and narrow and reorder our priorities through the Sacraments.

Matthew concludes this section today with a stark admonition: It is not possible to be a servant of two masters. Ultimately you will choose to love one and despise the other, you will choose grace or you will choose sin (cf. Mt 6: 24).

St. Paul in his letter today to the Thessalonians, a very short one caused by the Jews who had forced him out of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 17: 5 – 10) preventing him from completing the prelimnary instruction of neophytes.

St. Paul discreetly reveals to the Thessalonians how zealous he is for their souls, as God is zealous for all souls. Far from being indifferent or apathetic to their state of spiritual health, he is concerned for these fellow Christians and sees it as a matter for his own life and death.

He does not confine himself to simply wishing that he could come to them. He uses the power of prayer to obtain what he wants to obtain what God wants. At a later time in his life, Paul expressed his desire to go and preach in Spain, but he concludes saying: The Holy Spirit prevented me (Rom 15: 24). In other words, it was not the will of God, but his own, an obsession which was blocking him from recognizing and doing the will of God.

Paul continues explaining that it is love that breaks the bond of the evil master and glues us to God. Love is that virtue which God infuses into our soul through prayer which enables us to love Him above all things, as our Lord and only Master; and to love our neighbor in the way that God directs us.

St. John Chrysostom made this observation: Loving one person but being indifferent to another is purely human affection. St. Paul says that our love must not be restricted in any way. Jesus said, You must love even your enemies as you love yourself (cf. Mt 5: 44).

When a Christian is enabled to practice this virtue in an uninhibited way, his holiness grows in strength, and he becomes irreproachable before God…in this God will establish your heart as blameless in holiness and on the day of the Lord you will be recognized with all the saints.

I think it is imperative before concluding to remind you of Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians in last Monday’s homily (cf 2 Cor 5: 20 – 6:7). The day of the Lord is now, from now until the glory of Christ appears at the end or at the hour of death. Every day is the acceptable time. Everyday is a day to witness to the love of God by detaching from obstacles and idols, from competing masters and lords, for they will know that you are my disciples, by the love which you share with one another. 


Launching Into Lent -- Easton, PA

Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh

The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were on mission at Our Lady of Lebanon in Easton, Pennsylvania on February 24-26th. At the invitation of Reverend Simon El Hajj, pastor, the Sisters offered a parish-wide retreat, “Launching into Lent”.

On Friday evening, we led a beautiful night of prayer, fun and fellowship with over 25 MYO teens. The evening included Exposition and Adoration of the Holy Mysteries.

We facilitated a children’s retreat on Saturday morning, which included games, crafts, activities, prizes and lunch. We walked the “Way of the Cross” in the Church with the children to help them focus on Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us.

On Saturday afternoon, we facilitated a reflection for the adults, with a focus on the unconditional, individual and unique love that God has for each one of us. Mother Marla Marie encouraged the participants, through prayerful reflection on the Scriptures, to focus on what they may be holding onto and what God may be prodding them to let go of during this Lent.

On Saturday evening, we met with some of the MYA for a relaxed evening of fellowship. Sister Therese Maria facilitated a “lectio divina” on Sunday’s Gospel which was followed by dinner.

During the course of the weekend Divine Liturgies, Mother Marla Marie spoke on vocations and the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light mission in the Eparchy. We met with the parishioners at the coffee hours, and they were most uplifting and affirming of our vocation. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend with the beautiful parish family of Our Lady of Lebanon. We thank Abouna Simon and Deacon Anthony Koury 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.