The History of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon Upon its 25th Anniversary
Immigration of Maronite Christians from the Middle East to the United States began during the latter half of the nineteenth century. When local communities were able to obtain a priest from the Middle East, parish communities were established under the jurisdiction of the local Latin Bishops. This accommodation continued until Pope Paul VI on January 10, 1966 established the Maronite Apostolic Exarchate for the Maronite faithful of the United States. This was announced through the Apostolic Constitution Cum supremi.
Francis Mansour Zayek was appointed first bishop of the Exarchate which was established in Detroit, Michigan. The Exarchate was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Through the Apostolic Constitution Quae spes, issued by Pope Paul VI on November 29, 1971, the Maronite Exarchate was elevated the to the status as a full Eparchy or Diocese. It was named the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Detroit. On June 27, 1977, by a decree from the Oriental Congregation for the Churches, the See of the Maronite Eparchy was transferred to Brooklyn, New York and the name was modified to reflect the move to Brooklyn.
Pope John Paul II issued the papal bull Omnium Catholicorumon February 19, 1994 establishing a second Eparchy for the Maronite of the United States. The new Eparchy received the title of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, and was carved out of the territory of the original Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn. It included some 34 States. The decree from the Apostolic See states:
We create an Eparchy which encompasses the faithful presently living in these States, namely: Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho and Washington. This Eparchy we separate from the other of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, and henceforth it will hold the title of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles in California.
The Most Reverend John G. Chedid, formerly titular Bishop of Callinicum for the Maronites and Auxiliary Bishop for the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, since October 1980, was appointed first bishop for the new Eparchy with the Cathedral under the patronage of Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon in Los Angeles. Bishop Chedid was enthroned on June 23, 1994 during ceremonies celebrated at Saint Charles Borromeo Church, North Hollywood, California. Archbishop Francis M. Zayek, representing the Maronite Patriarch, His Eminence and Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, enthroned the new Bishop with many clergy and dignitaries in attendance. Bishop Chedid was born in 1923 and raised in the village of Edde, Batroun, in Lebanon. In the decree of appointment, Pope John Paul II mentions:
We have established the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon in Los Angeles, at the same time We have carefully decided about sending a shepherd to that place. And so to you, venerable brother, we turn Our thoughts, you whom We know to be thoroughly educated in the sacred disciplines in the city and trained in pastoral experience.
In conformity with the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches (CCEO), Bishop Chedid sent his resignation to the Holy Father on his seventy-fifth birthday. On December 5, 2000 the Holy Father accepted his resignation due to canonical age and appointed Chorbishop Robert J. Shaheen as the second bishop for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon. Bishop Shaheen was ordained and installed as Eparch on February 15, 2001 by his Eminence and Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir at the Cathedral Basilica of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. Bishop Shaheen was the first American-born priest to be ordained a Bishop for the Maronite Church. In the decree of appointment, Pope John Paul II addressed Bishop Robert Shaheen saying:
And so when the Eparchial See of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles of the Maronites became vacant owed to the resignation from his Episcopal office of the venerable brother John George Chedid, we hastened to assign another shepherd to the aforementioned See. Therefore our thoughts turned to you beloved son since we judged you suitable for the same very office and endeavored with the necessary qualities and virtues. Accordingly I have given approval to the opinion of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.
This marked a significant milestone in the history of the Maronite Church, in that the Holy See and the Maronite Patriarchal See recognized and responded to the need for domestic leadership within the Maronite Church in the United States. Bishop Shaheen was born in 1937 in Danbury, Connecticut.
While the eparchy was originally established in Los Angeles in 1994, its offices were moved to St. Louis in July 2001 with approval from the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches and St. Raymond was elevated to the rank of Co-Cathedral.
On his seventy-fifth birthday, Bishop Shaheen also tendered his resignation due to canonical age to the Holy Father. On July 10, 2013, Pope Francis accepted Bishop Shaheen’s resignation and appointed Abdallah Elias Zaidan, MLM (Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries), Rector of Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon Cathedral as third Bishop for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon. Bishop Zaidan was born in Ksseibe, Lebanon on March 10, 1963 and was ordained a priest on July 20, 1986. He was consecrated a Bishop at the Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon by His Eminence and Beatitude Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai on September 28, 2013 and installed as Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon at Saint Raymond Co-Cathedral on October 23, 2013. His Episcopal motto is: Thy Will Be Done.
Pope Francis, in his decree of appointment, addressed Bishop Zaidan with the following:
Finally, beloved Son, may you act in such manner as to fulfill this vital ministry of Shepherd by word, deed, and above all, the example of your life, for no other means is more suited to the teaching and governing of men. May "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor 13:13), through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, be always with you and with this Maronite ecclesial community that is so dear to Us.
The Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon presently has some 34 established parishes and eight missions. The Eparchy is comprised of almost 50,000 Maronite faithful served by about 51 priests; some 17 permanent deacons and over 30 subdeacons. The Eparchy also has two monasteries under its jurisdiction: The Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Monks of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Beaverton/Portland, Oregon. It also has two women religious orders who are serving the Eparchy: The Antonine Sisters in Ohio and the Maronite Sisters of the Holy family in California.
The Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles continues to grow and expand in unity and faith. Since its establishment, the Eparchy added 14 new parishes and missions, while other missions were strengthened and expanded. Its many parishes, missions, and communities have sought, under the leadership of Bishop Elias Zaidan, to strengthen their ties to their Maronite roots and bring new generations of Maronites into the fold. The demographic makeup of Maronite churches across the country has shifted and evolved over time. Although the Maronite Church in the United States began as a Church of first- and second-generationsLebanese immigrants, the Maronite Church now includes members from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds. Many individuals with no family or marital ties to the Maronite Church have chosen to become Maronites due to the beautiful and unique tradition and liturgy.
The modern Eparchy recognizes the diversity of its parishioners, the richness of its traditions and the strength of its communal faith. It carries the storied history of the first Maronites to settle in the United States and all of the Maronites who have since joined the fold. As the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles moves forward with its 25thanniversary into a new chapter, its laity, clergy and Bishop acknowledge the importance of their Maronitefaith and heritage with an eye toward the bright future ahead.