by Antoinette Zeina
Since opening its doors 45 years ago, Our Lady of Lebanon has become home to Maronites from all over South Florida. The parish enjoyed its beginning on September 8th, 1973, when Archbishop Francis Zayek celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Shortly after, he assigned Fr. Joseph Kaddo as an Administrator on September 28th, 1973.
On August 31st, 1975, Father Wadih Peter Tayah was appointed Pastor, not long before the current property at 2055 Coral Way, Miami, was purchased.
In 1990, the parish was kept very busy with the remodeling of the church, offices, and social hall. In August of the same year, the community also hosted the annual Convention of the National Apostolate of Maronites (NAM).
In 1995, Fr. Jorge Perales served the parish for a few months until the arrival of the new Pastor Fr. Michael Thomas on March 19th, 1996. On February 1st, 1999, under the direction of Fr. Thomas, construction of a new church began on the site upon which the preexisting structure existed. This project included proper drainage for, and resurfacing of, the parking lot. Additionally, widening of the sidewalk in front of the church was completed. Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi consecrated the new church on December 12th, 1999.
On June 20th, 2000, the parish purchased the vacant parcel of land adjacent to its parking lot. With this purchase, the entire city block facing Coral Way became part of Our Lady of Lebanon Church.
On March 2nd, 2001, the parish was blessed by an historic event marking the visit of the Maronite Patriarch, Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir. Along with ten other Maronite bishops, His Beatitude celebrated mass on that day.
Fr. Elie Mikhael was appointed Pastor on July 10th, 2004. During Father Mikhael’s pastorate, the community enjoyed successful Lebanese Festivals, the acquisition of another parcel of land behind the church block, and the growth of the Maronite Spanish community.
Father Elie Saade, OLM, the current pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon, began serving the parish in June of 2013. With a mission in mind, Father Saade sought to make everyone feel welcome. What makes this parish special is the unity within the diversity of its parishioners. Due to Miami’s multicultural nature, one Divine Liturgy is celebrated in English/Arabic and another in Spanish.
Our Lady of Lebanon church is located in the center of Miami, facilitating its access to parishioners arriving from various parts of the city. Despite the church’s central location, many parishioners drive long distances to participate in the life of the parish, a zeal and dedication Father Saade describes as a “blessing”.
Father Saade works to find ways to bring parishioners together. With that in mind, he created a series of weekly lectures aimed at deepening parishioners’ understanding of their Catholic faith and Maronite identity. Lectures end with an opportunity for parishioners to enjoy time with family and friends in the parish hall. Similarly, the community gathers after the Divine Liturgy on Sundays to share a meal and time together.
The Annual Lebanese Festival, one of the activities that occur year-round at Our Lady of Lebanon, has become a staple for the church. Not only does it contribute financially to the parish, but it also makes a significant cultural impact on the city of Miami. Through its music, hospitality, and unique cuisine, the festival continues to grow each year. As a result, on February 3rd, 2019, Bishop Gregory Mansour inaugurated the newly renovated parish hall and kitchen facility to accommodate this exponential growth.
This summer, Our Lady of Lebanon will host the Maronite clergy convocation from June 24ththrough June 27th, 2019 and the National Apostolate of Maronites convention (NAM) from June 27ththrough June 30th, 2019. Preparations for this weeklong event, hosting both Maronite clergy and laity from around the nation, have been underway for almost a year.
Father Saade explained, “We have compiled multiple committees, each of which has been assigned specific duties and responsibilities, designed to bring forth a convention for all of our community and arriving guests to look forward to and enjoy.”