by Sara Kumar
Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church is a beacon and refuge in the heart of North Texas for those thirsting to authentically live out their vocations as Catholics. This year, at Our Lady of Lebanon, with the guidance and direction of our pastor Fr. Assaad ElBasha, our Lenten events and our Holy Week Mission inspired our parishioners to deepen their spiritual lives by walking the road with Christ to the Cross and to arrive at the hope of the Resurrection.
We began our journey with Ash Monday, this entry into Lent through the anointing of ashes brought together not only our regular Sunday parishioners, but also members of our surrounding Latin Rite churches. We came together as representatives of diverse cultures and backgrounds with the common purpose of responding to our Lord's call to repentance, of acknowledging the brokenness of our humanity, and of opening our hearts to God's healing love and mercy.
Our entrance into the Lenten journey with Christ was further fortified and nourished by our day of reflection on the first Saturday of Lent, led by Fr. Jorge Cabrera. Fr. Jorge Cabrera is a Discalced Carmelite friar and currently serves as the Superior of the Mount Carmel Center in Dallas. The topic for the day of reflection was “Entering into the Desert with Christ.” Fr. Cabrera introduced parishioners to the Carmelite spirituality and encouraged attendees not to become discouraged during seasons of spiritual dryness, but rather to consider what God might be doing during these times! Being in a place where we are waiting, wanting, and praying together is often the proving ground of strength and refinement along the spiritual path.
Our annual Lenten scripture course this year was “Catholics & Salvation,” led by Dr. Eric W. Hendry. Every Thursday evening during Lent, Dr. Hendry engaged parishioners in a participative class, which examined the scriptural basis for our Catholic understanding of salvation. Parishioners enjoyed the theological depths that Dr. Hendry probed. He delved into such topics as the importance of the sacraments, prayer life, scripture, good works, and virtue as we strive toward the hope of salvation.
The week of 25 March, volunteers from our parish worked on behalf of our church to sponsor, prepare, and serve a meal for the homeless in partnership with Prodigal Projects. The meal which featured homemade meatballs, braised chicken, roasted red potatoes and veggies, shaabiyat, and namoura was served on 28 March at Our Calling in Dallas, TX. This was an opportunity for our parishioners to share their time and gifts with those less fortunate in our community and to respond to the Lenten call for almsgiving.
We were extremely blessed to have Fr. Mitch Pacwa join us again for our Holy Week Mission. Fr. Pacwa is the resident Scripture Scholar for EWTN and the author of numerous books. Our annual Holy Week with Fr. Pacwa has truly placed our church on the map. Every year, hundreds of people from the Dallas community come to listen to Fr. Pacwa share his theological and cultural insights as they journey through Holy Week and experience the beauty and solemnity of the Maronite liturgy.
On Holy Thursday, after the Washing of the Feet, Fr. Assaad and Fr. Pacwa were joined by Msgr. Jerome Duesman and Fr. Pavlo Popov to hear confessions. The lines for confession were out the door, and confessions were heard until midnight. Hundreds of people filled our church and our lobby to participate in the Burial Service of Good Friday. Fr. Jorge Cabrera joined Fr. Assaad, Fr. Pacwa, and Msgr. Duesman to hear confessions until midnight on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday, Fr. Pacwa and Fr. Assaad celebrated Liturgy at 8:30 am and 11:00 am.
This journey leading to Resurrection Sunday was truly unforgettable, because it provided parishioners with the light of hope in a culture shrouded in darkness. We, as parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon Catholic Church, are so fortunate to have a home church and a safe harbor to raise our families, renew our culture, and live out our Catholic faith.