NATIONAL APOSTOLATE OF MARONITES GATHER IN MIAMI FOR 56TH ANNUAL CONVENTION
Over 1500 participants—one of the greatest number of registrants in history--from across the Unites States convened in Miami for the 56thannual NAM convention which was hosted by Our Lady of Lebanon Church, Miami. From June 26-30 at Loews Miami Beach Hotel in Miami Beach.
“Our theme for this year is centered on the Holy Cross of Our Lord,” said Father Saade, “nurtured by our Catholic faith and founded on our Maronite history, I pray this time together will encourage us to preserve our heritage, fulfill our mission, and create a vision for future Maronite generations.” The convention welcomes Maronites of all ages, including children, young adults, and families spanning across multiple generations. With this in mind, it is designed to educate all participants about the rich heritage and traditions of the Maronite Catholic faith. Enjoying continued growth in the United States, the National Apostolate of Maronites’ annual gathering focuses on enriching the organization’s principles, centered on the mission, history, faith, and heritage of the Maronite Church.
Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles and Bishop Gregory John Mansour, bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn were present for the entire event. Also in their company was Archbishop Samir Nassar, Maronite archbishop of Damascus, Syria. Bishop-elect Peter Karam attended a portion of the convention. In a display of unity, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami visited the Maronite bishops and clergy on June 26, during celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the beginning of the clergy convocation at Our Lady of Lebanon Church. Expressing his delight to meet the Maronite bishops and clergy convening in Florida, he said “Your brothers in the Archdiocese of Miami pledge their prayers for a successful grace-filled convening here in South Florida.” Bishop Fernando Isern, retired bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo and a former priest of the Miami archdiocese, also joined the clergy in prayer.
This year’s convention aimed to bring guests together through hospitality, educational workshops, social activities, and spiritual events, including rosary prayer, adoration, and daily divine liturgies. This gathering of Maronites facilitates an environment aimed at inspiring a deeper understanding of one’s faith through education and spiritual immersion, and grants an opportunity to become acquainted with persons sharing similar cultural traditions. Together, children, youth, and young adults are encouraged to learn about, experience, and love the heritage they were born into so as to motivate future generations to come. Designed to build unity and strength as one, the host parish inaugurated the week with a Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bishop Mansour and other bishops visiting the parish. Together with 100 priests, nuns, and religious from around the country, the host parishioners and NAM guests enjoyed a beautiful and heartfelt mass inaugurating the annual convention, after which all were invited to dine together in the newly renovated parish hall. Prepared by the host community, the meal offered the local parishioners the opportunity to personally welcome their guests.
After participating in a clergy convocation during the first part of the week, several of the priests, deacons, subdeacons and religious chose to participate in the laity’s convention during the latter part of the week. Everyone was invited to enjoy daily meals in the hospitality room where delicious Lebanese finger food was available for breakfast and lunch which was prepared, delivered, and served by the host parishioners, the Lebanese hospitality would not exist without a meal designed to unite. Educational workshops discussed interesting and imperative matters. These included “History of the Maronite Identity”, led by Father Elie Saade, “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The Greatest Monument to our Heritage”, led by George Elias, Esq., the last living founding member of the institution, “A Pastoral Approach to the Catechesis of the Maronite Church”, led by Rev. Vincent Farhat and Rev. George Hajj, “Catholic Relief Services: a Catholic Response to Serve the Poorest of the Poor Throughout the World”, led by Bishop Mansour and “Marriage in the Catholic Church”, led by Chorbishop John D. Faris. These conversations were well attended and appreciated by all.
City and cultural excursions were organized and prepared to entice a variety of interests. Experiences included the Bayside boat tour and marketplace visit, a private Miami tour excursion, the Florida Everglades airboat tour and cultural immersion, an interactive visit to Little Havana, a testament to the Cuban heritage in Miami, beach and pool time, fast speed boat tours of Biscayne Bay, and a memorable visit to Our Lady of Lebanon Church, Miami, where visitors were given a personalized tour of the parish by Father Saade himself and treated to a home cooked meal topped off with St. Sharbel statue candle . Children and young adult programs attracted the youth, engaging them in various activities such as arts and crafts, fun games, theology on tap, a pool party, a beachside BBQ, and spiritual graffiti, among others.
NAM guests were invited to begin their experience during a welcome reception and evangelical concert hosted by Our Lady of Lebanon Church and performed by Lebanese vocalist Carla Ramia. Her angelic voice and mesmerizing interpretation of age-old favorites inspired unity and prayer in song. This year’s evening gatherings were very special. Lebanese superstars traveled from Lebanon to join the community in celebration. Local favorite Wassim Kattan and Lebanese star Amir Yazbeck wowed the crowd during the first dinner hafli, while Lebanese theatrical performer Ghassan Saliba, along with his band, entertained over 1300 people during the next evening’s grand banquet. The evening’s events also included a silent auction and raffle that were made possible by the generous contributions of host parishioners, local businesses, and professionals interested in supporting NAM’s mission. Following an evening of song and dance, the NAM convention came to a close during Sunday’s Divine Liturgy and farewell brunch.
A first in the history of the NAM convention, Tony Boumitri, the outgoing NAM president, accompanied by Rose Sahyoun, NAM’s president-elect, presented to Father Elie Saade and to the parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon Church a plaque depicting the icon of the Massabki brothers in appreciation of the host parish’s success in surpassing the expectations of NAM and for magnificent hospitality offered.
Our Lady of Lebanon Church continued the NAM legacy. The overwhelming generosity, organization, and love shown during this year’s NAM convention made a mark on everyone who had the privilege to be a part of this memorable experience. Let it be an inspiration for many years to come!