There are probably as many ways for an individual to recognize their vocation as there are stars in the sky. Each calling is unique to the individual’s experiences and is acted upon at an appropriate time in their lives. At least, such is the case of Father Vincent Farhat whose journey proves that it’s never too late!
Born the youngest of ten children in a family that was very active in their local church – St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Lansing, Michigan – young Vincent first became involved in the life of the Church as an altar boy. When he was thirteen, his father helped to found St. Joseph Melkite Church in Lansing, when Vincent again served as an altar boy and played piano for the choir. His involvement with the Church also extended throughout his familial relationships. He and his family would travel frequently to Flint, Michigan, to visit Aunt Gloria and Uncle George Mansour and their children where, as a family, they attended Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church. This was his first introduction to the Maronite Church.
Father Vincent describes himself as having a very normal “All American” teenage life, even though he first started to think about a religious vocation at age seventeen. Although his parents were very supportive, his father cautioned him with words he remembers until this day, “Vince, it’s a very difficult life. Think about it.” So, he thought about it and decided to attend college.
After two years of college in Michigan, he left for Florida, completed his studies and had what he described as a very normal life which included dating and hanging out with friends. However, the thought of a vocation was always in the back of his mind, and he wrote several letters on this topic to his cousin who had entered Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Vincent was happily ensconced in a successful career in the restaurant industry and leasing and financing for a car dealership when, in 2004, he traveled to Lebanon for the ordination of his cousin, Gregory Mansour, as Bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron. During that trip to Lebanon, the two cousins went for a long walk on the beach and discussed the topic of a possible vocation, as well as Farhat’s gnawing concern as to whether or not he might be too old for such an undertaking and unworthy of such a vocation. The true turning point came during a 2005 visit to his mother in Michigan. While at Mass he listened to a priest’s homily about why God chooses people for different reasons. He went home and told his mother his mind was made up and he was entering the seminary. In 2006, Farhat entered Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary where at 42 years of age he was the oldest seminarian by at least 18 years!
After his ordination to the priesthood in 2010, his life took a few more unexpected turns. Happy and quite comfortable with his first assignment at St. Anthony Church in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Farhat was shocked when he received a call telling him that he would be moved to St. Maron Church in Philadelphia. Farhat says with a great deal of candor, “Moving to a new parish isn’t always easy. I arrived in Philadelphia the same week the former pastor, Msgr. Sharbel Lischaa, passed away after having served the parish for more than 30 years. I experienced a lot of growing pains that first year.” He now smiles when he recalls a conversation with Msgr. James Root who assured him, “You will cry when you are told to leave St. Maron’s and go to your next assignment.”
In A Snapshot:
Born: February 12, 1964
Parents: Leo and Virginia
Central Michigan University and Florida Atlantic University (B.A., Communications), 1988
Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary, Washington, D.C. and Dominican House of Studies
Childhood Hobbies: Piano, Football
Ordination: June 25, 2010
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Lansing, MI
Bishop Gregory J. Mansour
2010 – 2011: St. Anthony Church , Lawrence, MA 2011 – Present: St. Maron Church, Philadelphia, PA
Director, MYO for Eparchy of St. Maron (2015 – 2017)
Member, Vocations Committee for Eparchy of St. Maron (2011 – Present)
President, Alumni Association, Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary (2017 – Present)
4th Degree Knights of Columbus, Methuen (MA) Chapter (2011 – Present)
Chaplain, Third District, Philadelphia Police Department (2018 – Present)
Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Farhat put his business experience to work and undertook a series of projects including a complete renovation of the church hall, the renovation of the rectory, the expansion of the annual festival which has grown in size and revenue each year, the acquisition of new property adjacent to the church, and the 125thanniversary of the parish. Most important, however, due to Farhat’s outreach the parish has grown from 80 families to 185 families.
Farhat smiles when he reflects on his move from suburban Lawrence to the big city of Philadelphia. “A parish like St. Maron’s is a very different experience than many other parishes in our eparchy. The parish is in the middle of an urban neighborhood where ministry isn’t limited to your parishioners, but it extends into the community. I’ve now had first-hand experience with homeless people. I live next to neighbors of various ethnicities and belief systems. I’ve been invited to be the Chaplain for the local police district. We have a fabulous relationship with the local community, and we hold an annual Police-Fire Department-First Responders Liturgy and Dinner. Many community groups use our church hall for their meetings. It’s a very eye-opening and rewarding experience.”