History of Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Washington, DC|
written by Jack Basil for Spring 2000 issue of NAM News
An open house held by Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary on St. Maron's Feast day in 1962 provided the spark for the formation of a parish community in the nation's capital. From that time until today, the House of Maron in Washington DC has been an active ecclesial and cultural presence.
After the establishment of the Maronite Apostolic Exarchate in Detroit, Michigan, Washington DC's Maronite community was established canonically under the Exarchate in 1966 with Bishop Francis M. Zayek as Ordinary. Monsignor Elias El- Hayek, the first rector of Our Lady or Lebanon Seminary, was appointed administrator of the officially established new parish.
Before 1966, the Maronite community used the facilities of Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary for parish activities and the conduct of its liturgical life. After its establishment, the parish continued to use the facilities of the Seminary until 1976, when a combination new Church and hall were dedicated by Bishop Zayek. This building is the Church currently in use by the parish.
Four priests have occupied the pastoral chair of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church since its founding. Monsignor Elias EI-Hayek served from 1961 to 1967 both as pastor and rector of the Seminary. Monsignor Seely Beggiani was pastor from 1967 to 1979 and, like Monsignor EI-Hayek, at the same time held the position of Seminary rector. Monsignor Hector Y. Doueihi (now Bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron) served as pastor from 1979 to 1987. During that period, Monsignor Doueihi also was Diocesan Director of Liturgy. The present pastor, Chorbishop Dominic F. Ashkar, has led the parish since 1987 and concurrently serves as Diocesan Director of Religious Education.
Over the years, the Washington DC Maronite community has been visited by many dignitaries from the Eastern and Western Churches: distinguished members of the United States and foreign governments; papal nuncios; ambassadors and other officials of the diplomatic corps; university presidents and outstanding names in various academic fields; and well known names in many other professional areas. Special moments in the life of the community include:
Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church is now embarked on a multi-faceted fund-raising program chaired by Dr. Edward Soma, for a new Church and related facilities to fulfill the spiritual, educational and cultural needs of the Washington DC area's growing Maronite community in the 21st century. The community looks to the new millennium with enthusiasm, energy and hope. What better expression of this commitment than the sponsorship of NAM convention 2000 in the city where NAM began its life?
- 1961 - Visit by the Papal Secretary of State, Amleto Cardinal Cicognani, shortly after the opening of the Seminary doors in September.
- 1962 - Visit by Patriarch Paul Peter Cardinal Meouchi for the official dedication of the Seminary.
- 1964 - Leadership in the formation of the National Apostolate (formerly Association) of Maronites (NAM) and sponsorship of the first NAM convention.
- 1966 - Establishment of Our Lady of Lebanon Parish under the Maronite Apostolic Exarchate.
- 1976 - Dedication of new Church and hall by Bishop Francis Zayek.
- 1981 - Visit by Patriarch Anthony Peter Cardinal Khoreiche.
- 1988 - Visit by Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir.
- 1992 - Visit by James Cardinal Hickey, Archbishop of Washington DC, as guest of honor for St. Maron's feast day.