Maronite Eparchs Zaidan, Tabet visit parish they established as priests, Our Lady of Lebanon

Story and Photos by

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

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Bishop Abdullah Zaidan, MLM, (left) and Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet, MLM, (right) share a hymnal during the Dec. 1 liturgy. Bishop Zaidan is the ordinary for the Maronite Eparchy of Our lady of Lebanon based out of St. Louis and encompasses Maronite parishes the western two-thirds of the U.S., including the Lewisville church. Bishop Tabet is the ordinary for the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron, which encompasses Maronite parishes in Canada. As parish priests, then Father Zaidan pastored the San Antonio parish that established Our Lady of Lebanon as a mission, and then-Father Tabet served as Our Lady of Lebanon’s pastor.

“It’s an honor to have the blessing of three bishops.”

That’s how Rose Onoh described the history-making liturgy that brought together two bishops of the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church with a Roman Catholic bishop from Dallas. The Dec. 1 Mass, celebrated by the prelates at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Lewisville, capped off a weekend of Thanksgiving activities that included a mortgage burning by parishioners.

For Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan, MLM, newly ordained eparch of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon based out of St. Louis, and Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet, MLM, eparch of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Montreal, the celebration was also a homecoming. Both bishops were instrumental in establishing the parish in the early 1990s when they were parish priests. They were joined by Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Douglas Deshotel for the Mass honoring Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth.

Though located within the boundaries of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Our Lady of Lebanon is a parish of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, a diocesan structure for Catholics of the Maronite Rite in the western two-thirds of the United States.

Pastor Father Assaad El-Basha, MLM, was grateful for Bishop Deshotel’s presence because it was former Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann who had given the parish financial support to close its mortgage.

“When Bishop Zaidan was pastor of St. George Maronite Catholic Church in San Antonio, he traveled every month to Dallas to begin the Maronite Mission and celebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Lebanese families,” Fr. El-Basha explained.

When Fr. Tabet arrived in Dallas in 1990 to serve as pastor of the Maronite Mission, he helped secure the present 3.5-acre site where Our Lady of Lebanon is now located.

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Bishop Zaidan served as the homilist for the Dec. 1 liturgy.

“We are an immigrant parish for Catholics from Lebanon seeking to have the freedom to worship the Lord and practice our faith in the Catholic Church,” he continued. “We sought to have a house to keep traditions of the Eastern Catholic Maronite Rite for future generations.”

During the early days of the parish, Fr. Tabet became a bi-ritual priest. While working as assistant pastor at All Saints Church in Dallas, he could celebrate the Maronite Divine Liturgy as well as the Roman Catholic Mass. Today, Our Lady of Lebanon serves 375 families. Half are of Lebanese heritage.

The Maronite Church is one of the Syrian rites of the Catholic Church most similar to Roman or Western Catholicism. It retains its Jewish roots more closely than any other Catholic rites. Priests sing the Consecration in Aramaic — the everyday language spoken by Jesus and the Apostles — and Holy Communion is given by intinction, the dipping of the Host in the consecrated wine. Communion is not distributed in the hand, and there is no need for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

Roman Catholics may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy to fulfill their Sunday obligation. They can also regularly attend an Eastern Catholic parish and receive sacraments from an Eastern Catholic priest.

Bishop Zaidan was ordained as the third bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon on Sept. 28 in his native Lebanon. The Mass installing him as head of the eparchy, which encompasses all of the United States, except those states that touch the Atlantic Ocean and inland New England states, was celebrated Oct. 23 at St. Raymond Cathedral in St. Louis.

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Bishop Zaidan offers a blessing to a young girl during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Behind her is pastor Father Assaad El-Basha, MLM. 

In his homily, the newly ordained bishop thanked the congregation for their warm welcome and reminded them that the day was about blessings.

“We bless God because we paid off a debt, and we bless God for what He does for us in many ways,” the bishop said.

Referencing the liturgy’s Scripture reading recounting Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, the bishop called the Blessed Mother the first missionary and most loyal disciple of Christ.

“Mary knew Elizabeth needed help and she went to serve. She is a beautiful example of service and humility,” he said. “Mary had to walk a long journey, and it was not easy, but she wanted to take Christ to others.”

Using Mary as an example of outreach, Bishop Zaidan challenged parishioners to find a family who no longer comes to church and find a way to coax them back.

“Knock on the door but do it with love,” he asked. “Don’t be judges. Be servants like the Blessed Mother. We have our Catholic faith. We have the holy truth. Share it with others.”

Chairman of the parish council Phil DelVecchio described the reception given to the new bishop as “warm and welcoming.”

“This is Bishop Zaidan’s first visit to the parish since becoming a bishop, and we’re just thrilled that both he and Bishop [Tabet] took the time to see us,” he said.

OLL-Bp-Zaidan-Button.jpgFor Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan, MLM, newly ordained eparch of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon based out of St. Louis, and Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet, MLM, eparch of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Montreal, the Dec. 1 Mass at Our Lady of Lebanon Parish was a homecoming. Both bishops were instrumental in establishing the parish in the early 1990s when they were parish priests. The liturgy capped off a weekend of Thanksgiving activities that included a mortgage burning by parishioners. They were joined by Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Douglas Deshotel for the Mass honoring Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth.

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