“Husbands of the Church”: Two deacons ordained Maronite priests at Our Lady of Lebanon Parish
LEWISVILLE—On May 7, at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Parish in Lewisville, Bishop Elias Zaidan ordained two deacons to the priesthood—Father Peter Raad and Father George Elandary. The two new priests were vested, given the Eucharist, and processed around the church with the Eucharist in chalices on their heads, serenaded by applause and zalghouta (a celebratory trill traditional to Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries). Afterward, each priest stood beside his wife and blessed the congregation filing out of the church.
If this sounds different than a Roman Catholic ordination, that’s because it is! Our Lady of Lebanon Parish isn’t Roman Catholic—but it is certainly a Catholic parish, in communion with the Pope of Rome and the other 23 Catholic Churches. Each Catholic Church has its own liturgies, cultural and linguistic traditions, canon law, spiritualities, and leadership. Catholic Churches other than the Roman Catholic Church are often called “Eastern Catholic Churches.” Although it falls within the Diocese of Fort Worth’s geographical boundaries, Our Lady of Lebanon is actually a part of the Maronite Catholic Church—more specifically, the Eparchy (read: Diocese) of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.
In the Maronite tradition, married deacons can become priests. In all Catholic Churches, once ordained a deacon or a priest, a man can no longer marry (or remarry if he is widowed). “The Lord finds you married, He takes you married. He finds you unmarried, He takes you unmarried. And you remain as you are when the Lord finds you,” Fr. Raad told the North Texas Catholic. He emphasized that both celibate and the married priesthood are beautiful and each have “their own call.”
The morning of the ordination, Our Lady of Lebanon parish was packed—more than 500 people filled the pews and lined the back of the church. Celebrant Bishop Zaidan was joined by Father Assaad ElBasha (pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon) and five other priests.
Like the Roman Catholic Mass, the Maronite Divine Liturgy starts with the Service of the Word and culminates in the Service of Qurbono (Eucharist). The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in English, with some prayers chanted in Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Himself).
During his homily, Bishop Zaidan emphasized that the vocation of marriage informs the vocation of the priesthood. “The husband will do anything for his wife,” he said. “Now you have to do everything as a husband of the church to care for the church and to be a father for all the members of the church as well.”
The Divine Liturgy continued with the rite of peace, when the altar servers passed the sign of peace to each pew—and each pew passed the sign of peace from the center, just like candlelight is passed through the church during Easter Vigil. Then came the Eucharistic prayers and the preparation of the Holy Mysteries (read: Eucharist).
Once Bishop Zaidan and the concelebrating priests had taken communion, everything stopped. It was time for the ordination.
Elandary and Raad knelt before Bishop Zaidan, who made the sign of the cross.
After they had professed the creed, their pastor Fr. ElBasha presented the candidates to Bishop Zaidan.
Bishop Zaidan covered the candidates with his cope. With one hand, Bishop Zaidan touched the Eucharist, and with the other he touched the candidates’ heads and prayed for them. The candidates’ hands were then anointed with chrism oil.
Next came the vestments. Elandary and Raad removed their outer diaconal albs and stoles, now dressed in clerics. The wife and children of each candidate brought the priestly vestments to the bishop to bless. Fr. ElBasha and Father Abbot Peter Verhalen (of Our Lady of Dallas Cistercian Abbey in Irving) assisted Elandary and Raad as they put on their vestments. Fr. Raad’s vestment featured an image of the Eucharist, and Fr. Elandary’s featured the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The air filled with the sharp, sweet smell of incense as the newly vested priests were blessed.
Bishop Zaidan placed a chalice with the Eucharist on each priest’s head for the procession around the church. The congregation made many joyful noises—singing, applauding, trilling zalghouta, and ringing bells.
The two new priests took communion and then administered the Eucharist to the congregation—starting with their own families.
Married priests continue to live out their vocations as husbands and fathers. “Married priesthood is a package deal,” said Fr. Raad. That’s part of the reason why Fr. Raad plans to continue working as a professor at Southern Methodist University until he retires.
And Fr. Elandary, who is married with children as well, continues to work as a chiropractor and nutritionist. Fr. Elandary spoke about his own call to the priesthood. As he studied in the medical field, he felt drawn to study theology too. He also has a strong devotion to St. Charbel. “The call is a knock,” Fr. Elandary told the NTC. “The more you answer that call or that knock, He will give you a little more and a little more and a little more—that’s how it happened with me.”
After the Liturgy, Fr. Raad and his wife Jocelyne Raad, as well as Fr. Elandary and his wife Cosette Elandary, stood in the back of the church. The congregation lined up to give them congratulations and thanks for their service to the church.
Fr. Raad beamed as he made the sign of the cross on parishioners’ foreheads. Fr. Elandary smiled serenely as he embraced and blessed his well-wishers. Jocelyne Raad and Cosette Elandary smiled beside their husbands—who are now also husbands of the church.