A look at the Maronite History and Liturgy. (To view video in full screen select YouTube to view on YouTube)
At the turn of the century (1903), an Antonine priest arrived from Lebanon and organized a parish in Buffalo with approximately 400 Lebanese settlers. Later that year, a church was built at 454 Seneca St. in the city. The name “St. John Maron” was officially given to the Church in 1904. Buffalo became the “mother” Maronite Church for Niagara Falls, Olean, Dunkirk, Fredonia, Lackawanna and several other Western New York communities where the Lebanese had settled or congregated. St. John Maron became the fourth Maronite parish to be established in the United States.
In 1908, Monsignor Francis Shemalie was appointed pastor and remained in this position for over 50 years. In 1919, due to several geographical factors and cultural changes, the Church was relocated to 41 Cedar St. in Buffalo (corner of South Division and Cedar).
This prominent address, especially among Western New York Catholics, became our parish home for over 40 years. Then in 1960, 41 Cedar Street location also became history due to the Ellicott Urban Redevelopment Project, which affected the entire lower east side of Buffalo.
Almost immediately, through the generosity of faithful parishioners and the foresight of its clergy, temporary quarters were established at 6335 Main St. in Williamsville, New York (former Lange Estate), while the present-day facilities were being built at 2040 Wehrle Drive in Williamsville, New York. Our dream had materialized on this 12-acre site in the following chronological order:
The following Pastors along with numerous devoted and loyal assistants served the faith community of St. John Maron with distinction:
The Maronite Exharchate was established in the United States of America in 1966 with Bishop Francis M. Zayek as its spiritual shepherd. Then in 1996, his Excellency, the Most Reverend Stephen Hector Doueihi was appointed Bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Sfeir, the sixty-seventh Patriarch, resides in Mount Lebanon and presides as the spiritual shepherd of all Maronites throughout the world.
St. Maron (407 A.D.) is the founder and patron of the Maronite Church. Our title [Beit Maroun/ “Maronite”] originated as a result of the remarkable life and accomplishments of this fourth century monk, hermit, priest and saint.
St. John Maron, the patron of our was elected as the first Maronite Patriarch of Antioch in the year 685 A.D. This saint is credited for being the real founder of the Maronite movement as a formal Church.
The basic language of the Maronite Church is Aramaic (an older version of Syriac), which is the language of Our Lord Jesus. However, in order to adapt to the needs of our younger generation and the diversity of the general parish population, the Divine Liturgy (known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Roman Rite) is celebrated in the vernacular (English with Arabic translation). Hymns are sung by the faithful in both languages (alternating verses). These recent accommodations help to strengthen our faith and continue to unite our families by providing for the various age groups and their respective spiritual needs.
Although the majority of our parishioners are of Lebanese descent (U.S. born American and immigrants), a great number of the faithful are from other Middle Eastern countries and other Eastern Christian rites. It is also interesting to note that many nationalities have intermingled with the Maronites through marriage and have therefore enhanced the diversity of St. John Maron parish while preserving the unity and authenticity of the Maronite Tradition.
We welcome our non-Maronite neighbors and friends to experience the richness of our tradition and the profound beauty of our Maronite Liturgy. Thus we become more aware of the Universal Catholic Church made whole by the bonding of the Western and Eastern rites.
We, the Maronites, are blessed with this Scriptural passage and make every attempt to pattern our lives accordingly: “The Just man shall flourish like a palm tree, like the Cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.”
Elizabeth R. Assaf