The Maronite Catholics of St. Raymond’s Co-Cathedral in St. Louis will begin a new partnership July 1 with St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Crestwood under the Catholic Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon-Los Angeles.
Father John Nahal of the Catholic Maronite Rite will become the pastor of the parish partnership, serving a greater community by continuing to offer Roman Catholic Latin Rite Masses, but adding Catholic Maronite Rite Masses. All Roman Catholic Latin Rite sacramental needs of the parishioners of St. Elizabeth will continue to be fulfilled.
Parishioners of St. Elizabeth of Hungary were informed of the change by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon at a meeting at the parish on Jan. 29. In a letter, Archbishop Carlson stated that “over the last decade, the parish has faced a lot of transition and uncertainty regarding its future. We have now found a solution which we are confident will provide long-term stability for St. Elizabeth of Hungary.”
During the meeting, Father Brian Fallon, current pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, described this decision as a joining of different expressions of the Catholic faith. Incoming pastor Father John Nahal cited an excerpt from St. Pope John Paul II who said the eastern rite and western rite are the two lungs of the Catholic Church. Father Nahal said that the St. Elizabeth community will now be in the unique and beautiful position of breathing from both lungs of the Church.
Father Nahal will become the new pastor of St. Elizabeth on July 1. Father Fallon will receive a new parish assignment July 1 while continuing to lead the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The history of the Maronite Church is rooted in the Middle East. The Church has its origins in modern day Syria and was followed by immigration to Lebanon. Throughout their history, Maronites have immigrated to other parts of the world. Their common language was Aramaic, the same language spoken by Jesus. Aramaic is still used by the Maronites in various hymns and parts of the Mass.
Though with its own liturgical heritage, the rite is in full union with the Holy See and the pope. Of all the Eastern rite Churches, the Maronite Church is the only one known by the name of a person, St. Maron.
A Maronite can attend a Roman rite Mass and receive Holy Communion and a Roman Catholic may do the same at a Maronite liturgy.
No changes will be made to existing leases for ministries operating out of St. Elizabeth. All Mary Queen of Peace Parish sports teams will continue to use the parish athletic fields through their existing leases. The Catholic Renewal Center of the Archdiocese of St. Louis will continue to operate out of St. Elizabeth for the next year.
The Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles is headquartered in St. Louis.
In 1898, the Maronite Church of St. Anthony The Hermit was organized for Maronites in St. Louis, with a school added later. It was demolished in 1940 to make room for a housing project. In 1908, a group of parishioners began another Maronite parish and a pastor for the new St. Raymond Maronite Church was assigned in 1912.
Shortly after his ordination as a priest in 1964, Father (later Bishop) Robert Shaheen became pastor of St. Raymond’s Church in St. Louis, which had been without a resident priest for more than 20 years. Under his leadership, St. Raymond’s went from just a few faithful parishioners using a four-family apartment to a cathedral with hundreds of active families.
He dedicated the new church in November 1975 and a new rectory in February 1977. He was ordained an archpriest in September 1978, and dedicated a new parish center, The Cedars, in November 1979. In 1986, he was ordained a chorbishop. On Dec. 5, 2000, Bishop Shaheen was appointed Eparch of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon by St. Pope John Paul II, following the retirement of Our Lady of Lebanon’s first bishop. Bishop Shaheen oversaw the official move of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon from Los Angeles to St. Louis in July 2001. He oversaw the construction of the Maronite Heritage Institute and the Maronite Pastoral Center in St. Louis. Bishop Shaheen retired in 2013 and Bishop Zaidan succeeded him as the third bishop of the Eparchy.
The current rector of St. Raymond’s is Father John Nahal.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish was founded in 1956 with about 400 families. Founding pastor Father James Ryan concelebrated Mass in the gym at Grant School for a year as the parish church and school were being built. The school closed in 2004.