Our Lady of Victory Church History

History of The Maronites

Although it is under the direct jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, the Maronite Church belongs to a tradition that is neither Byzantine nor Roman, but rather a little-known tradition of Easter Christian spirituality called the Syriac tradition.

The Maronite Church started with St. Maron, a monk who lived from the 4th to the 5th Century A.D. on a mountain in the Apameus region of Syria. On the banks of the Orontes River, St. Maron converted an old pagan temple into a church. He spent his life teaching about the faith and ministering to many people with the gifts of healing and counsel. More than 800 monks followed in his footsteps, becoming known as Maronites

The Maronites came to the mountains of Lebanon under the direction of the first patriarch, St. John Maron (not to be confused with St. Maron). St. John Maron led the Maronites into Lebanon during the 7th Century A.D. to escape Arab invasions.

Immigration of Maronites to the United States began in the late 1800s. The Maronite Church in the U.S. formally began with the establishment of the Maronite Apostolic Exarchate of the United States in 1966. In 1971, the Diocese of St. Maron-USA was established. Because of the growth and success of the Maronite Church in the United States, the Diocese was split in 1994 into the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn and the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.

In February, 1997, Bishop Stephen Hector Doucihi was enthroned as the Second Eparch of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn.

The Maronites of Pittsburgh

In 1884, the first group of Maronites settled in the Pittsburgh area. During that time, they attended Latin-rite churches until 1902, when Father Gabriel Korkernoz was appointed the first Maronite Pastor of Pittsburgh. In 1904, Father Korkernoz dedicated the Maronite Church of Saint Ann in the lower Hill District area of Downtown Pittsburgh.

In 1905, Father Nemattaliah Kfartaway was appointed Pastor of the church, and after him, Father Paul Bagosh became Pastor. In 1908, Father Gabriel Abi-Nader came to Pittsburgh as Pastor and later in 1922, Father Smon Acte succeeded him.

In 1928, Chorbishop Elias Basil was appointed Pastor. At that time, he was the only Maronite priest present in Western Pennsylvania. In 1941, he foresaw the gradual moving of the Maronites from around Saint Ann Church to the outskirts of Pittsburgh, particularly to the Brookline area. This was due to the fact that the city was going through a redevelopment. The city purchased the church property and the Civic Arena now stands on that site. Chorbishop Basil purchased property in Brookline, on Dunster Street, the same year. He began to celebrate the Devine Mysteries for the Maronite Faithful in the auditorium of Elizabeth Seton High School.

During World War II, Chorbishop Basil made a vow to the Blessed Mother that if She would return all of the men and women from the parish, who were serving in the United States Armed Forces, safe and unharmed, he would build a church in Her honor and name it after one of Her titles, Our Lady of Victory. The Blessed Mother granted his request, and all 155 men and women returned from the war unharmed. The new church was dedicated in 1955. Chorbishop Basil remained as Pastore until his untimely death in 1957, the eve of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

A shrine to Our Lady of Victory with an outdoor Altar adorned the grounds of the Maronite Church in Brookline, and all the names of those who served this great country are inscribed in it along with a plaque to honor the dearly beloved Chorbishop.

Between August 1957 and August 1959, the Bishop of Pittsburgh appointed a Latin-Rite priest as temporary Pastor, until Father John Sfeir was assigned from Lebanon to serve the Maronites. In 1973, due to ill health, Father Sfier returned to Lebanon. By this time, the church had been given their own Bishop, Francis M. Zayek, who then appointed a young priest, Father Jose Naja as Pastor.

In 1979, Father Naja was tranferred to Peoria, Illinois, to start a new Maronite Community. Father Bernard Khachan was then sent to Pittsburgh. In that same year, Father Khachan was sent to Texas, and Chorbishop Joseph Feghali was sent in his place. Chorbishop Feghali brought with him a richness in celebrating the Divine Mysteries, and elaborated on the beauty of the richness of the Eastern Antiochian Tradition. In December of 1982, Chorbishop Feghali was transferred, and Chorbishop John Trad took his place. In 1986, Chorbishop Trad retired, and Father William Bartoul became the next Pastor. Father Bill brought with him a light and intelligent "American" flavor to the Maronites of greater Pittsburgh. He was a junction pole between the old and the new. After much prayer and contemplation, Father Bill moved on to serve the men and women of the Armed Services.

In May of 1992, upon the departure of Father Bartoul, the parish was sent a new Pastor, Father James A. Root. Father Root brought with him many talents which are reminiscent of both the Lebanese and American cultures. Since his appointment, the Maronite Community of Faith has grown. It is presently undergoing "Project Victory" for its new home. Father Jim, through his guidance, brings profound leadership, dedication, and hard work. He brings with him the traditions of the past and visions of the future.

The long-awaited dream of a new home has become a reality through the efforts of the Parishioners, and the guidance of Father Root and his love for the Mother of God and Her Son, Jesus Christ. On Sunday, May 10, 1997, His Excellence Stephen Hector Doueihi, dedicated the new Our Lady of Victory Maronite Center, located in the beautiful South Hills of Pittsburgh.

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