As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatification of St. Sharbel (December, 1965), his holy relics traveling throughout the United States made a visit to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cincinnati on Sunday, October 25th, 2015 to Tuesday, October 27th, 2015. The Parish felt truly blessed to have the opportunity to spiritually connect with the much beloved Saint from Lebanon. The Church altar was beautifully decorated with white flowers and lit candles, and the parishioners along with other Maronite Catholics from Columbus and Dayton, OH, and Lexington and Louisville, KY gathered to await the arrival of St. Sharbel’s relics. At 3:00 pm there was a welcoming ceremony and procession as the holy relics arrived and were carefully placed just below the bronze statue of St. Sharbel. His presence among the faithful truly could be felt, and much emotion was exhibited.
The Divine Liturgy followed at 4:00 pm and was concelebrated by Fr. George Hajj and Fr. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, Rector, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary with Sub Deacons Tom Simon and Don George, Jr. assisting. Several of the current Seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s attended the Maronite Liturgy and took part in the opening procession. Music filled the Church with beautiful singing from the Choir of St. Anthony of Padua, and the children in attendance brought up and presented the Offertory Gifts during the Liturgy. Fr. George presented a cross from Lebanon to Fr. Benedict to show his appreciation. After the Liturgy, attendees were given the opportunity for personal prayer and reflection with the relics of St. Sharbel. A movie on the history and life of St. Sharbel was played during the reception that took place in the Monsignor Joseph A. Abood Maronite Center immediately following.
Fr. George was interviewed on Sacred Heart Radio – Cincinnati’s Catholic programming station, and he told the story of the humble Monk from Lebanon and how through his intercession both during his life and after had caused many to be healed both physically and spiritually. From that broadcast, many visitors from all over the area came to St. Anthony of Padua Church over the next two days to attend the many prayer services and for personal reflection and devotion. As Fr. George said, “It was a shining of our Church throughout the city,” all coming from this historic visit. The final Divine Liturgy that took place in the evening on Tuesday, October 27th, was a special Healing Liturgy, and all were anointed with the blessed oil that came from St. Sharbel’s tomb in Annya, Lebanon. Final prayers and reflection took place as St. Sharbel’s relics were taken the next day to continue the journey throughout the Maronite communities across the United States. More information can be found at: www.stsharbelusa.org
-Article to appear in the Maronite Voice, Linda Conour and Maggie Samaan.