HISTORY OF THE
The Maronite Community of Lawrence, MA, can trace its
origin villages in Lebanon to: Falougha, Damour Al-Ma’hniey, Hammana, deir el-Kamar,
Antilias, Bikraya, Shbaniey, Ashash, Debbiey, Saghbine, B’aasir, Marj El-Bekaa,
Terbol, B-mariam, Bdadoun, Baskinta, Za’hrouriey, Al’Jeeyeh, Kobilias,
Kfarsheema, Ain zibdy, Al-Marij, Anna’hima, Batshay, Akoura, Mokhtara,
The late Reverend Gabriel Bistany, the founder of the Saint
Anthony Maronite Parish, came to Lawrence in September, 1901. He found a
willing supporter in the person of the late Very Reverend James T. O’Reilly,
O.S.A., and then pastor of St. Mary Church. Father O’Reilly was very zealous
in aiding non-English speaking groups of the city who were still without
churches of their own and allowed the late Reverend Bistany the use of Saint
Mary’s Parochial Hall for religious services.
In this hall, therefore, the first Liturgy in the Maronite
Rite celebrated in the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Christ.
In the meantime, Reverend Gabriel Bistany took a zealous
group with him to interview the late Archbishop John Williams and submitted a
plan to build a church of their own; His Excellency the late Archbishop
Williams approved that request.
After two years of untiring effort of the priest and the
parishioners, they solicited enough funds to start building the church. In the
spring of 1903, the property at 256 Elm Street was purchased and they shared
the foundation and built the hall which they used temporarily for their
religious services; after a while the upper church and the old rectory were
built with wooden structure.
From 1912 to his death in 1926, Reverend Bistany continued
his efforts to support the church spiritually and financially. Upon his death
in 1926, the Reverend Benedict Bellama became pastor until May, 1932.
Father Bellama was born September 10, 1875, in Lebanon and
was educated in the Diocesan College. He joined the Order of St. Anthony the
Abbot. In 1907, he came to the United States and served in several parishes.
During WWI he was a chaplain with the 82nd Division. He was
Chaplain of Post 15, American Legion, and a member of Lawrence Council, K of
C. He was also an active and faithful worker; during his pastorship many
improvements were made in St. Anthony’s Church. In 1932, he returned to
Lebanon, his health failing after spending 25 years in America.
Reverend Ignace Sayegh served a short time as curate in St.
Anthony’s Church. He was admired for his liturgical singing. Many improvements
were made by him in the interior of the church.
The late Right Reverend Chor-Bishop Paul Merab served as
temporary pastor for six months from May 1932 to September 15, 1932.
Monsignor Joseph David, D.D., Ph.D. was born in
Sourath-Batroun, Lebanon, on June 3, 1883. He attended the Jesuit University
of Beirut, where he received his Bachelor of Arts and Sciences with honors,
"cum laude". He continued his studies for the priesthood in the same
On May 4, 1910, he was ordained a priest of the Catholic
Church after he received his Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Divinity
degree from the Jesuit University. He celebrated his first solemn Liturgy the
following day (Feast of the Ascension) in the Church of St. Joseph in Jesuit
University of Beirut. In October 1910, his Beatitude the Patriarch appointed
him as professor and later as Director of the Patriarchal College of St. John
Maron (Lebanon). In the summer of 1913, His Beatitude the Patriarch appointed
him to make in his name the official visit of the Patriarchal Archdiocese.
After WWI, in 1919, Msgr. David was appointed professor in
the Jesuit University in Beirut for a period of 12 years until his departure
to America. In the summer of 1930, again His Beatitude the Maronite Patriarch
appointed him for the second time to make in His name the official visit of
the Patriarchal archdiocese. On November 14, 1930, he was appointed by the
Sacred Congregation at Rome to come to America. In July 1931, after his
release form the Jesuit University, he left Beirut for the United States.
On October 15, 1932, His Eminence the late Cardinal William
O’Connell summoned him from Detroit, Michigan to Lawrence, MA, to further the
development of this expanding parish. On June 5, 1935, His Beatitude the
Patriarch elevated him to the rank of Chor-Bishop. On September 18, 1946, in
consideration of his services to Lebanon, the Lebanese government honored him
by awarding him the Medal of "The National Cedar" of the grade of "Cavalier".
On May 7, 1949, the same Lebanese government, in appreciation of his
distinguished qualities as Professor and Educator, honored him by another
decoration, the Medal of "The Academic Palm" of the 1st Degree.
In April 1960, Msgr. David was honored by his parishioners
on his Golden Jubilee as a priest in the Maronite Rite. Upon his retirement in
June 1966, he returned to his beloved home in Lebanon where he spent his last
Reverend Sami J. Hayek was born December, 1931, in Bijje,
Lebanon. After graduating from St. Maron’s Seminary in Ghazir, he continued
his studies for the priesthood at the Jesuit University in Beirut where he
earned a Masters Degree in Philosophy and Theology. In October, 1964, he came
to Lawrence and served as Curate from 1964 to 1966 when he became pastor of
St. Anthony’s. Under his directions the first building committee was
established for the purpose of definitizing plans for a new church complex. In
November 1970, he was assigned to St. Anthony Maronite Church, Danbury,
Reverend Semaan Farris was born July 1927, in Boxmaya,
Lebanon. After spending one year at Our Lady of Ozarks Seminary in Carthage,
Missouri, he returned to Lebanon and enrolled in the Maronite Patriarchal
Seminary in Kesrawan. Ordained a priest in the Maronite Rite on May 30, 1954,
his first pastoral assignment was with St. Joseph Church, the residential
parish of the Archbishop of Beirut. In January 1956, he returned to the United
Sates and was assigned to St. Anthony’s Church, Danbury, CT. Among his many
accomplishments in Danbury, he established the first men’s society and started
a building fund drive for the purpose of erecting a new Maronite church. In
1959, in an attempt to unite the Arabic-speaking people in the Danbury area,
Father Farris and other Eastern Rite priests established the first Danbury
Mahrajan Organization. In 1965, seven years after the church dedication, a
two-day burning of the mortgage was held and the church was debt free.
In November, 1970, Father Farris was appointed pastor of
St. Anthony Maronite Church, Lawrence, MA. In just four short years, from 1970
to 1974, Father Farris can list among his many achievements, the organizing
and appointing of the first Cemetery Board, the first Mahrajan Organization
and the first Advisory Parish Council. In 1971 he organized a Steering
Committee and Building Fund Drive for the purpose of building a new St.
Anthony’s. After seven long years on June 4, 1973, a long awaited dream was
realized with the ground-breaking ceremonies and on this day the realization
of a new church complex.
St. Anthony Church was honored when a member of the parish,
Joyce Khoury, made her final vows and became Sister Joyce Khoury, S.N.D., on
August 30, 1970.
On Sunday, November 10, 1974, came the culmination of many
years of hard work. Parishioners and clergy alike joined at an 11 a.m.
Pontifical Liturgy to dedicate the new St. Anthony Maronite Church.
October 11, 1975, marked the day the very first parishioner
from St. Anthony Church, James T. Khoury, was ordained a priest.
Rev. Semaan M. Farris was elevated to the rank of Monsignor
during a solemn Liturgy on Saturday, November 13, 1976. The next day, Sunday,
November 14, 1976, Allan Ramey was ordained to the permanent deaconate.