by Shelia Ojendyk
SPARTANBURG — Msgr. Ron Beshara brought good news for the South Carolina Maronite Community gathered at Jesus Our Risen Savior on Aug. 11. By decree of Maronite Bishop Stephen Doueihi, the community has been canonically established as St. Rafka Mission.
The effective date was Aug. 15, which was the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Latin rite and the Feast of the Dormition in the Maronite rite.
No other Catholic church in the world has been named after St. Rafka.
Msgr. Beshara shared a message from Bishop Doueihi:”Tell them I love them. Tell my people that I have great faith in them.” Bishop Doueihi has appointed Father David Michael, a Maronite priest from Pennsylvania, to serve the mission, and Msgr. Beshara to be the administrator.
The Maronites were invited to use the facilities at Jesus Our Risen Savior by the pastor, Father Basil Congro. Father Michael will share the rectory at the Spartanburg parish with the pastor.
Msgr. Beshara celebrated the Liturgy of St. Rafka on that happy Sunday. In the Maronite tradition, a special liturgy is written for a new saint. The liturgy of St. Rafka will be said every year on March 23, her feast day.
Pope John Paul II canonized St. Rafka on June 1 last year. The Lebanese saint, named Petronilla at birth, entered religious life in her teens. She was known for her gentle disposition and positive attitude throughout her life, even though she lived with constant pain, paralysis, and blindness her last 17 years. Not long after her death, people began attributing miracles to her intercession. It was a short 87 years from her death to her canonization.
Bishop Doueihi presented the new mission with an icon of St. Rafka with an embedded first-class relic, a chip of bone. A prominent space in the church was reserved as the permanent location for the icon. A second Maronite icon, Jesus Lover of Humanity, will be hung nearby.
The Eparchy (Maronite diocese) of Brooklyn also sent a generous donation of seed money, and Msgr. Beshara’s mission in Florida, Mary, Mother of the Light, sent $1,000.
Msgr. Beshara was generous in his appreciation for Bishop Baker’s support and acceptance. He also thanked Father Congro for his generous hospitality and sensitivity to an Eastern church.
The two faith communities at Jesus Our Risen Savior will be run as totally separate operations. All records prior to Aug. 15 will be archived for historical purposes, as will the official seal used for sacramental records. A new seal will be struck for St. Rafka Mission, and records will be kept in the mission’s name. St. Rafka has its own phone number, (864) 595-9161, and Web page at www.strafka.org.
The existing pastoral team, led by Marlene Saad, will stay on for six months, and then new leaders will be elected by the congregation. Religious education classes will begin in September or October, and educational materials for children and adults have been ordered.
From this point forward, with the exception of Sunday, Sept. 8, the Holy Mysteries will be celebrated every Sunday at 1 p.m.