Report on a Joyous Coral Gables Anniversary Celebration
By Ernestine Ede and Justin Sayfie
On November 16-18, 2012, St. George Cathedral of Coral Gables, FL, began a year-long celebration of her Diamond Jubilee (60th Anniversary) with a weekend to remember.
The festivities began on Friday evening. Saint George Cathedral was adorned with long ribbons of red and white satin streaming from the center archway of the altar and the bells were joyously ringing in jubilation at the arrival of the Metropolitan’s motorcade at the front of the Cathedral. Our pastor Fr. Fouad Saba, the members of the parish council, and the faithful of St. George Cathedral had for several months eagerly awaited the arrival of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, His Eminence Archbishop Joseph, His Grace Bishop Antoun and His Grace Bishop Nicholas. The Cathedral was also honored to have in attendance The Very Rev. Dr. Paul Nadim Tarazi, Fawaz El-Khoury, the vice chairman of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees, and Mrs. Mary Winstanley O’Connor, the North American chair for the Order of St. Ignatius. In addition, a special honor was bestowed on the Cathedral with the arrival of Maronite Bishop Mounir Khairallah of Batroun, Lebanon.After the arrival, a welcome reception ensued, hosted by the Cathedral's council in the Cathedral hall. Welcome Reception Chairs Michael and Elena Haddad and their dedicated committee planned the events. Justin Sayfie served as the Master of Ceremonies and also shared his personal experience on first learning about Antiochian Village, and how he enjoyed it so much that he extended his stay at the end of every week…for several weeks.
A very stimulating discussion, led by The Very Rev. Dr. Paul Nadim Tarazi, professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York,focused on the theme of the weekend: “Where there is no vision, the people shall perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
Mary Winstanley O’Connor gave a very enlightening talk about the Order of St Ignatius and the organization’s work in supporting the Archdiocese and aiding not only our churches at the local level but also the Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania.
The program featured musical entertainment—Mrs. Sawsan Shalah's beautiful voice, Mr. Joe Donato's creative jazz tribute, and our very own Mr. Jackson King's piano playing.
On Saturday morning, we welcomed His Eminence and all the venerable hierarchs into the Cathedral for a gathering of Fellowship and SOYO members, Sunday School children, parents, teachers, and Principal Carmen Kostik for a question and answer session with Metropolitan Philip. People asked him six questions, and then he said he wanted to hear more from the children. They certainly had more than a few to ask, such as “How did God make earth life?” He chuckled at a couple of their questions, and the children and grown-ups loved being with him and learning from his wisdom.
When the question and answer session was over we adjourned to the Cathedral Hall where our guests were welcomed by Fr. Saba and other parish leaders. Children from Kindergarten thru SOYO performed a short program, followed by a delicious lunch and homemade desserts. Small wooden crosses made from the olive trees in Jerusalem were given to all who attended as mementoes, and signs of God’s blessings!
That same evening the Grand Banquet and Hafli commenced in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in the Americana Ballroom of the Loews Hotel on Miami Beach. Michael Husson served as the master of ceremonies and Mrs. Andrea Abu-Akel served as the Grand Banquet chair. The attendees enjoyed a memorable video presentation called “A Journey of Sixty Years” which presented the humble origins of the Cathedral as well as brought back many memories of past priests and the wonderful families who struggled in their effort to build the Cathedral.
Then Fr. Fouad offered inspiring remarks about the future of the Cathedral. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip was the Keynote Speaker, and he provided his personal reflection on his involvement in the development of the Cathedral during the 46 years of his archpastoral leadership.
This was followed by the presentation of the Saint George Cathedral Medal of Merit to ten individuals who have labored during the past sixty years to serve the “The Spiritual Oasis of the Americas,” as the Metropolitan called our church at its consecration in 1967.
The evening ended with live Arabic music; beautiful crosses were given as favors, and “ma’mool” cookies shaped in the figure “60” were impressive and delicious!
What can be said about Sunday’s uplifting Divine Liturgy? Each detail was perfect in every aspect, from the altar servers, to the chanters, thechoir and most of all the hierarchy led by his Eminence Metropolitan Philip, Archbishop Joseph, Bishop Antoun, Bishop Nicholas, and our own Fr. Fouad Saba, with the able assistance of his brothers in Christ, Fr. Paul Tarazi, Fr. Elia Shalhoub, the newly departed Fr. Damian Criscella, Fr. Mousa Haddad, Adn. David Nimer, Sdn. Hanna Khoury, Sdn. Joseph Olas, and our wonderful acolytes. We were delighted when the newest member of our parish, little Mousa Saba, was churched by his father, while the Choir chanted “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”
We are proud that His Eminence inducted six new members to the Order of St. Ignatius on this Sunday. Immediately after the induction, Diamond Jubilee Stewards, Yamil and Salma Zacur presented a large check of the net proceeds in the amount of $60,000 for the newly-established Youth Center Fund. The funds were made possible through the efforts of the weekend, and by a wonderful "Memory Journal" assembled by Mrs. Shirley Husson and her committee. Thank you to all who contributed generously towards the fund!
The last day of the Diamond Jubilee weekend concluded with a beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving luncheon, planned by Tony and Vivian Zammar and their committee. Closing out a wonderful celebration, the Cathedral Hall was crowded with parishioners and friends, who enjoyed a superb luncheon and were given the beautiful Memory Journal to enjoy and cherish.
The community had reason to feel joyous and gratified by the success of their efforts in the culmination of long months of preparation for the Diamond Jubilee. A grandmother was overheard asking her grandson, who doesn’t come to church very often, “Well, how did you like it?” He answered, "I have to say I really enjoyed it. Everything was done well. No confusion. It was great!” Later, another person was overheard saying “This is the first time I felt that God was in church and I haven’t felt that for a long time.”
We can never thank enough the enthusiasm of Fr. Saba, Michel Nasr and the members of the Council, all the Committees and their Chairpersons. God Bless those who worked from the bottom of their hearts with Faith and Love in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We thank our Father in Heaven for all His blessings and pray that He would continue to guide and be with us.