Neither did we. But the New York Times sheds some light on Raphael Hawaweeny, a Syrian (not Catholic or European) who helped bring the Eastern Orthodox Church to America, and who is being celebrated tonight and tomorrow to mark the 100th anniversary of his death.
In 1904, Saint Raphael of Brooklyn became the first Orthodox Christian bishop consecrated in North America, leading him to found the present-day Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. The first of its 29 parishes was and is located in Boerum Hill–the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn–not far from what was then Little Syria. The Archdiocese describes him as “neither a wonder-worker nor a clairvoyant elder, St. Raphael embraced a life of total abandonment of self for the service of God and his fellow man: a life of true spiritual asceticism.”
Raphael Hawaweeny was born in 1850 in Beirut to Greek Orthodox parents who had fled the Christian massacre in Damascus. After studying theology in eastern Europe, he was sent to New York City in 1895 to oversee the Russian and Levantine Orthodox Christian communities. Nine years later he was consecrated, helping to establish his borough’s Little Syria neighborhood and serving as the Bishop of Brooklyn until his death in 1915. But it wasn’t until 2000 that he was glorified as a saint, with his feast day falling on the first Saturday of November.
At the “100th Anniversary of the Falling Asleep of St. Raphael,” St. Nicholas Cathedral will offer three services in the saint’s name, adorning his icon with flowers and parading it through the church.
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