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The Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries was established at Al-Kreim Monastery – Ghosta in 1865, through the prompt efforts of Father Youhanna Al-Habib (Later on, Honorary Bishop of Nazareth) with the help of many zealous priests, foremost of whom is Father Estephan Qozzah, the first Superior General and the spiritual father of the fledgling Congregation. “The most specific of reasons that prompted me to found the Congregation of Missionaries is my view that our present epoch has need for priests zealous for the spiritual welfare of the neighbor, detached from all but the endeavors at hand, preparing themselves, devoting their attention to this strive of formidable stature” (from the writings of the founder).
Motivated by zeal for the glory of God and the serving of his people, the Congregation committed itself since its inception to the mission in its broader sphere, especially in the fields of the service of the Word and catechesis aimed at proclaiming the mystery of Christ, realizing the Gospel of salvation, and supplying the people with every spiritual endeavor beneficial for their salvation.
‘A soldier’ for the sake of God and His kingdom, the mission is not limited to a field excluding others, but, extends from preaching and propagating the Gospel through all ways and means, to spiritual accompaniment in all its varieties, to the fields of education and enculturation of the youth at all levels, without any social class or faith discrimination.
The Congregation is vigilant in providing the best means for an integrated human, priestly and apostolic formation, in all its dimensions and at all levels and stages. For the assurance of bringing this sacred yet laborious task to its hoped-for conclusion, the Congregation produced the book Daleel At-Tanshi’a (The Formation Guide), to be in the hands of the missionaries as the best of guides and an incentive: enlightening, reminding and encouraging the missionary in his daily efforts and strive, “so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17), “ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
As soon as His Beatitude the Patriarch ratified the decree authorizing the launching of the Congregation on March 25, 1866, the first fathers turned, without prelude or delay, to the spiritual services they enlisted themselves for, and started roaming through the villages and cities, near and far. They were preaching, listening to confessions, providing catechesis to children, solving people’s problems and disputes, conducting spiritual retreats in schools, parishes and monasteries for all the different groups of the faithful and the fraternities of monks and nuns, parish priests and bishops. Their favors were made manifest, and the kreim and the mission became two names for one calling.
Since the specific aim of the Congregation is to serve Maronites, and its mission extends in every direction where there are Maronites (Canon 9), in no time, the missionaries had followed the sons and daughters of their Church to Syria, Palestine and Egypt and to the rest of the countries of expansion, thus realizing the wish of their founder: “The wish most dear to my heart is to see you before my death, spread in the East and throughout the whole world, just like Jesus’ disciples, announcing the Good News with generosity and disposition, not minding any need or toil, or danger or resistance, all for the love of the One who loved us and sacrificed Himself for our sake” (from the writings of the founder).
Throughout history, the Superior General headquarters moved between Al-Kreim Monastery – Ghosta, and the St. John the Beloved Monastery – Jounieh, and the College des Apôtres, in the College itself, or in a private wing inside the College campus.
The headquarters will return this year to settle at the Saint John the Beloved Monastery – Jounieh, once renovation work is completed after the destruction inflicted on the Monastery and its surroundings caused by the bombing of the Saout Al-Mahabba (Voice of Charity) the Radio Station on the night of May 6-7, 2005.
Al-Kreim Printing Press, founded in 1928. It developed with time, and is now being re-equipped with modern machinery and technology commensurate with the needs of the epoch and the raising of production standards.
Publications des Apôtres, founded in 1958, to undertake the publishing of scholastic books and the various types of educational publications.
Librairie Al-Kreim, started at first in Beirut, then part of the press complex was cleared to house it. It provides for its customers the various kinds of religious books and ecclesiastical vessels and such.
Its programs are instructional, spiritual, contemplative, recreational and educational. It broadcasts in eight languages aimed at all ages, all sectors of society and all people of good will. Program producers are bishops, priests, nuns, and lay people from all the various churches in Lebanon. It broadcasts its programs continuously, 24 hours a day, through the two FM frequencies of 105.8 and 106.2, covering all parts of Lebanon and the neighboring countries of the East. It is on the internet at the web address: www.radiocharity.org. Some years ago, it opened a special branch in Australia.
It was the target of an explosion on May 6, 2005, which led to its complete destruction and the loss of all its equipment and contents. Despite that, transmission did not cease, except for a few hours, and broadcasting resumed via a mobile unit, until the completion of its present headquarters, next to the St. John the Beloved Monastery.
Overseeing the administration of the Foyer and providing all required necessities, especially spiritual direction, is one of the specialized missionary Fathers.
Its courses are free. They are given in the lecture halls of the Collège des Apôtres – Jounieh every Friday evening at the hands of specialized missionaries in accordance with the directives of the Superior General, in conformity with the program set by the Episcopal Committee for Catechesis.
Its diplomas are ecclesiastical, official and sealed with the signature of the local ecclesiastical superior.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, missionaries have followed their Maronite brethren, the sons and daughters of their homeland Lebanon all the way to the countries of expansions, and established missions in city after city, in the service of the Gospel, the Church and society. Soon enough, mission houses became tantamount to a second home for every Lebanese and an embassy before there was one. In these centers, all would congregate, without division and discrimination, to become acquainted with each other and to collaborate, and to further clutch on to their religious beliefs, their social traditions and their national heritage.
Despite all the hardships they encountered, the mission took off and grew, thanks to the support of many of the benevolent, Lebanese from all groups, and Argentineans. Afterwards, the number of missionaries began to increase. After nine decades, thirty missionaries were counted, priests and brothers, and they trickled in, in succession, to work laboriously and worthily in all religious, educational, cultural and national fields. They traveled throughout the vast Argentinean landscape, and in every city with a Maronite community, they established religious fraternities and social clubs. In the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, aside from the monastery, they built a small church which grew and is now a cathedral. It was consecrated and inaugurated by the Patriarch Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Peter Sfeir in 2001, on the occasion of the one hundredth Jubilee of the mission.
In 1904 an elementary school was formed. It became a secondary school in 1920. It is still teaching today, in addition to the official curriculum, Arabic and French for those desiring to learn them, and also the commercial sciences and accounting.
In 1913, the printing press and the newspaper Al-Murssal (The Missionary) were established. On April 28, 1959, an Apostolic Decree was issued mandating the erection of a diocese specific to the Eastern Churches headed personally by the head Bishop of the Catholic Church in Buenos Aires and the mission head was appointed Vicar General of the Maronites. On December 2, 1990, the head of the mission, Father Sharbel Merhi, was ordained in Bkerke as Bishop of the St. Sharbel Maronite Eparchy in Argentina.
After a long break, and condescending at the insistence of the Shepherd of the new Maronite Eparchy, the missionaries returned in September of 1988, to study and to perform the apostolic service in numerous fields. They served existing parishes, developing them, and they established new ones and erected a permanent center for the Congregation in Houston, Texas. His Beatitude Patriarch Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Peter Sfeir visited the center on May 19-20, 2008.
In the City of Santo Domingo – The Dominican Republic;
In the City of Bogotá – Columbia;
In the City of Malmo – Sweden;
In the City of Vienna – Austria;
In the City of Guadalajara – Mexico; and,
In the City of Mendoza – Argentina.
It is also in the process of establishing other new centers in Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and the United States of America.