Final Examination of Rev. Bassam Saade
For the degree of Doctor of Ministry Project Evaluation
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 3:30p.m., Caldwell Room 125
Chorbishop Seely Beggiani, S.T.D.
"Maronite Identity and Commitment to the Maronite Community: a Model for Restoring the Loss of Maronite Identity and Renewing Commitment to the Maronite Church in Utica, New York"
The Maronite Church is suffering a decline in its active membership. This is in part due to the assimilation of members into the host community and the consequent loss of Maronite identity. Maronites can fulfill their obligation at any Latin Church and this frequently results in their joining Latin parishes which are more conveniently situated or to which Catholic Schools are attached.
The purpose of this project was to address the decline in the sense of Maronite Identity through a process of pastoral planning. The model used was formulated by the Reverend Dr. Kevin Kennedy. To carry out this project it was necessary to consider the nature of Maronite identity and how it developed. Reference is made to historical sources and also official Church documents which trace this development. Of particular importance were the Patriarchal Synod of 1736, the renewal of the Eastern Churches called for by the Second Vatican Council in Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches, 1964 and the Patriarchal Synod held at Bkerke between 2003-2006. The Bkerke Synod also expressed concern about maintaining Maronite identity.
It was then necessary to consider the problem of the partial loss of identity as demonstrated by declining church attendance, failure to observe Maronite customs and decreased involvement in the Maronite community. The project focused on spirituality, culture, heritage and tradition, and liturgy and a more holistic approach to revitalizing the community and strengthening a Maronite identity is proposed which honors its roots but is also relevant to the present day. This is in accord with the 2008 Synod:
There is no doubt that the phenomenon of the extensive Maronite emigration from Lebanon and neighboring countries to other countries of the world contributed to making the issue of the identity of the Maronite Church a Synodal priority. It was essential for this Church, wherever her sons and daughters settled, to highlight the fundamental elements of her identity, the foundation of her vocation and mission, working to update them, to make them compatible with the people whom her sons and daughters joined, so as to curb their scattering or their dissolution, to preserve their unity for the sake of consolidating the special Christian mission entrusted to them.
The process by which this project was carried out required the formation of focus groups which would formulate goals in the specified areas, a Mission Statement unifying those goals and a series of pastoral initiatives designed address them. The evaluation was carried out by the Author.
The purpose of the project was to draw up a model which would promote a more holistic approach to the revitalization of Maronite Identity. It was also hoped that the model could be adapted by other Maronite parishes wishing to address a similar decline in the sense of Maronite identity. It was also hoped that other Eastern Rite Churches, especially those that are in communion with Rome, would find it useful in addressing similar problems of their own.