The Catholic University of America

Chorbishop Beggiani Honored by Theological College

Monsignor Seely Beggiani, an adjunct professor of theology at STRS, was recently a recipient of Theological College's Alumnus Lifetime Service Award. Since 1992, this award has been given to an alumnus who has demonstrated exemplary leadership and holiness throughout his priesthood of more than 25 years based on the Sulpician principle "to live supremely for God, in Christ Jesus…" It is the culmination of TC's Alumni Days-an annual two day reunion event. Below is the text from TC rector Fr. Melvin Blanchette's speech:

We are honored this year to present this award - TC's Alumnus Lifetime Service Award - and to honor a man we have known for many years - a personal friend and colleague who I had the pleasure of serving with as a fellow member of the formation faculty here at TC prior to his retirement in 2006 - Monsignor Seely Beggiani, rector of the Maronite Seminary, Our Lady of Lebanon, in Washington, D.C., an alumnus of Theological College, from the Class of 1961.

Many of you here this evening know him quite well - a quite man, small in stature and unassuming in demeanor, but NEVER adverse to speaking his mind and ardent in ALL his beliefs be they in reference to theology and faith, world politics or otherwise. Since his early priesthood, he has been a champion of both the education and formation of seminarians. His life-long devotion to scholarship and learning has unquestionably influenced many men studying for the priesthood in the Maronite Church and in Roman Church as well.

This attitude that underscores the role and importance of scholarship has become a hallmark of his priesthood. Following his ordination in 1961, he began teaching at St. John's College and at John Carroll University in Cleveland. Later he entered post-graduate studies at Catholic University in sacred theology and received both a licentiate degree and a doctoral degree. In 1967 he joined the faculty of the Department of Religion and Religious Studies at the university as a lecturer, initiating a 40-year long teaching career at Catholic University. Monsignor Beggiani currently serves as an adjunct professor of theology in the School of Theology and Religious Studies.

Throughout his academic career he has pursued an interest in theological studies and in the history of the Eastern Church and Maronite history, in particular, each of which has contributed immeasurably to his knowledge and expertise in the classroom as well as to his leadership as a seminary rector and within the Maronite Church.

He has written extensively about Maronite theology, Eastern Christian spirituality, Syriac theology and the ancient Syriac language. His research has been published in Theological Studies and in The America Ecclesiastical Review, academic achievements of which he is most proud.

It is worth noting that Monsignor's work as a teacher and rector also mirrors

the growth and expansion of the Maronite Church in the United States during the past 40 years. In fact, it was in 1966 that the Maronite Church named its first bishop outside Lebanon to the United States; soon thereafter establishing Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary in Washington, the only

diocesan seminary of the Maronite Church located outside Lebanon.

Recently, Our Lady of Lebanon Church which is located near the seminary in northwest Washington hosted its annual Middle Eastern festival in the neighborhood adjacent to the Walter Reed Army Hospital near the border of the District of Columbia and Maryland. First established in the late 60s by Monsignor Beggiani, who served there as pastor from 1967 to 1976, the parish remains a vital member of the surrounding community and is one of 80 diocesan parishes located in the United States that are part of the Maronite Church.

Meeting the Sulpicians

Fellow Sulpician and previous rector, Father Thomas Hurst, is a long-time friend of Monsignor Beggiani. They first became acquainted as fellow

academics and scholars of the Syriac language at the university. Through their association, Monsignor became an integral part of the formation program at TC in the late 90s, as a member of the formation faculty. Again, his breadth of knowledge as a seminary rector and as a student of two Churches, in particular, along with his deep humility served as wonderful complements to the traditions of the Sulpician Fathers and the formation program at TC. I have no doubt that the example of his priesthood and ministry as a teacher, advisor and spiritual director, while serving as a member of the formation faculty for eight years had an effect and influence on those seminarians from TC - many of whom are ordained priest today - who knew him when he served here from 1998 to 2006. A special legacy of Monsignor's involvement with us is the ongoing participation of the Maronite seminarians in small and large group formation here each year. We are enriched by their involvement in these important features of the formation program.

He has served his Church well over the years and in various capacities, including as:

  • a member of the Priests Senate, and chairmen of the Diocesan Catechetical Commission
  • as Director of Continuing Education for Clergy, and a member of the

Eparchial Finance Committee

  • as Chairman of the Commission for Lebanon (1985 to the present)
  • as Executive Director of the Presbyteral Council (1997 to 2004)
  • as a Diocesan Consultor (1968 to 2004) and theologian; and
  • as Petrius, the official recorder of the proceedings at the Maronite Patriarchal Synod which was held from 2003 to 2006

His accomplishments are numerous. He was elevated to the position of Chaplain to His Holiness by Pope John Paul II in 1975. In 1986, he was named Chorbishop of the Maronite Church. In 1988, he was awarded the distinquished 'Order of the Cedar,' Rank of Knight, by the government of Lebanon, in recognition of his special and unique role as a leader of the Maronite Church in the U.S. and service over the years in an unofficial capacity as church-liaison and 'quasi-diplomat to the Lebanese government and to the U.S. State Department and the Office of the President of the United States. In May, he accompanied the visiting Patriarch on his official visit to the White House during his visit to the United States. For many years, Monsignor and has provided testimony before committees of the House and Senate on Lebanon and various geo-political and cultural complexities of the region.

The guide for the Alumni Board and the seminary when considering a candidate for the Alumnus Lifetime Service Award is simple - an alumnus who has served with distinction and humility throughout his priestly ministry "according to the Sulpician ideal 'to live supremely for God in Jesus Christ'." Our assessment and unanimous decision was that Monsignor Beggiani WELL exceeds the award criteria - as teacher, mentor and rector - and is a wonderful example to all of us of a devoted and loving priest -

And, so it is my privilege and honor, along with that of the members of the Alumni Board of Theological College, to present this year's Alumnus Lifetime Service Award to Monsignor Beggiani, esteemed alumnus from the Class of 1961, in recognition of his lifetime of service and dedication to seminarians and priests in keeping with the Sulpician principle "to live supremely for God in Jesus Christ' throughout his priesthood of the past 47 years.