1,700 Maronite Rite Catholics visit Peoria for Feast of St. Sharbel celebration

Following Mass on July 17, Chorbishop Faouzi Elia carries the image of St. Sharbel from St. Sharbel Church in Peoria in a procession that led to the statue of the parish's patron saint for prayer and veneration. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Maronite Rite Catholics from around the world recently converged on St. Sharbel Church in Peoria to celebrate the Feast of St. Sharbel with prayer, processions, dancing and plenty of Lebanese delicacies.

Chorbishop Faouzi Elia, pastor, said he was expecting as many as 1,700 visitors from Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Holland, Sweden, Germany and the Middle East, as well as the United States. Not only did they fill area hotels, but 300 were housed in the church at 2914 W. Scenic Drive, and 300 stayed in the parish hall.

Chorbishop Elia said he also lodged guests in the small chapel and hall at St. Sharbel Village.

A woman venerates the image of St. Sharbel, held by Chorbishop Elia. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

A woman venerates the image of St. Sharbel, held by Chorbishop Elia. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Masses on both days were celebrated in Lebanese, Aramaic and English and filled the church to overflowing. Processions followed and on Saturday night the image of St. Sharbel was accompanied by candles as well as the processional cross.

The processions ended at the statue of St. Sharbel on the parish grounds, with Chorbishop Elia holding the image of the 19th century hermit for all to venerate.

A large white tent set up next to the church sheltered those who stayed for lunch and dinner and provided the stage for the musicians and dancers for the “hafli” or festive gathering each day.

Chorbishop Elia urged everyone, especially the young people who sat on the floor of the sanctuary, to follow the example of St. Sharbel. Though he was “poor, humble and simple,” his witness remains while the great and powerful of his day have been forgotten, the priest said.

Born in 1828, St. Sharbel entered St. Maron Monastery in Lebanon in 1853. He lived there as a monk and priest for 16 years and then received permission to become a hermit. He died on Dec. 24, 1898, and is remembered for his life, which was rooted in Scripture, and his love for the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother.

Beatified in 1965, he was canonized by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 9, 1977.

St. Sharbel Church is part of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.

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