It was a bittersweet moment for many Sydney Maronite youth and faithful last Sunday evening as they bid farewell to a popular priest returning to Lebanon to co-found a new order of monks.
The Lebanese community pulled out all-stops to throw a goodbye function for Fr Tanios Ghoussain, a member of the Lebanese Maronite Order, who arrived in Australia in 2014 and has worked with numerous Maronite youth over the last three years.
A traditional Lebanese barbecue and dinner followed Fr Tanios’ last youth Mass.
Centrepieces included El-Jannah charcoal chicken and manoush (a round pizza-like dish which can have a variety of toppings and is now Lebanon’s most popular breakfast), together with enough food, drink and dessert to feed 1000 people.
Meanwhile, the entrance to the barbecue was accompanied by traditional Lebanese drums.
Father Tanios was described by St Charbel’s Youth Association media representative Stefanie Moussa as “a monk, a priest, a youth chaplain, a spiritual father, a brother, and a friend” to all the youth he had worked with.
“We are blessed to have spent this time with him learning, growing, and using his light to find Christ in a world so dimmed. He reminds us to never be afraid, as we are the message of our faith to the world, and everyday we should live this message to the fullest,” she said.
“His passion and zeal for the Maronite Rite has been a vital part of our appreciation of our roots to the Syriac language, and as Father Tanios so famously says, being a Maronite means being a Catholic twice.”
Although sad to be leaving the Lebanese Maronite Order after eight years, he is grateful for everything he has learned and experienced with his fellow religious.
However a long period of discernment has led him to return to Lebanon to co-found a new community with other Lebanese monks which lives a spirituality inspired by the founding father of the Maronite church, St Maroun.
Saint Maroun was a 4th-century Syriac Christian hermit monk in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey.
Much of the evening for the popular cleric was spent blessing people individually, praying with them and consoling those sad to be seeing him depart.
In his farewell speech he thanked the youth for their hard work and dedication, urging them to never wander from their spiritual home, the Church and to remain united in Christ.
Information for this article was supplied by Stefanie Moussa