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Melto D’Moronoyo: The hidden saints serving a God who sees

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The feast of St Maroun was marked by welcoming the relics of Sts Maroun, Charbel, Rafqa and Nehmetallah and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. Photo: Giovanni Portelli/Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceaniaa
The feast of St Maroun was marked by welcoming the relics of Sts Maroun, Charbel, Rafqa and Nehmetallah and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. Photo: Giovanni Portelli/Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceaniaa

By Salwa Elias

It is a great blessing to know that among the mountains and cedars of Lebanon are the hidden and unseen warriors of faith, who for centuries have served God and His people in humble, silent obedience.

These are the saints who measure themselves by the infinite and are absolutely convinced of their nothingness before God—this is the essence of true humility and sanctity.

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One such soul is Br Estephan Nehme, a professed religious of the Lebanese Maronite Order. He was never ordained into the priesthood, devoting his time to prayer and caring for the grounds embracing the monasteries and convents nearby.

Renowned for utilising his skills in carpentry and construction, while respecting his duties and his vows with a Christian and monastic spirit, he died 30 August 1938 at the age of 49. His body was discovered to be incorrupt in 1951 and again in 1962 upon further medical examination.

His body remains today a source of grace and healing for all who implore his intercession. Br Estephan was recognized as “blessed” and beatified on the altar of the Lord on 27 June 2010 at the Monastery of Sts Cyprian and Justine in Kfifane.

A remarkable model of heroic virtue, and renowned for his mantra “God sees me,” Blessed Estephan has inspired the spiritual life of many who seek to serve without acknowledgment or earthly reward, simply for the sake of service alone. In our beautiful Maronite parishes, church grounds, and “behind the scenes” we see many versions of Blessed Estephan fulfilling duties that nobody knows or hears about.

From the fragile grandmother sweeping leaves and dirt from the concrete entrance of the church doors, to the volunteers who direct traffic and monitor the grounds during special events, these generous souls pray unceasingly by their works and services to God, with silence and humility of heart.

Their prayers truly resonate the words of our Qorbono (Divine Liturgy)—“may our prayers rise like incense.” This, I believe, is the heart of Maronite spirituality in the monastic charism of prayer and worship, always at the service of the Gospel.

We are united in our common desire and dedication to serving the community, no matter where we are, or what our status may be.

Blessed Estephan, the silent worker, exquisitely exemplifies this attribute, as did the majority of our forefathers who emigrated from Lebanon during the late 19th century – building their homes and families in this prosperous land of the Southern Cross.

Officially established in 1973 as the Maronite Diocese of St Maron, Sydney, we celebrate our 50-year Golden Jubilee in 2023, but our presence here goes back another century.

In this Golden Jubilee Year, one cannot help but ponder on the impact made by our Lebanese families—past and present—upon the wider community. Whether in business, education, politics, medicine, science or religion, Maronites around the world have left an indelible mark.

Through the intercession of Blessed Estephan, we pray that we may continue to love, serve and respect our Australian home, always mindful and supportive of our mother country Lebanon, pursuing the unique vocation to which God is calling each of us. Remember; “God sees me.”

Salwa Elias is a member of the Maronite Catholic Church and is the EWTN producer for Australia and New Zealand

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