Boston’s Maronite Catholics, 1895

IN recent years many people of the Arabic races have taken up their abode in this country. A considerable number profess the Catholic faith. These are most numerous in the West, many being settled in Cleveland and Detroit. New York has a congregation numbering about 500. It is estimated that 230 are to be found in Boston; 15 in Lowell; 57 in Providence; 25 in Lawrence; 35 in Springfield; 28 in North Adams; 47 in Portland Diocese; 39 in Worcester, and 5 in Putnam, Conn. The greater number of Boston’s colony are settled in St. James’ parish, several families having their residences in South and Cove Streets.

They were formed into a congregation, towards the end of 1893, by the Archbishop’s wish. The work was entrusted to the Rev. Gabriel Korkemas, a Maronite Father. By the kindness of the rector, he resides at the parochial residence of St. James’, and holds special services for his people in the church. He offers Mass on Sunday morning at 8 o’clock, and on other mornings at 7 o’clock.

The demeanor of his flock on those occasions is most edifying. They listen with close attention whenever he addresses them in a sermon. His jurisdiction as rector extends to all New England. He has the Archbishop’s permission to collect funds with which to procure a place of worship for the exclusive use of his congregation, and expects to attain that object by the end of the year.

Father Korkemas is a vigorous, intellectual young man of twenty-eight. He comes from Mount Lebanon, where he was born January 1, 1867. He made his preliminary studies for the priesthood in the college at that place, and received his sacred functions January 1, 1891. Ten years of his life have been passed in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where he made a special study of their holy places, while serving as a professor in various institutions. He arrived in Boston, December 26, 1893.

According to the custom of the Maronites, he celebrates Mass in Syro-Chaldaic, the language spoken by Christ. He addresses his people in Arabic, which is his native tongue; he speaks French fluently, and is already master of sufficient English to make himself generally understood.

James S. Sullivan, M.D., ed., One Hundred Years of Progress: A Graphic, Historical and Pictorial Account of the Catholic Church of New England; Archdiocese of Boston (Boston: Illustrated Publishing Company, 1895), 191.

The Latin Rite is but one of nearly two dozen different rites in the Catholic Church. The Maronite Rite is another. Maronite Catholics celebrate Mass in Aramaic, the language which Jesus spoke. The name comes from St. Maron, the fourth century Syrian hermit. Unlike many other Eastern Rite Churches, they have no Orthodox counterpart and claim to have never broken their communion with Rome. As of 1994, there were approximately 55,740 Maronite Catholics in the United States. The Mission described above is now Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon. It is among the first Maronite churches in the United States. For more information on the parish’s history please click here.

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