St. Anthony-St. George Church Holds Reception for New Pastor
WILKES-BARRE – The Maronite Catholic Community of St. Anthony-St. George Church of Wilkes-Barre welcomed Monsignor William D. Bonczewski as its new pastor. A grand reception followed his first weekend liturgy Jan. 8.
Bonczewski grew up on Lloyds Lane, behind St. George Church, which lies on Loomis Street. He received the sacraments of baptism, First Holy Communion, confirmation and holy orders at that church, being ordained to the priesthood in 1976. He attended Boyd Dodson Elementary School, GAR Memorial High School and Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary, in Washington, D.C.
Growing up, Bonczewski was an active altar server for Masses and the weekly novenas to St. Theresa. During these years, his devotion to the Little Flower and the life of St. Theresa inspired and deepened his desire to enter the priesthood. An influence for a life of service in the church came from his pastor, Monsignor David El-Mouallem, with additional inspiration coming from a neighboring pastor, the Rev. John Koury.
After his ordination, Bonczewski served at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, North Jackson, Ohio, then at St. Joseph Church in Olean, N.Y. He did a return assignment to the North Jackson shrine before serving at Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Flint, Mich. After a short stay there, he entered monastic life at Holy Trinity Monastery, Petersham, Mass. Nine months later, he was asked to assist at St. Raymond Cathedral, St. Louis, Mo., for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon.
In December, new assignments were made for the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y., and, because of a priest shortage, Bonczewski was asked to serve on loan outside his diocese for three to five years. That brought him to the parish in Wilkes-Barre, where his duties now include leading the same devotion to St. Theresa he served at on Mondays many years ago.
(From the Times Leader and Citizens' Voice)
the bread-making to the Situs of the world.
The young woman, who had taken the day off from graduate school to help with the church dinner, picked up the rolling pin and slowly, carefully rolled out a piece of dough.
To a bystander, it appeared to be as thin and flat as Angie’s expert bread – though maybe not quite as smooth.
“Let me fix it,” Angie said.
“She’s yelling at my creases,” Charbi Anne said with a quiet sigh. “Let me try.”
“She’s doing good, for the first time,” Charbi Anne’s aunt, Theresa Webby Schenck, chimed in. “It’s beautiful.”
“She’s helping me,” Angie Webby agreed. “She’s a good girl.”
Thus the making of the extra-thin bread passed to a new generation.
But will the workers reveal the ingredients to the public at large?
“Flour and water,” George Webby said with a mysterious smile.
“You don’t want us to tell you any more,” another volunteer wisecracked. “Then we’d have to kill you.”
In the kitchen, meanwhile, attorney Ferris Webby – Charbi Anne’s father – stirred a hot panful of onions that were destined for the lentil and rice dish. “This is the trick,” he said, “to darken them but not burn them.”
His brother Pete Webby mixed lemon juice, olive oil and spices to dress the tossed salads and, on the other side of a large, industrial stove, his friend Joe Thomas heated the homemade pasta, the macroon.
Volunteers had been working at the church for hours, keeping in mind the customers who would begin to arrive at 3 p.m. to eat in or take out.
“We had to go through the lentils and make sure they were all clean, wash the rice and chop vegetables for the salad,” Ferris Webby said.
“One lady came in this morning and made cakes.”
The desserts were American, but all the main dishes – and, of course, the bread – were Lebanese.
“We’ve been eating this kind of food since we were babies,” said George Webby, chopping more onions in a manual food processor as his mother checked the progress of the hot dishes.
“Mother and son work together all the time,” Thomas remarked, glancing from one to the other.
“She likes to yell at me,” George Webby said with a grin. “But she can yell at me any time. I can take it. That’s how I learn.”
Windows on Worship
St. Anthony and St. George Maronite Catholic Parish
Maliak and Anthony Khoudary sing during a recent Mass at St. Anthony’s Church in Wilkes-Barre. There are 315 families 315 registered within the St. Anthony’s –St. George’s parish community.
The Maronite Rite of the Catholic Church is one of 23 rites within the Catholic Church in full communion with the pope. Maronite Catholics maintain their own traditions of theology, liturgy and spirituality that are quite different from those usually associated with “Roman” or Latin (Western) Catholicism. St. Anthony and St. George Parish have deep roots in the Lebanese and Middle Eastern Heritage of the Maronite Church.
The Times Leader recently asked Monsignor William Bonczewski, pastor, to share some information about his parish. Here is what he had to say:
Name of church/parish: St. Anthony and St. George Maronite Catholic Parish
Religious affiliation: Maronite Catholic Rite
Address/phone: St. Anthony’s is located at 315 Park Ave. and St. George’s is at 79 Loomis St., both are in Wilkes-Barre.
Size and character of congregation: “We have 315 registered families in our parish. We are more of an elderly congregation and we’re a little larger than the average Maronite parish. The roots of our parish is Middle Eastern and many of our people appreciate the Lebanese and Middle Eastern flavor and spirituality of the parish,” said Monsignor William Bonczewski.
Spiritual leader(s): Monsignor William Bonczewski, pastor of one year, and subdeacon Crosby Sparks.
Scheduled services: Sunday Eucharist at 8 and 10 a.m. at St. Anthony’s and at 4 p.m. at St. George’s. St. Theresa’s Novena is held at 4 and 7 p.m. Mondays at St. George’s
Year churches were built: St. Anthony’s in 1919; St. George’s in 1913
Mission statement: “We are called to be faithful to our baptism, the life of the Catholic Church, and our Eastern Maronite traditions,” said Bonczewski.
Handicapped accessible: St. Anthony’s is but not St. George’s.
Church Web site: www.stanthonystgeorge.org
Worship style: “Our liturgy is mainly in English though we maintain the use of Lebanese and Syriac, the language our Lord spoke, for key elements of the liturgy. We also use chant in our liturgy,” said Bonczewski.
Proudest moment: “We’re very proud of the amount of vocations that have come from our parish. We have had 11 vocations to the priesthood (nine from St. Anthony’s and two from St. George’s) and many religious women. Chorbishop George Webby, who was the Vicar General of our diocese, was a member of our parish,” said Bonczewski.
Greatest hope: “My greatest hope is that every one of our members becomes a saint,” said Bonczewski.
Longest-standing parishioner: “Cecelia Koury, 94, is our oldest member of St. Anthony’s. She owned a grocery store in the neighborhood for many years. Jim Elias, 92, is our oldest member of St. George’s. Jim still joins us for Mass each week,” said Bonczewski.
What makes your church special? “Our St. Theresa’s Novena is in its 80th year and that is very special to us. We also have a strong family atmosphere here within our parish and with our families. We love to laugh, embrace, and even sometimes fight like families do,” said Bonczewski.
Any special programs and events upcoming? The 80th anniversary of the St. Theresa’s Novena will be marked by a special celebration on Oct. 1 of this year.
Compiled by Fr. Bob Timchak
Tell us about your place of worship:
“We’re very proud of the amount of vocations that have come from our parish. We have had 11 vocations to the priesthood (nine from St. Anthony’s and two from St. George’s) and many religious women. Chorbishop George Webby, who was the Vicar General of our diocese, was a member of our parish.”
Monsignor William Bonczewski
(Posted in the Times Leader on 8/24/06.)
Ongoing violence and destruction in Lebanon hits home
Sabah J. Webby-DeMace Dupont PA
I am very sad to hear of all the violence in Beirut, Lebanon. Every day, innocent people are being killed. For as long as I can remember, I have always been told how beautiful Lebanon is. Growing up, (I heard) the stories and saw pictures of the country that I was born in. Two years ago, I had the chance to experience it for myself. I spent a few weeks there meeting aunts, uncles and cousins that I have always heard about. My Aunt Marie along with her husband and two children live in Beirut. I spent five nights there and it was one of my favorite places. I spoke with my aunt the other day -- she said my cousins’ children are scared to sleep because of the constant bombing that seems to be more at night. Having family there makes it hard for me to watch the news and see what is happening to the beautiful cou
ntry that I love. It is even harder for my mom. She has two sisters and a brother there. From the Mediterranean Sea to the mountains, the sights I saw took my breath away. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Anyone who has ever been to Lebanon knows just what I mean.
There is something about the air, the land, the people. I will never forget what my godfather said to me at the Beirut airport when I was leaving, as I wiped my tears away. “Don’t forget about us in Lebanon, it’s safe to come back and bring your husband and kids. We would love to meet them.” I don’t know how much more Lebanon can take. I pray it will survive this war, so I can someday return with my family and they can experience the same things I did. One of the best lyrics ever written was by John Lennon, “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” Pray for peace in Lebanon and all of the Middle East.
Locals with friends, relatives in war zone ‘glued’ to news - By RORY SWEENEY
“If I’d be there, I don’t know exactly what I’d do to help” says Abby Carmel.
For many Americans, the deaths and destruction 6,000 miles away in the countries of Lebanon and Israel might be little more than a report on the evening newscast or in the morning newspaper.
But for those with relatives and friends trapped in the war zone, they’re personal reminders of the violence that surrounds their loved ones.
The connection has kept local residents of Lebanese and Israeli descent drawn to news reports.
“They’re glued,” said Monsignor William D. Bonczewski of the parishioners at St. Anthony/St. George Maronite Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre. “Many of them have the satellites (so) they can see it from Lebanon. They’re watching the Lebanese news.”
They’re concerned “as much if not more” than most Americans were on Sept. 11, he said.
Attorney Ferris Webby, a St. Anthony parishioner, is anxious, not only about the safety of his family in Lebanon, but about the continued existence of the country he was born in.
His American family has been able to contact his Lebanese family twice since the fighting began. He said they’ve all taken refuge in villages in the northern mountainous region, roughly a two-hour ride from Beirut.
“They’re very scared,” he said of his Lebanese family. “They know how powerful Israel is. … (It has) the power to destroy Lebanon. … The country of Lebanon may not survive this conflict.”
American Maronites generally don’t share his apprehension, he said, because they were born and raised in the comparative safety of the U.S.
“I’m first generation; I was born there. … You don’t have that fear here. It’s real over there,” he said.
Tony Thomas Jr., a Wilkes-Barre city councilmember and St. Anthony parishioner, has had limited contact with his Lebanese family. They, too, have fled to the mountains to the north.
“My family’s been trying to contact them on and off. It’s hard to get a hold of anybody over there right now,” he said. “It’s a very, very tough situation where the Christians and the Muslims, they don’t get along very well.”
The danger is more immediate for Abby Carmel, another Wyoming Valley resident who relocated from the troubled region on the Mediterranean Sea that several religions consider sacred.
The former member of the Israeli army moved to Kingston about four months ago with her three children. She’s waiting restlessly to be joined by her husband, who lives the “life-threatening lifestyle” of a law enforcement officer in Jerusalem. Just three days ago, she said he helped foil a suicide bomber who had targeted a location in the heart of the city.
Then there are her in-laws, who live just south of the embattled city of Haifa and refuse to leave.
“They do have this kind of approach (where they feel) ‘We’ve lived through so much,’” Carmel said.
That undaunted commitment to the country makes Carmel yearn to be there.
“If I’d be there, I don’t know exactly what I’d do to help. There is that sense that my country is in distress and maybe I should be there to do something. … It’s really a feeling that you don’t abandon ship; you see what you can do,” she said.
But she came to America for specific reasons, not the least of which was peace of mind about the safety of her 10-year-old son, and twin 6-year-old son and daughter. When her eldest son wrote a creative work in first grade about a terrorist breaking into the family’s home, she cried. It became just another reason to move to the U.S.
“I feel so strange that I’m far from there now, but I don’t regret that I’ve come,” she said.
Lebanese Christians, caught in the middle of a fight that is not their own, just want the conflict to end. It’s a sentiment echoed by Muslims and Jews, but their reactions to the attacks clearly differ as well.
The lives lost and destruction wrought causes “great sadness,” said attorney Murray Ufberg, but Israel has been attacked by terrorists, just as America was. Why should it not also be allowed to defend itself by rooting out and neutralizing its enemies in the name of national security?
“This is very troublesome to everyone, but unfortunately we have to deal as America did and does,” said Ufberg, the Community Relations Council chairman for the Jewish Federation of Greater Wilkes-Barre. “Every country is going to have to deal with terrorism in a fashion it deems advisable, but terrorism needs to be dealt with.”
No religion could condone the violence in the region, agreed Ebraham Almeky, a physician and spokesperson for the Islamic Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania. And, true, members of the militant Islamic group Hezbollah attacked first, he said, but that doesn’t excuse Israel’s excessive response.
Turn the situation around, he said. If Muslims retaliated against an Israeli attack with such overkill, “would it be accepted; would it be looked at as balanced?” he asked.
“If something happened to Israel, the world would be standing on one leg to solve the problem,” he added, criticizing the international community, and America in particular, for not yet taking action to bring peace to the region.
But even if the White House refuses to become too involved, he said, “the beauty of this country” will remain.
“America is going to stay; George Bush is going to go. The United States is going to live, and I’m sure it’s going to prove to the world that this is where all faiths can live together.”