Posts tagged Antiochian
Fr. Nicola Yanney is one of my favorite priests in the history of Orthodoxy in America. He immigrated to America at age 19, in 1892-93, with his new wife. They immediately settled in, of all places, Nebraska. Nine years later, she gave birth to their fifth child — and died in childbirth, leaving Nicola as a 29-year-old widower with five small children. The new baby died soon thereafter. I am 29 and have three kids, and I cannot fathom how painful and overwhelming this must have been for Nicola.
Two years later, the local Antiochian Orthodox community in Kearney, Nebraska asked that Nicola be ordained to serve as their priest. He traveled to Brooklyn, where the newly consecrated Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny educated and ordained him. Fr. Nicola was the first priest ordained by St. Raphael. He might have been the best, too — while continuing to raise his children as a single parent, he traveled all over the middle of the country, visiting Orthodox people in remote areas and performing baptisms, weddings, and funerals. For example, in 1911, he made at least 35 pastoral visits to at least a dozen different states and performed a total of 85 baptisms. That was in addition to serving his own parish in Kearney, and raising his four surviving children without a wife.
The Spanish flu pandemic hit the United States in 1918, and a number of Fr. Nicola’s Kearney parishioners were infected. That didn’t deter Fr. Nicola, though — he continued to minister to them, bringing them communion and hearing their confessions. You can probably guess where this is going: eventually, he caught the flu himself. It led to pneumonia, and he died on October 29, 1918. The cause of death may have been pneumonia brought on by the flu, but in reality it was a tireless devotion to his people. Few Orthodox priests in America have ever died so well.
Anyway, Fr. Nicola’s parish recently published a wonderful 74-page document on their website. It’s part detailed timeline, part photo gallery, and part sacramental registry. Here is how the Kearney priest, Fr. Christopher Morris, described it to me in a recent email:
We are doing some research into the life of Fr. Nicola Yanney. The research is on-going, but we decided to print the information we have right now in the form of a timeline and a list of dates/places that Fr. Nicola visited during his missionary journeys. The list of dates/places was translated from Fr. Nicola’s sacramental records which are in Arabic and in possession of his family. This work was started quite a while ago by a parishioner from Iraq, Bob Suleiman. Bob and Fr. Nicola’s granddaughter, Minnette Steinbrink, began the translation work. But Minnette was soon diagnosed with cancer and died not long afterward. Bob’s health declined and the work stopped (he has since died), probably 12+ years ago. Recently, Fr. Nicola’s great-grandson discovered the baptismal records, and Bob’s wife, Virginia, completed the translations of the baptisms. While poking around through some old notebooks in our church office, I found a notebook that turned out to be Fr. Nicola’s records for funerals and marriages (the notebook had been recycled by another priest 50 years later, but he left Fr. Nicola’s records intact). Virginia Suleiman translated all of these records, as well.We have also looked through our local newspaper’s archives, two Yanney family histories, and several old church histories written by founding members in order to compile the timeline. We recently found out that there was more than one local paper in Kearney during Fr. Nicola’s time. There is a very detailed description of his account of St. Raphael’s funeral in one of these previously unknown (at least to me) local papers. We will look for archives of this other paper in hopes of finding more about Fr. Nicola. There are also other untranslated materials in possession of the family. And we are hoping to look at some out-of-state local newspapers now that we have a list of dates and times. There you have it!
First of all, I’m really sorry for my extended absence from this website. Beginning in December, my life went pretty crazy — first the end of law school, then studying for the bar exam, and then moving and starting my legal career. Unfortunately, I’ve had no time at all for historical research.
Right in the middle of this chaos, I received a really awesome email from Fr. Timothy Ferguson, an Antiochian priest in Boston. He had discovered a photo collage of Syrian/Antiochian priests from the late 1910s/early 1920s — 21 clergymen in all. The collage is posted above, and here’s a list of the clergy depicted (and I’m retaining the spelling provided by Fr. Timothy’s sources):
- Archbishop +Aftimious, Bishop of Brooklyn, Syrian Orthodox Mission in North America (Center)
- V. Rev. Basil M. Kerbawy, Dean of the Clergy (Left of Bishop)
- Rt. Rev. Emmanual Abu Hattab (Right of Bishop)
From Top Left:
- Rev. Daniel Tanoos Jerguis
- Rev. Eli El Hamati
- Rev. Ayoub Salloom
- Rev. Antonious Abu Alan Farah
Across the Bottom, Left to Right:
- Rev. Sliman Boulos
- Rev. Theodore Yanni
- Rev. Yousef Kacere
- Rev. Abraham Zaine
- Rev. Hanna Hakim
- Rev. Abdallah Khoury
- Rev. Constantine Dawani
- Rev. Philipous Abu Assaley Shaheen
From the Top Right:
- Rev. Mousa Abi Haider
- Rev. Elias Fraij
- Rev. Michael El Khoury Saba
- Rev. Solomon Faireny
Insert Below Fr. Kerbawy:
- Rev. Sophronious Beshara
Insert Below Fr. Abu Hattab:
- Rev. George Kattouf
- Rev. Solomon Merighe
- Rev. Simion Issa
- Rev. George Dow Maloof
- Rev. Yousef Elia
- Rev. Basil Mahfouz
Many thanks to Fr. Timothy Ferguson for sharing his amazing find!
(An earlier version of this post was published in 2010.)
108 years ago this week, in 1904, St. Raphael Hawaweeny, the Syro-Arab Bishop of Brooklyn, officiated at a wedding in St. Louis. The English bride and Arab groom had a rather romantic backstory, and the wedding took place at the imitation Holy Sepulchre in the “Jerusalem” exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. The newspaper article below appeared in the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald (10/1/1904). After the article, I’ll offer some additional information and commentary.
It was a great event, this marriage of a fair haired English girl and dark-skinned Syrian. In Jerusalem at the World’s Fair every one was in gala attire. There was a sea of [...] color. The Turk, resplendent in flowing silken robes with red tarbouche on head; the Syrian, in gold broidered jacket and trousers of ample proportions; the solemn-visaged Jew and the white-burnoused Arab sheik from the Saharan desert, were assembled to do the couple honor.
The wedding was the culmination of a romantic courtship which was not without its thorny side. The bride, Miss Ethel Thomas of Hanley York, England, met the hero of the romance while a tourist in the Holy Land. Under the warm skies of Palestine their love grew apace, and while the intelligent dragoman waxed eloquent over many a hoary rum his glances were all for the pretty English girl. The other members of the party decided that the attentions of the swarthy guide were too pointed and demanded his removal. Whether it was pity engendered by his dismissal or real affection, the spirited girl determined to leave the party. She joined another, always with the faithful Najib Ghazal as the dragoman. When the tour was over, Miss Thomas returned to the bosom of her family. Her swarthy adorer quickly followed and asked the father of the damsel for her hand. This was refused, and the family offered violent opposition. Mr. Ghazal was under contract to appear as a guide in Jerusalem at the World’s Fair, and was forced to sail without his bride to be. Finally the matter was adjusted, and Miss Thomas sailed to New York, where she was met by her faithful lover. He saw Archbishop Hawawini of Brooklyn, the high primate of the Greek church in the United States, who consented to come to St. Louis in order to unite the pair. The ceremony was inaugurated with all of the state incident to the Greek ritual. The marriage took place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The bride and her only bridesmaid or shabinat, were attired in white. The bride, with a hat instead of the conventional bridal veil, led the procession, the groom and groomsmen, or shabins, following. In the regular Syrian service it is the custom for the groomsmen to carry the groom, holding him high above the bride during the ceremony. This is to signify the lower position of the wife in the household, for in Oriental countries she is quite a subordinate being. The air was redolent with the perfume of flowers, the air was heavy with aromatic incense, the guests held painted and blessed wax candles, the lights dancing like ingnus fatui in the semi-gloom of the church. These holy tapers are preserved as mementoes. The bride and groom also held two artistically ornamented candles. During the ceremony the priest asks the couple all sorts of trying questions, as for instance, he demands of the bride whether she will promise to bear every vicissitude with loving patience and be ever faithful to her lord and master. He asks the groom whether he will provide a comfortable home and always be kind to his wife. Of course, they signify their consent. There is much chanting during the service, accompanied with profound genuflexions. It is in Arabic. Long and tedious but of picturesque grandeur is the Greek wedding ritual. The priest places upon the fingers of the couple two silver rings linked together with a slender chain, emblematic of their eternal union. The chain is then severed and the golden wedding ring placed upon the fingers of both. Still kneeling the couple drink holy wine from the same cup and partake of the sacrificial bread. This is to signify the union of the blood of life, the bread typifies the flesh. Lastly a cup of water is drunk, which is emblematic of the washing away of all impurity.
When the bridal party emerged from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a silver clarinet played a triumphal bridal march. The newly married pair threw nickels and bon bons to the crowd who scrambled for the largess.
Before entering her home provided for her the bride flings a piece of dough upon the portal. If it sticks it is regarded as a happy omen, but if it does not dire misfortune is predicted by the wise women.
Mr. and Mrs. Najib Ghazal will remain in St. Louis until the conclusion of the exposition, as Mr. Ghazal is employed as a dragoman in Jerusalem.
The betrothal of a Syrian couple is entirely the affair of the parents, the prospective bride and groom having nothing whatever to do with it. It is not even considered good form for the young man to see the face of the young woman. He must be content with the description of his mother or the professional matchmaker. What a number of disappointments there must be in store. The burden of providing a trousseau for the bride rests upon the groom. Even though he belongs to the middle class and is not the possessor of great wealth, he must send not less than twenty silk dresses to his bride, also ten gold or silver necklaces, diamond earrings and brooches. This is a provident proceeding, for the groom if disenchanted may abandon the bride the next day; in this case he leaves her well provided with the wherewithal to entrap another husband. The bride must always be subject to her mother-in-law, as it is the Syrian custom not to provide a separate home. This is a survival of patriarchal or rather matriarchal domination which prevails in most Oriental nations.
Prior to the marriage ceremony the friends of the groom take him to the nearest bath house and scrub him thoroughly, the prospective bridesmaids doing the same for the bride. Instead of the butter knives, pickle dishes and assortment of heterogeneous objects presented to the American bride, relatives and friends send offering[s] of money. This is in reality money loaned without interest, as the exact sums must be returned to each donor upon their marriage. Every guest proffers two cakes of soap, and when the pair have a number of relatives and friends, there is often sufficient soap to last a lifetime.
This article’s description of the Orthodox wedding is… well, curious. I am by no means an expert on Orthodox wedding practices, but I am an Arab Orthodox Christian myself, and I was married a traditional Orthodox ceremony in the Antiochian Archdiocese. I’ve attended numerous other Orthodox weddings — all here in the United States, which does limit my exposure, but still — and I’ve never heard of a groom being hoisted into the air by groomsmen during the wedding service. It’s also not clear what, exactly this St. Louis couple consumed. My wife and I partook of wine in the “common cup.” In the distant past, I understand that the Eucharist itself was used. But this St. Louis couple apparently was given, separately, wine, bread, and water. And then there are the questions — the wife was asked whether she would “be ever faithful to her lord and master,” and the husband whether he would “provide a comfortable home,” etc. But in my experience, the husband and wife are only asked one question apiece — whether they have come with a “free and unconstrained will” to be joined to the other person. If any of our readers have insight into what was going on at this St. Louis wedding, please let me know.
(A thought just occurred to me: maybe the author of this article mistakenly attended some other wedding, rather than the Orthodox one. Does the description sound like a ceremony any of you recognize? Or, I guess, the author could have not attended the wedding at all, and made up the details. After all, this article appeared in a Washington newspaper, half a country away, just one day after the event. But… I don’t know. What do you think?)
Anyway, I did some further digging to learn more about Najib Ghazal and Ethel Thomas. Najib arrived at Ellis Island on May 1, 1904, having sailed from Liverpool aboard the Lucania. He is listed on the ship manifest as “Nagib E. Ghazal,” a single 30-year-old Syrian. His reported residence is London. Ethel was about 22 at the time of her wedding. After the World’s Fair, they remained in the United States; presumably, both became naturalized US citizens. They moved around quite a bit — the US Censuses have them in Brooklyn in 1910, San Francisco in 1920, and Detroit in 1930. I can’t find either Najib or Ethel in the 1940 Census, so they might have died by then. As best I can tell, the couple had one child, George, who lived from 1906 to 1984. A quick Google search turns up several Ghazals in Detroit, and these may be the descendants of Najib and Ethel.
If anyone out there has more information, please let us know.
St Raphael Hawaweeny was a native of Lebanon, who in 1904 became the first Orthodox bishop ordained in the new world. As Bishop of Brooklyn he had oversight over the Syro-Lebanese communities that were beginning to appear in the Americas in the early twentieth century and he worked tirelessly for their growth and consolidation. It has been noted previously by Matthew Namee on this web site that during the years of St Raphael’s ministry until his repose in 1915 there was a dramatic increase in the extent and use of the English language in the liturgical life of these communities.
Last year, whilst I was researching in the National Archives in London, England, I discovered a document that shows that St Raphael’s missionary concerns extended beyond English to the Spanish language. The document I found was a letter (written in Russian) in 1912 from St Raphael to Fr. Eugene Smirnov, the priest of the Russian Embassy church in London. By way of background it should be mentioned that Fr. Eugene had briefly served as a reader at the Russian Orthodox parish in New York in the early 1870’s under Fr Nicholas Bjerring. Fr Eugene maintained an active interest in Orthodox missionary work throughout his life and in particular facilitated considerable support for the development of the church in America by way of both material and financial assistance.
The letter, which is translated in full below, is evidence of the expansive missionary vision of both St Raphael and Fr. Eugene. I am indebted to Dr. Karina Ross of St George Antiochian Orthodox George in Utica for its translation:
Esteemed Father Protopriest!
The box with five hundred copies of St. John’s Liturgy in the Spanish language that you promised to me in your letter from Feb. 13th / 26th of the current year was conveyed to me yesterday from the Russian Cathedral in New York.
I humbly request you to notify of this the deeply respected – apostles of Orthodoxy in the twentieth century in the heterodox West – splendid general V. Vich(?)-Perez and remarkable warrior of Christ G. A. K (can’t make out the surname), (the life and the conversion to Orthodoxy of the former through the latter, your spiritual son, I described in great detail from its account in “Church News” in my Arabic spiritual publication “Al-Khalimat” (“The Word”) last year), and also to let them know of my deepest gratitude and prayerful blessing.
I intend to send out these copies to our Orthodox Syrian Arabs who are living in Spanish language countries in Northern and Central America, in hope that this very beneficial book with (?) mercy will be of great use for the support of Orthodoxy and, quite likely, for its proliferation among Spanish speakers. Let the Lord of Hosts support all those who labour in Christ’s vineyard.
I sincerely thank you, esteemed Father Protopriest, for the love that you have shown me and for your trust in my unworthiness, with deep reverence and sincere gratitude, yours truly.
Perpetually praying for you to Lord Jesus, Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn.
To His Blessedness
32 Welbeck St., London
It is my hope that a reader of this article might be able to find and translate the article of St Raphael in Al-Khalimat” (“The Word”) referred to in the letter so that we might learn the identity of the two Spanish language apostles of Orthodoxy in the twentieth century and thus place this document within the wider context in which it obviously belongs. I am not certain to what extent Spanish is currently employed liturgically in any of the Antiochian Orthodox parishes in the USA and whether any evidence exists of its earlier use that St Raphael clearly intended to promote through the distribution of this translation of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, NY, August 26, 2012
June 16, 1889: Deacon Raphael Hawaweeny was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Sylvester, rector of the Kiev Theological Academy. Deacon Raphael had come to the Kiev school a year earlier, and the plan was for him to study there and then return to Syria, where he would become the Russian-language secretary for the Patriarch of Antioch. Toward the end of the 1888-89 school year, however, the Patriarch appointed Deacon Raphael to be head of the Antiochian metochion (embassy church) in Moscow. The previous head of the metochion was Fr. Christopher Jabara, who had worn out his welcome because of his heretical theological views. And speaking of Jabara…
June 11, 1893: Fr. Christopher Jabara dedicated a chapel for the Syrians in New York City. After being ousted from his position in Moscow, Jabara falls off the radar for a few years before turning up in New York, on his way to the World’s Fair in Chicago. For the past year or so, the Arab Orthodox of New York had been attending the city’s new Greek church, and they were excited to see a priest who spoke their own language. They quickly established a chapel, and two Russian priests from visiting warships joined Jabara in the dedication. (Click here to read more about the chapel.)
Unfortunately, the chapel didn’t last long. At the “Parliament of Religions” held at the World’s Fair, Jabara promoted his idiosyncratic theology, arguing that Orthodoxy should abandon the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and unite with Islam. That pretty much killed any chance Jabara had of an Orthodox ministry in America, and the New York chapel seems to have died out. But two years later, the man who replaced Jabara at the Antiochian metochion in Moscow — Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny — himself arrived in America, inaugurating a 20-year ministry to the Arab Orthodox in the New World.
If you want to learn more about Fr. Christopher Jabara, check out this article from 2009.
June 17, 1893: Bishop Nicholas Ziorov blessed the Russian pavilion at the Chicago World’s Fair. The Fair was a tremendous event, and it had a lot of interesting Orthodox features.
June 11, 1983: Archbishop Nikon de Greve died. He was born in the Russian Empire in 1895 and served in the White Army during the Russian Civil War. Eventually, he ended up in Paris, where he studied at the famed St. Sergius Institute and became a hieromonk. He was serving at the Russian cathedral in Paris when the Nazi army took over the city during World War II, and when Archbishop Alexander Nemolovsky (by then the Archbishop of Brussels) was arrested by the Nazis, Nikon went to Brussels and administered the diocese in Alexander’s stead.
Nikon was consecrated a bishop for Belgium in 1946, and the next year, he sailed for America. He served as bishop of Philadelphia and later Toronto until 1959, when he became primate of the Church of Japan. After four years in Japan, Nikon returned to America. By this point, he was nearly seventy. He took the title “Archbishop of Brooklyn,” but wasn’t given a diocese to oversee. He died at the age of 88, and is buried at St. Tikhon’s Monastery.
June 12, 1995: Bishop Gerasimos Papadopoulos (Greek Archdiocese) died. Some have suggested that Bishop Gerasimos may be worthy of canonization.
June 17, 2007: Archbishop Kyrill Yonchev, longtime head of the Bulgarian Diocese of the OCA, died. Fr. Andrew Damick wrote about Archbishop Kyrill and his diocese a few years ago.
June 12, 2009: The Pan-Orthodox Conference at Chambesy, Switzerland, concluded. This meeting set the stage for Assemblies of Bishops to be created throughout the so-called diaspora, including North America.