St Raphael of Brooklyn
For all the Saints: Raphael of Brooklyn
Memorial Day Weekend at St Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary, South Canaan PA, always brings thousands of pilgrims. In 2000 many came because Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny was glorified as a saint.
Saint Raphael was born in Beirut, Lebanon in November 1860 and grew up in Damascus, Syria. He attended theological schools of Halki, Turkey, closed by the Turkish Government in 1971. International protest works toward its re-opening; protests were made before the US Congress in 2002. He also attended the theological institute at Kiev, Ukraine. He was ordained priest in 1889.
Foreign bishops ruled the Antiochian Patriarchate from 1766 forward. Fr Raphael wrote articles urging the return of the administration to native clergy and people. His criticism was loud enough to lead to his suspension. Eventually, St. Raphael asked Patriarch Spyridon’s forgiveness, after which he taught in Russia. In 1898 the Antiochian Patriarchate was restored to Arab hands.
Fr Raphael began mission work in America when, in 1904, he became the first bishop consecrated on American soil at the hands of Bishops (now St.) Tikhon and Innocent of the Russian Orthodox Mission to America.
He served as Rector at St. Nicholas Church, Brooklyn, from which base he was named “Leader of the Syrian Orthodox Spiritual Mission in North America,” traveling across the continent to identify communities. In all, Bishop Raphael founded twenty-nine parishes.
We see his ecumenical interests in his service as Vice-President of the “Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union” (1910-12). He founded and edited al-Kalimat (The Word), which remains the monthly magazine of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. He translated Greek liturgical books into Arabic and distributed them, at his own expense, throughout the Middle East and elsewhere to further Orthodoxy among Arabic-speaking émigrés. He collaborated with the pioneer of English Orthodox liturgical scholarship, Isabel Hapgood, whose work remains in print today.
St George, Allentown, St Paul, Emmaus, and St Philip, Souderton are our local parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese, which commemorates him on the first Saturday in November. Other Orthodox churches, however, observe him on 27 February, the date of his death in 1915. He is buried in Ligonier PA at Antiochian Village, national conference center of the Antiochian Archdiocese.
An extraordinary American saint! St Raphael was, like so many, a tireless worker for Christ and the church. Orthodoxy and, indeed, all of American Christianity is richer because he was among us.
Published 11 March 2006