St. Elias Cathedral in Ottawa Celebrates the 85th Anniversary of the Parish and 15th Anniversary of the Cathedral
The Most Reverend Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, blessed the Clergy and faithful of St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Ottawa by presiding over the celebrations for the 85th anniversary of the parish and the 15th anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral that took place from September 9-13, 2015.
This historical visit was the first visit of His Eminence to Ottawa after his election as the new Metropolitan. His Eminence arrived in Ottawa on Wednesday, September 9th, 2015. The Very Rev. Fr. Ghattas Hajal, Pastor of the Cathedral, alongside Assistant Pastor Fr. Nektarios Najjar, the parish council, a representative of Ottawa's mayor and the organizing committee of the event welcomed our Father in Christ Metropolitan Joseph at the airport's V.I.P. Salon.
Sayidna's visit started with a welcome dinner that was hosted by Very Rev. Fr. Ghattas Hajal and Kh. Helene at their home, where His Eminence met Chargé d'affaires of Lebanon Mr. Sami Haddad, as well as the parish's clergy, parish council, church organizations officers and organizing committee.
Mr. Haddad and his wife hosted a lunch on Thursday, September 10th at the Lebanese Embassy to welcome Metropolitan Joseph. Among the guests were ambassadors of various countries including Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. This was an occasion to exchange thoughts and visions towards the situation in the Middle East and the Arab World and a platform for inter-cultural dialogue.
On Thursday night and at Friday noon, His Eminence was hosted by Mr. Dimitri and Mrs. Susanne Zeidan; and Mrs. Joyce Tannis, respectively. Mr. Zeidan served as the parish council president from 2009 to 2014 and is currently serving as a member of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees. Mrs. Tannis was the chairwoman of the 85th Anniversary Organizing Committee, playing an essential role in the success of the occasion.
On Friday morning, Metropolitan Joseph met with the clergy of the Canadian Deanery at the Cathedral's board room. Antiochian priests came from Montreal to join their brothers in Ottawa in that meeting and hear their father's wise words and guidance.
One of the highlights of the week was the great banquet that was held on Friday night at St. Elias Centre in honor of His Eminence. The banquet was well attended by almost 500 participants. Among the guests were His Grace Bishop Alexander of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate New York; His Excellency Bishop Paul-Marwan Tabet of the Maronite Church in Canada; Mr. Sami Haddad, Chargé d'affaires of Lebanon; His worship Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa; Councillors of the City of Ottawa; Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Purpura, chairman of the Archdiocese Department of Youth & Parish Ministries; clergy of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Maronite and Melkite Catholic Churches; Mr. Fawaz El Khoury, Vice-Chairman of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees; Mrs. Mary Winstanley O'Connor, member of the Board of Trustees; Mr. Roger David, North American Chair of the Order of St. Ignatius; and representatives of Lebanese associations and political parties.
Among the words that were said in the banquet, Fr. Ghattas addressed His Eminence saying:
As for His Eminence, he addressed the attendees and the faithful of St. Elias Parish and congratulated them on this remarkable milestone, the 85th anniversary of the parish, and stressed the fact that it is important to maintain this achievement by looking forward to building a similar future for the coming 85 years of this church. Sayidna reminded the parishioners that God wants servants and dedicated people that have their minds and hearts for Him.
During the Banquet, His Eminence granted the Pastor of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Fr. Ghattas Hajal, who has led the parish for 23 years and continues to lead it with his great love, the "Antonian Gold Medal of Merit," which is the highest honour given by our Archdiocese, "in recognition of distinguished services of exceptional merit, rendered with generous and unselfish dedication".
Some parishioners were also presented by Fr. Ghattas and Kh. Helene and recognized by receiving Certificates of Meritorious Service from the Metropolitan for their dedication and work in St. Elias Cathedral. The following parishioners were recognized:
On Saturday morning, all church organizations and especially Sunday school students and teachers were blessed by meeting their father in Christ Metropolitan Joseph in a fatherly encounter at which His Grace Bishop Alexander was also present. This was a chance to hear Sayidna's spiritual guidance and his vision for the Archdiocese, which he bases on the spiritual growth of the youth and the strong faith of the future generation.
Following the meeting, all who were present had lunch with His Eminence and then accompanied him to the new St. Elias Cathedral Library, which he consecrated and blessed. His Eminence thanked Dr. Nawal Sarraf Sayegh for donating the library and Fr. Ghattas announced that the library will be opened for the public to read and research.
On Saturday Evening, the liturgical celebrations of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross started with His Eminence presiding over Great Vespers. At the end of the service, Sayidna spoke about the importance of the Cross in the daily lives of Christians.
Mr. George Hanna, the chairman of the parish council, hosted a dinner on Saturday night honoring Metropolitan Joseph. Bishop Alexander, the clergy, parish council officers, organizing committee and family members were all invited to a familial dinner and encounter with His Eminence.
We believe that the Divine Liturgy is the mirror of the heavenly kingdom. This was what all the faithful sensed on Sunday morning, which was the peak of the celebrations, when His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph presided over the Divine Liturgy celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. His Eminence was assisted by His Grace Bishop Alexander, Very Rev. Fr. Ghattas Hajal, Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Purpura, Very Rev. Fr. Mitri Housan, Rev. Fr. Nektarios Najjar, and Sub-Deacons Rassem El Massih, Robert Bayouk and George Saikali.
After the Gospel, Metropolitan Joseph granted Fr. Nektarios Najjar the "Epigonation", which is a blessing to be a spiritual father and hear confessions. This service was impressive for St. Elias parishioners, as it is the first time that it was done in this Cathedral.
His Eminence's powerful sermon was about the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. He addressed the faithful saying that each moment in our life is a moment in which we are in risk of danger and sin. The Cross is our companion in these moments, and this is why we cross ourselves before and after each act we do in our daily lives. Metropolitan Joseph said that the Church is open to all believers to come and lay their burden and be healed. We as believers must not come to church as if we come to a social club, but as we come to a place in which we seek first the Kingdom of God.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, all the faithful worshipped the Holy Cross through a procession for the Feast. Metropolitan Joseph then inducted 23 new parishioners into the Order of Saint Ignatius. Three other members also became life members: George Hanna; Joyce Tannis; and Very Rev. Fr. Ghattas Hajal, who was elevated to life member by His Eminence upon the request of the parish council.
Sunday's luncheon was another encounter between the father and his children. Numerous parishioners attended this lunch, which was an opportunity to extend the communion among each other which is expressed in the Divine Liturgy as well as in communal meals among the one family. During this lunch, His Eminence recognized former parish council presidents. The following former presidents were granted tokens of appreciation:
Sayidna's final stop in Ottawa was at the house of a former parish council president and former member of the board of trustees, Charles Saikaley, who hosted His Eminence, the clergy and other parish council members and parishioners in a dinner on Sunday night. Those that gathered in that house said their goodbyes to Metropolitan Joseph and enjoyed beautiful Byzantine chants and oriental songs that gave the gathering a beautiful taste and sealed this visit with beautiful memories.
We at St. Elias Cathedral thank our Lord Jesus Christ for 85 years of blessings and graces. We are so blessed to have a well-established, active and faithful Orthodox community. We also thank His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, for his fatherly love and numerous blessings that we received in his historical visit to Ottawa.
May God grant His Eminence many years as our chief shepherd and as our father in Christ. May He also grant all Antiochian Orthodox churches in North America many years in faith and service for our Lord Jesus Christ and His flock.
Scheduling Baptisms/Weddings at St. Elias
For those planning baptisms & weddings at St. Elias Cathedral, the following requirements must be met:
1. The meaning and purpose of baptism is for the child to be incorporated into the Body of Christ (the Church) by participating in the Lord's death and resurrection. When the child is placed in the water, they are being buried with Christ; when they rise from the water, they rise to new life. Baptism is not simply a cultural rite of passage; it is a literal "puting on" of Christ. The child is illuminated by baptism, and thus is made ready to receive the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, given in the Sacrament of Chrismation (also known as confirmation), which takes place at the Baptismal service. Having been illumined and having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the child is now able to be fully incorporated into the life of the Church, and this takes place most significantly at the reception of Holy Communion. Unlike other Christian groups, the Orthodox Church has preserved the ancient practice of giving communion immediately to the newly-baptized and chrismated infants; there is no "first communion" ceremony when the child is older. The communion at the baptism is their first communion, and they are welcomed to the Chalice from that point on.
2. Before choosing & confirming the godparents, please ensure the prospective godparents meet all requirements: At least one godparent must be an Orthodox Christian, the other can be a Christian of another denomination [i.e. Catholic]; the godparents must be in good standing with their respective churches, and are to receive confession and communion in the weeks approaching the baptism. We encourage careful consideration of who you ask to be godparents. It is of the utmost importance that godparents be people of prayer who are active in church, and who have a dedicated commitment to Jesus Christ. Simply choosing someone because they are a friend or a relative is not enough if that person is not close the Lord. This is because the godparent's job is to ensure the child is brought up in the Orthodox Christian faith, that their life of prayer and sacramental life is nourished, and that they live "in Christ." If the godparent is not living this life already, then they will not be able to give to the child that which they themselves do not fully possess. This is why we urge a prayerful, deliberate, and careful choice when selecting godparents for our children. Furthermore, no one will be permitted to serve as a godparent unless they have received confession and communion, in order for them to be spiritually prepared for the great role they are about to fulfill.
3. Schedule and confirm the date of baptism with the Cathedral office by calling 613-738-2222.
4. The godparents and parents are to meet with either Fr. Ghattas or Fr. Nektarios several weeks before the baptism in order to discuss the order of the service, the responsibilities of the godparents, and required items to bring.
1. The Orthodox wedding service is not simply a social "contract" between the man and the woman. Rather, it is a complete joining of the husband and wife together in Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the bond which unites the man and woman in the communion of marriage. Therefore, the sacrament of Marriage presupposes that the couple are already living a dedicated life in the Church, and will continue to do so after marriage.
2. Weddings should be booked at least 6 months in advance; 1 year in advance is preferrable. Please reserve the church BEFORE reserving the reception hall. We do not take wedding reservations over the phone; the couple must make an appointment to speak with the priest before the wedding date will be confirmed.
3. There are certain days when weddings CANNOT take place. These include: Wednesdays and Fridays, Great Feasts of the Church, during the Christmas Fast (Nov. 15 - Dec. 25), during Great Lent (including the period from Meatfare Sunday to Thomas Sunday), and during the Dormition Fast (Aug. 1-15).
4. If either member of the couple was previously married & divorced, they must first be reinstated by the Metropolitan Archbishop to the sacramental life of the Church before proceeding with the wedding; this process can be initiated by speaking with Fr. Ghattas.
5. At least one member of the couple must be an Orthodox Christian; the other must at least be a Christian (i.e. Catholic.) Weddings between Orthodox and non-Christians are not permitted. All members of the wedding party must be Christian.
6. The couple must attend at least 2 sessions of pre-marital counseling with the priest in the months prior to the wedding.
7. The couple must receive confession and communion at their respective churches prior to the wedding.
8. The couple is to return to the Cathedral on the nearest Sunday following their honeymoon for the service of the Removal of the Crowns.
If you have any questions regarding baptisms or weddings at St. Elias Cathedral, please call the Cathedral Office at 613-738-2222 or send an email to email@example.com Any decisions about unusual circumstances regarding these services are subject to the discretion of the Pastor, Fr. Ghattas.