The impending arrival of St. Raphael (Hawaweeny) of Brooklyn (1860-1915) as a priest-monk to serve Arab Orthodox in North America was announced on page 16 of the NY Times on September 15, 1895.  In true human-interest fashion, the “lede” is buried down in paragraph 11, although the preceding grafs provide interesting Victorian-Era-style information about the Arabs of that time in the City, including their “amazing beauties”(!).  I never knew that at that time Syro-Arabs were “of course nearly all … Christians,” nor that they were considered “the mainstays of industry and commerce there, as well as of agriculture,” nor that at that time the Islamization of Syria and vicinity was foreseen rather than a long-accomplished fact.

St. Raphael went on to become the first Orthodox Bishop consecrated in the Western Hemisphere, Titular Bishop of Brooklyn, NY, auxiliary to the Ruling Hierarch of North America (part of the Patriarchate of Moscow), and head of the Diocese’s “Syro-Arab Mission,” its ministry to Orthodox Arab-Americans throughout the continent.  He was glorified a Saint by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) along with the Patriarchate of Antioch in 2000.  His Akathist service proclaims him “Good Shepherd of the Lost Sheep in America,” and quotes his own self-image, “‘Syro-Arab by birth, Greek by education, American by residence, Russian at heart and Slav in soul.'”

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