Saint Raphael

St. Raphael (Hawaweeny), the first Orthodox bishop consecrated in the New World, was born in Beirut, on November 8, 1860, to pious Orthodox parents, Michael and Mariam Hawaweeny. Due to the violent persecution of the Christians of Damascus in July

1860, which saw the martyrdom of the Hawaweeny family’s parish priest and hundreds of their neighbors, Michael and his pregnant wife Mariam fled from Damascus to Beirut. It was here that the future saint first saw the light of day. Indeed as the child’s life unfolded, it was evident that he would have no continuing city in this world, but would seek the city, which is to come (Hebrews 13:14).

He received his primary and secondary education in the parochial schools of Damascus, and his first theological training at the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Theological School at Halki in Constantinople. He later studied at the Kiev Theological Academy in Imperial Russia, served as the Rector of the Metochion of the Patriachate of Antioch in Moscow and taught at the Theological Academy of Kazan.

During this time, the Syro-Arab community in the United States was growing at an increasing rate. A Syrian Orthodox Benevolent Society was organized in New York City and the president, Dr. Ibrahim Arbeely, contacted St. Raphael, then a priest in Russia, about coming to the United States. In 1895 he come to the United States and was placed in charge of the entire Syrian Orthodox Mission. He was assigned to New York City and organized the parish, which later became St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn. He supervised the development of other Syrian communities, traveling widely through the United States in 1896 to organize parishes. By 1898, St. Raphael published a large Arabic Service Book for use in his churches.

In 1898 St. Raphael was the ranking representative of the American Mission to greet St. Tikhon (Bellavin), the new diocesan bishop. At the Liturgy on December 15, 1898, he spoke of St. Tikhon’s mission in his sermon. “He has been sent here to tend the flock of Christ—Russians, Slavs, Syro-Arabs, and Greeks—which is scattered across the entire North American continent.” St. Tikhon recognized his qualities of leadership tempered by piety and wanted St. Raphael to be one of his vicar-bishops. The Holy Synod of Russian approved and he was consecrated bishop at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn on March 13, 1904.

For the next sixteen years St. Raphael continued his work among the Syrian Orthodox and also helped St. Tikhon and his successors to administer the North American Mission. He consecrated the grounds of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, the first Orthodox monastery in the New World. Author of many books, articles and translations of Greek liturgical books in to Arabic, he also founded the journal al-Kalimat in 1905 to spread the “word” to places he could not himself be. Al-Kalimat, now renamed The Word, is the official publication of the Antiochian Archdiocese. After twenty years of service in North America, at the age of 55, St. Raphael fell asleep in Christ on February 27, 1915. At the time of his repose, he administered thirty Syrian Orthodox congregations with 25,000 faithful.

St. Raphael’s sacred relics were first interred in a crypt beneath the holy table at his St. Nicholas Cathedral (March 7, 1915), later buried in the Syrian Section of Brooklyn’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery (April 2, 1922), and finally were taken to the Holy Resurrection Cemetery at The Antiochian Village near Ligonier, Pennsylvania (August 15, 1988). His sanctity was officially proclaimed on March 29, 2000, and his glorification celebrated on May 29, 2000, at St. Tikhon’s Monastery.

From OrthodoxPhotos.com, where you can find many photos of this Saint. Originally from the “Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America”, and the “Orthodox Church in America”.