Beliefnet
(RNS)--For the past two years, the Rev. Josiah Trenham has endedevery service at St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, Calif., with aprayer for peace for the soul of the mid-19th-century bishop RaphaelHawaweeny.

The words slip from his tongue with an ease born of habit: "Oh Lord...give rest to the soul of thy departed servant.... Pardon every sinhe hath committed whether by word or deed or thought for thou art goodand loveth mankind, for there is no man who live and sinneth not...."

But after Memorial Day weekend, Trenham will no longer leadparishioners in prayer for the bishop's soul.

That weekend, during a special glorification ceremony at St.Tikhon's Monastery in South Canaan, Pa., Hawaweeny will join sacredcompany and become St. Raphael, one of 11 people recognized by theOrthodox Church in America as saints.

"The whole emphasis of our prayers will change," Trenham said. "Wewill pray to him instead of for him."

For more than a century, Orthodox Christians have prayed forHawaweeny--nicknamed the "Father of Orphans" and the "Good Shepherd ofLost Sheep in America" because of his dedication to spreading themessage of Jesus to immigrants in the United States.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1860, Hawaweeny studied at theologyschools in the Mediterranean and in Russia, eventually becoming a priestand leader of the Antiochian Representation Church in Moscow. In 1895,at the request of the Arab community in New York City, Hawaweenyimmigrated to Brooklyn to lead a Syrian mission of the Russian OrthodoxChurch.

His arrival had a deep impact on the immigrant Syrian Christiancommunity in New York, said Bishop Basil, an auxiliary bishop of theAntiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Basil wasone of about a dozen people who served on the commission thatrecommended Hawaweeny's canonization (a collaboration of the OrthodoxChurch in America and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese ofNorth America).

"All of a sudden they had a priest show up in their community,speaking their language, someone able to hear their confessions," saidBasil, who owns a prayer book that once belonged to Hawaweeny. "Peoplereally looked to him as a father figure."

By the time of his death in 1915, Hawaweeny had helped organizeabout 30 Orthodox parishes from Montreal to Mexico City, become thefirst Orthodox Christian consecrated as a bishop in North America, andpublished a book of prayer and liturgical services in the Arabiclanguage. He also consecrated the grounds of the first Orthodoxmonastery in the United States--the same place where the devoted willgather to celebrate his sainthood at the end of May.

"He went collecting the faithful and establishing churches all overthis country," Trenham said. "He was an incredible missionary, so whenwe think of him we have to think of the growth of the Orthodox Church."

The bishop's letters, sacrament registries, and daily travel log allbear testament to his dedication to missionary work, Basil said.

"He really went looking for his flock, to encourage them in their newhomeland by feeding them the Gospel and forming communities of Christianbelievers," Basil said. "He was a shepherd who went to gather hissheep."

Even toward the latter part of his life, when he was most frail,Hawaweeny heeded the call to spread the word of Jesus, Basil said.

"He behaved not only as Christ would have expected another humanbeing to behave, but as the apostles behaved, preaching the Gospel todistant lands and to rich people and poor people," he said. "One of thelast missionary trips he took was on his way to recuperate in upstateNew York. The doctor had sent him there to live quietly, but on the waythere he stopped at every little town to look for people to preach to.That which was supposed to be a period of recuperation he used as aperiod to find his lost sheep. He made no excuses, even though he hadevery reason to because he was in ill health."

Hawaweeny's devotion to the immigrant community a century ago isreturned by Orthodox Christians of today, Basil said.

"The devotion to him comes from people of all ages, allnationalities--it has been passed from generation to generation,"Basil said. "It was almost demanded by the people of the church that hiscase be considered for canonization."

Though no miracles are required of saints in the Orthodox Church inAmerica, Basil said, several medical miracles have been attributed toHawaweeny, whose feast day will be celebrated the day of his death--February 27--in the Orthodox Church in America, and on the second Sundayafter Pentecost in the Antiochian Church.

One of the most recent miracles is said to have occurred less than adecade ago.

"About 10 years ago, the bodies of several Antiochian Orthodoxbishops were moved from Mount Olivet Cemetery in New York to the newlyestablished Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pa.," said AlexisLiberovsky, archivist of the Orthodox Church in America on Long Islandand secretary of the canonization commission. "Bishop Raphael's body wasvirtually intact, incorrupted, which is like a miracle since he died in1915. In Orthodox piety the incorruption of a body is generallyconsidered to be a sign of sanctity, of holiness. The incorruption ofBishop Raphael's body was a confirmation that God's grace resided inhim."

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