Economos Antony Gabriel Celebrates 50 Years in the Holy Priesthood
On Saturday, September 15, 2012, the community of St. George Antiochian Church of Montreal, Quebec, hosted a celebration of 50 years of holy priesthood for their pastor, Economos Antony Gabriel. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip presided over an entire weekend of festivities which culminated in the banquet held at Le Westin in Montreal on Saturday evening.
The weekend began with His Eminence Metropolitan Philip’s arrival to the Montreal airport on Friday, September 14, 2012. Joining His Eminence were His Grace Bishop Antoun, His Grace Bishop Nicholas, and Archdeacon Hans Elhayek. His Grace Bishop Alexander and the priests of Montreal and Ottawa greeted the bishops upon their arrival in a special VIP room at the airport. After we sat, relaxed and enjoyed good conversation with our beloved bishops, the hierarchs were taken to the Westin Hotel via limousine, where they would stay while in Montreal.Later that evening, Economos Antony and Kh. Lynn Gabriel hosted an intimate dinner for the out–of–town guests, the planning committee members, and close friends. The Consul General of Lebanon, Mr. Fadi Ziadeh, and Mr. Fawaz El Khoury, Vice Chairman of The Archdiocese Board of Trustees, were among the special guests in attendance. We all shared good conversation and enjoyed the congratulatory remarks His Eminence offered to Fr. Antony and Kh. Lynn.
Saturday September 15 began with a Press Conference held in the St. George Fellowship Hall and cocktail reception organized by Rean Sayegh Lawand, Kh. Adma Shaheen and Kh. Souhaila El Murr. Many members of our St. George teens attended, along with several journalists from the Arabic and English Press, and other special dignitaries. Maureen David and Mr. Nicola Sayegh of the Task Force for Jerusalem worked harmoniously with the press that day. Following the press conference, His Grace Bishop Alexander hosted lunch for the hierarchs at the Montreal Chancery.
The big event was celebrated on Saturday evening at the Westin Hotel in downtown Montreal, where over five hundred guests gathered together honoring the priest they love, Fr. Antony. While guests were enjoying fellowship in the reception hall, our St. George teens gathered, and prepared to escort the hierarchs and our guests of honor to their seats. Jonathan Sourial and Melody Courey escorted His Eminence, and each bishop was assigned two teens to escort them to their table. Nathaniel and Tatiana Shaheen, the children of Fr. Michael Shaheen, proudly escorted Fr. Antony and Kh. Lynn to their seats.
Our Masters of Ceremony for the evening were Neil Janna and Nadia Lawand. The two complimented each other with their unique personalities and upbeat humor. Once the hierarchs, delegates, and guests were seated, His Eminence was asked to open the evening with a prayer. Angela Marino (daughter of Frank Marino of the well-known rock band Mahogany Rush), then sang the American and Canadian National Anthems beautifully.
While the speeches of the evening were given by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip and our guest of honor, Economos Antony Gabriel, several people also presented gifts to Fr. Antony. Among these, Senator David Angus presented the Diamond Jubilee Medal from Queen Elizabeth II. This Canadian medal is to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians and is administered by the Chancellery of Honours. It is awarded to 60,000 citizens and permanent residents of Canada who have significantly contributed to the lives of their fellow countrymen, their community, or to Canada, over the previous sixty years. His Eminence also presented Fr. Antony with a beautiful icon of all the Antiochian saints.
Between meal courses, a short video by Jason Bolanis entertained the guests. The video documented some of Economos Antony’s memorable milestones, such as when Father Antony and his family first arrived to St. George Montreal in 1976, what he faced in subsequent years, and what he has accomplished during his tenure. Also, parishioners from his former parishes reflected upon the years Father Antony served them as their pastor.
As a special thank you to those who attended this beautiful celebration, a gift was given to each family as a souvenir of the evening, very much in keeping with Fr. Antony’s humor. Each family received their very own Economos Antony Gabriel “bobble head” doll as a take home gift!
On Sunday, September 15, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip presided over the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, assisted by the three other bishops. Economos Antony Gabriel, the Very Rev. Boulos Khayat, Fr. Michael Shaheen, and Fr. Jean El Murr served alongside the bishops, as well as Archdeacon Hans and subdeacons Philip Genest and Wafik Khoury. The St. George Choir directed by Paul Jabara and our Byzantine Choir directed by Anhila Abunowara combined, elevated our hearts exceedingly in prayer and worship. Mrs. Mary Winstanley O’Connor, North American Chair for the Order of St. Ignatius, attended the Liturgy, and witnessed fourteen members being inducted into the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
Following the Divine Liturgy, the entire parish and guests lunched in the St. George Fellowship Hall, thanks to the organizing skills of Gina Michael and Gehane Zahran of the St. George Antiochian Women. Other St. George Organizations such as Le Cercle St. George, The Order of St. Ignatius, Task Force for Jerusalem and St. John the Divine joined together to arrange the lunch for everyone. Adonis Bakery made an enormous cake especially for Economos Antony and graciously donated it that day.
That evening, the Consul General of Lebanon hosted a dinner in his home in honor of Economos Antony Gabriel and invited His Eminence Metropolitan Philip and all the hierarchs with him. It was a nice ending to a beautiful weekend.
On Monday September 17, His Eminence called for a gathering of the priests of Montreal and Ottawa to meet for lunch and engage in an intimate discussion. Those in attendance were: His Grace Bishop Antoun, His Grace Bishop Alexander, Economos Antony Gabriel, Archpriest Ghattas Hajal (Dean), Archpriest Michel Fawaz, Fr. Elie Touma, Fr. Mark Wyatt, Fr. Michael Shaheen and Fr. Jean El Murr. During our discussion we enjoyed breaking bread together and thanked His Eminence and the other hierarchs for coming to Montreal to celebrate this milestone, that of serving God and His Holy Church for fifty years!
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank those, apart from who have been previously mentioned above, who made this celebration possible. The following individuals were called upon and rose to the challenge showing their utmost love and respect for their pastor and their love for God and His Church. Heartfelt thanks are offered to: Veronique Courey (Event Chairperson), Michael Lawand, Fares Maalouly, Cookie Rossy, April Kabbash, Halim Khairallah, Viviane Gédéon, Denyse Marino, Isabel Zigayer, Peter Abraham, Peter Auger, Adel Elian, Randa Atie, Kenny Beauchamp, Jeannine Choueri, Stephanie Rossy, Elizabeth Shamie, Ronnie Lawand, Alex Khalifa, and all the St. George Parishioners and the Montreal community.