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Brooklyn’s own St. Raphael venerated at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral

November 14, 2016 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The framed icon of St. Raphael of Brooklyn was on display. Photo by Denise Alexander
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Father Thomas Zain, dean of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, celebrated the Feast of St. Raphael of Brooklyn.

The vigil, held on Nov. 4, began promptly at 6 p.m. with Great Vespers and Artoklasia, with Festal Orthros and the Divine Liturgy.  

Raphael Hawaweeny was born in Beirut, but his family was from Damascus. Around the time of Raphael’s birth in 1860, the family fled Damascus during the massacre against Christians.

Raphael was ordained to the priesthood in Russia. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1895 and served under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Mission. He became the pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Brooklyn and later became bishop of Brooklyn.

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Zain explained to the Heights Press, “St. Raphael founded our Cathedral community in 1895 in lower Manhattan and moved to Brooklyn in 1904, where he established the first actual church building on Pacific Street. We moved to our current location on State Street in 1920, after his death in 1915. While his memory is celebrated all over our Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, this parish has a special connection because it was the first parish he established.”

Zain continued, “From his base in New York, St. Raphael traveled all over the United States, Canada and Mexico, gathering the Syrian immigrants. He usually would not stay more than one night in any one place and would baptize children, marry couples and perform memorial services for people who had departed. He would later send these communities priests and form parishes once he became a bishop. St. Raphael was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in America from any ethnic background.”

In 2000, Raphael was canonized as a saint of the Holy Orthodox Church by the Orthodox Church in America. That service 16 years ago, as well as last Friday’s festal liturgies, attracted worshippers from all over, who gathered in Boerum Hill to celebrate an extraordinary individual who helped reaffirm the roots of Orthodoxy in North America.


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