Name of Church St. Sharbel
Address 1804 SE 16th, Portland OR 97214
Liturgy times (also called Holy Mysteries) Sundays, 10:30 a.m. (in English, Arabic and Aramaic). Be prepared for a liturgy that runs a few hours.
Music The liturgy is sung.
Confessions Sundays, 8 – 9 a.m.
Names of priests Abouna (Arabic for “Father”) Jonathan Decker, SJMJ, pastor. Abouna Decker is also prior of the Oregon Monastery of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (www.mmjmj.com), the first Maronite monastery in the western U.S. The priest is easily recognized by his long beard, skull cap and New York accent. (Ask him about his relatives who came over on the Titanic!)
School No school, but religious education and sacrament preparation classes for children.
Special parish groups/activities Adoration, Sundays 9 a.m. and first Fridays 10 a.m. (except summer months); Scripture class Wednesdays 7 p.m.; Angel Scouts & Crossroads (youth & young adults catechetical classes); Oblates of Jesus, Mary & Joseph.
Fellow parishioners Serves about 50 families in the area, many of Lebanese or Syrian backgrounds. Very welcoming to visitors; parishioners will even help you understand what’s going on!
Parking Ample street parking.
St. Sharbel is the only Maronite parish in the Pacific Northwest. It was founded in 1970. The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in union with the Pope. The church has a patriarch, and over 40 bishops who shepherd eparchies (dioceses) throughout the world, including two in the United States. St. Sharbel is part of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles led by Bishop Abdallah Zaidan. The Maronites profess the same faith and moral beliefs as Latin-rite Catholics and share the same seven sacraments. However, Maronites have a unique liturgy, theology, spirituality, and discipline.
Attend Sunday liturgy at St. Sharbel, for example, you’ll see Eastern vestments and a small hand cross that the priest uses to bless the congregation. He is assisted by altar servers of varying ranks (e.g. deacon, sub-deacon). Congregations rarely kneel but stand, the faithful bow to the tabernacle rather than genuflect, incense is frequently used and Holy Communion is by intinction (the Host is dipped into the chalice and given to the communicant on the tongue, not the hand). The consecration is done in Aramaic, the language of Christ.
The Maronite Church dates back to the early Christians of Antioch where “they were called Christians for the first time.” (Acts 11:26). The church still uses Syriac as her liturgical language; Syriac is a dialect of the Aramaic that Jesus himself spoke. She takes her name from the hermit-priest, St. Maron, who died in 410 AD. After St. Maron’s death, 800 monks adopted his way of life and became known as the Maronites. Muslim invasions and conflicts from within the Byzantine Empire caused the Maronites to flee the plains of Syria to the protection of the mountains of Lebanon. By 687, the Maronites elected a patriarch of the vacant See of Antioch and developed as a distinct church within the Catholic Church.
The Maronites began immigrating to the United States in the 19th century. In addition to priests, the Maronites also have communities of religious men and women. There are 86 Maronite parishes and missions across the United States.
St. Sharbel’s is an attractive stone church—once used by Protestants—in the unique, beautiful and historic Ladd’s Addition neighborhood in Southeast Portland (not far from the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry). Streets are lined by beautiful elm trees, with rose gardens and diagonal, zigzagging streets (might be confusing for a first-time visitor to navigate). The St. Sharbel altar is in a corner area of the church, rather than along a flat wall as in the typical church, and the altar rail is curved in a semi-circle shape. There are traditional statues and paintings near the altar.