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February 27, 2020

Saint Raphael (Hawaweeny), Bishop of Brooklyn (+ 1915)

St. Raphael of Brooklyn (Feast Day - February 27)

Saint Raphael (Hawaweeny), the first Orthodox bishop consecrated in the New World, was born in Beirut, on or near the Synaxis of the Archangels, 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, the New Hieromartyr Joseph of Damascus, and hundreds of their neighbors (all are commemorated on July 11), 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 Oecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School at Halki in the Princes Islands. He later studied at the Kiev Theological Academy in Imperial Russia.

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, about coming to the United States. St. Raphael met with Bishop Nicholas in St. Petersburg and in 1895 returned with him to the United States to serve the Syro-Arab community. Saint Raphael was placed in charge of the entire Syrian Orthodox Mission. He was assigned to New York City and organized the parish which later became Saint 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, Saint Raphael published a large Arabic Service Book for use in his churches. Later in the same year, he was to be the ranking representative of the American Mission to greet Saint Tikhon (Bellavin), the new diocesan bishop. At the Liturgy on December 15, 1898, he spoke of Saint 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."

Saint Tikhon recognized his qualities and wanted Saint Raphael to be one of his vicar-bishops in the reorganized diocese. In 1903, Saint Tikhon went to Russia and asked the Holy Synod to approve his plan for the election of Saint Raphael as his vicar-bishop. They approved Saint Raphael's election and also consecrated Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) as Saint Tikhon's vicar-bishop for Alaska. On March 12, 1904, the solemn rite of the election of Saint Raphael as Bishop of Brooklyn was performed by Saint Tikhon and Bishop Innocent at the Russian Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Manhattan after the Vigil.

The consecration took place the next day at the Syrian Saint Nicholas Church in Brooklyn, with Saint Raphael making his Confession of Faith both in Slavonic and Arabic.

Following his consecration, Saint Raphael continued his work among the Syrian Orthodox and also helped Saint Tikhon and his successors to administer the North American Mission. Saint Raphael presided at the clergy conference held in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, on August 2, 1905, in the absence of Saint Tikhon. He also consecrated the grounds of Saint Tikhon's Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, the first Orthodox monastery in the New World. He founded the magazine The Word Magazine in 1905. After twenty years of service in North America, Saint Raphael fell asleep in Christ at his residence next to his cathedral on Pacific Street in Brooklyn on February 27, 1915. At the time of his repose, he administered thirty Syrian Orthodox congregations with 25,000 faithful.

Saint Raphael's sacred relics were first interred in a crypt beneath the holy table at his Saint Nicholas Cathedral (March 7, 1915), later buried in the Syrian Section of Brooklyn's Mount Olivet Cemetery (April 2, 1922), and finally translated to 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 Saint Tikhon's Monastery.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Your proclamation has gone forth throughout North America, calling the scattered sheep into the unity of the Church. Hearing your voice, they responded to your teaching, and through your writings you instructed them in piety. Now guided by your example, O Father Raphael, we sing hymns of praise unto Christ our God. Glory to Him Who gave you strength! Glory to Him Who granted you a crown! Glory to Him Who, through you, grants healing to all!

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You were a guardian and a defender of the Church's teaching, you protected your flock from false doctrines and confirmed them in the true faith. O Holy Father Raphael, son of Syria and glory of North America, always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved.