History of Our Church
The dream of having a Maronite church...
in Houston started more than three decades ago when the growing Lebanese Maronite community felt a great need to worship in their very own church. In response to this need, Father Faouzi Elia arrived in Houston and served as pastor for nearly a year. Msgr. Bernard Khachan succeeded him for about six months but despite the efforts of everyone, it was evident that the dream of a Maronite church in Houston was not yet to be realized. The accumulated funds (about $18,000) were sent to the diocese until another attempt could be made to form a Maronite parish.
The opportunity arose again less than 10 years later when Archbishop Francis Zayek commissioned the late Chorbishop John Trad to explore the possibility of reviving the Houston Maronite Mission. Chorbishop Trad was received with much enthusiasm and was highly encouraged by the enthusiastic attendance of parishioners at the liturgies. This news prompted a visit to Houston by Archbishop Zayek in October 1990. With encouraging results, he appointed Father Abdallah E. Zaidan, MLM (Maronite Lebanese Missionary), pastor of St. George Maronite Church in San Antonio, Texas, to serve the Houston Mission, which was placed under the patronage of the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Cedars.
An agreement was then made with the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries to staff a permanent community of Maronites in Houston. Father Milad T. Yaghi, MLM, arrived in Texas in November of 1991. Father Milad's mission was to establish and strengthen the support and commitment of the families in order to lay the foundation for a lasting, strong community, which he accomplished through spiritual, cultural, and social activities. Amazingly, the number of families in the mission grew quickly to around 250.
At that time, weekly liturgy was celebrated at St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church each Sunday. Over time, fundraising events, the sale of Bricks of Love, financial pledges, and above all, the dedication, hard work and commitment of the clergy and the people paid off. The diocese returned the funds which had been placed in its keeping and on December 23, 1992, Our Lady of the Cedars purchased 5.176 acres on Bellfort Village Street in cash.
To assist Father Milad in the overwhelming task of his pastoral work and to continue his studies, Father Fadi Tabet, MLM arrived from Lebanon in August of 1993. In March of 1994, a loan was obtained from First National Bank of Missouri City to begin the construction of the first building on the property, a multi-purpose community center. On March 12, 1995, Father Phillipe Yazbeck, Superior General of the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries traveled from Lebanon to break ground at the construction site. By April 14, 1996, work on the community center building began. Eight months later, the community of Our Lady of the Cedars celebrated the Christmas Midnight Mass at the new building.
From that day on, the Maronites of Houston had a permanent dwelling in which to worship God, receive the sacraments, provide Catholic education to their children, study scripture, and celebrate community life. In addition, the church organizations (Daughters of Mary, Knights of the Cedars, the Youth, C. C. E., and the choir) now had a central location from which to work. This was a huge accomplishment, but it was only the beginning, the first phase of the long-awaited dream. For three years, the parishioners worked together to raise money to pay off the construction loan. From five banquets a year to numerous Sunday lunches, bake sales, picnics, and gift shops, the community was undaunted in its efforts to raise money fully realizing that it would take several years to pay off the loan. But the community of Our Lady of the Cedars was a blessed community, and the dream would be realized sooner than anyone had ever hoped it would be.
In the meantime, Father Fadi finished his studies and returned to Lebanon. Father Ghassan Mattar, MLM arrived in Houston in 1998 to assist Father Milad. However, Father Ghassan was not destined to stay long in Houston. He was assigned to Phoenix, Arizona where a new mission was being formed and Father Andre Estephan, MLM, in January of 1999, was assigned to Houston from Dallas, Texas to be the assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Cedars.
During that same year, God was to show the Houston community how blessed it was and how soon its dream would be realized. Through an anonymous donation, the loan on the first building was paid in full. Almost immediately after that, a building committee was formed and plans to construct a large church building were put into motion. Probuild Construction Co. was chosen to construct the new church building and the groundbreaking date, Sunday, August 19, 2001, was set. His Excellency, Monsignor Hanna Alwan, Judge of the Rota Tribunal in the Vatican, accompanied by Father Milad and Father Andre, placed the first stone on the new ground of the future home of Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Church.
Before actual construction could begin, the parking lot needed to be extended. Finally, seven months after the groundbreaking, in March of 2002, actual construction of the new church began. It was a long year. The community hoped to have the church by Christmas of 2002, but it was not to be. Long periods of rain delayed the completion of the building. Finally, after one whole year from the start of construction, the new building was dedicated on March 9, 2003. Another event that marked this auspicious occasion - Bishop Robert Shaheen, visited Houston for the first time. He dedicated the building of Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Church and the dream that started two decades ago was finally achieved!
In 2006, with the support of loyal benefactors, a rectory was built to provide housing for our pastors who lived in the church hall up until that time. In 2010, the parish broke ground on the Georges Mouwad Pastoral Center. The new building was completed in February 2011 and dedicated by His Eminence Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The first CCE classes were held in the new pastoral center in September 2011.