St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, Ottawa

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

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Archpriest Ghattas Hajal’s Speech in the Occasion of his 40th Anniversary in Priesthood & 25th Anniversary as Pastor of St. Elias Cathedral, Ottawa.

“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest, to send out labourers into His harvest.” Matt 9:37-38

Your Grace, Your Excellency, Honourable Members of Parliament

Rev. Fathers, Distinguished Guests,

I grew up at a time when “the people of my country were thirsty for the “living water” and hungry for the “Heavenly bread”, “the harvest was plentiful, but the labourers were few.” In our Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon we had 93 Churches, and parishes, but we had only 42 priests, people were like sheep having no shepherds.

Patriarch Ignatius of Antioch of thrice blessed memory and Metropolitan Georges of Mount Lebanon may God grant him many years, saw this when they were still laymen, and like their Lord Jesus, moved with compassion, started the Orthodox Youth Movement, to feed the youth of Antioch with the word of God and install in their hearts the love of God and His people, equip them with knowledge and wisdom, and prepare them to become ready for ordination, and help shepherding the flocks.

Humbly I was one of the young adults who responded to the call of duty and said “Lord here I am send me.”

When Metropolitan George laid his blessed hand on my head to ordain me, he said: “I am asking the Lord, to give me someone, who bears with me, the yoke of serving this people, and on whom the Spirit will descend. You, Ghattas, may feel very young, as David felt before he was enthroned, but we prayed for you, that God might bring on you His goodness, and anoint you in the midst of the Church with the oil of kingship. He chose you on a day of renewal, so that He may be your only God, and that He may perfect you with knowledge, for knowledge is Fire.”

Although I felt unworthy for this sacred ministry, I trusted God that “His Divine Grace, which always heals that which is infirm, and completes that which is wanting” will strengthen me, and make me worthy of this Holy Ministry.

Since then the Holy Bible has been my friend, and reading the scriptures has been my Hobby. My ultimate concern has always been preaching the word of God and the good news, not only to my parishioners, but to all whom I met in my life, strengthening their faith, and converting non-Christians to Christianity. This is our mission “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

I thank God for His great goodness, He has been my Good Shepherd, helping me to shepherd His own people, and lead them to the green pastures; to salvation. He has been the only way that I followed. I thank the Lord who has empowered me by the great grace of His Holy Spirit, to be able to stand in innocence before his Altar, to proclaim the Gospel of His Kingdom, and to minister the word of His truth, for He is the way, the truth and the life.

I hope and pray, that I will continue to preserve the pledge that I received 40 years ago, whole and unharmed, until my last breath, that when I meet the Lord at His Second Coming, I may receive the rewards of a good steward.

Beloved friends, Allow me now to thank you all for your great love and support.

Sayedna, I am so honoured to have you with us presiding over the festivities of the occasion. Thank you and God grant you many years.

Thank you to all the speakers and the presentations that you honoured me with.

Thank you Abouna Nektarios, God has sent you to Ottawa, at the right time, thank you George Hanna Chairman of the Organizing Committee and all Members for a job very well done. Thank you to all Parish Council Members, Present and Past, thank you to all Presidents and Members of the Antiochian Women, Teen Soyo, Fellowship of St. John the divine, Altar Boys, Choir Members, Chanters, Sunday School Director, and Teachers.

Big heartfelt thank you to his Worship Mayor Watson for conferring upon me the “Mayor’s City Builder Award” at the City Hall a week ago, and thank you to Lucy Ibrahim who recommended me for that.

  1. I would like to thanks His Excellency Sami Haddad & His lovely wife Nadia
  2. Roger David, Brother in Law, Elie & Francine, Brother Michael, Edmond & Abir, Dr. David Rizk & Gizelle.

Thank you to all my children Marlene and Cyril, Gabi, Rosemary and Peter, my grandchildren, Katrina, Charles, Nicholas, Marialena, Gaby Jr. Alexi and Mia, you are the joy of our life.

Big thank you, with hugs and kisses, to my beautiful wife and Sweetheart Khouriyee Helene, you have been of great help and support since day one.  I will repeat what I said on my 25th anniversary “God has also chosen you to be a Khouriyee and has called you to this life of service and sacrifice.” I love you.

At this moment, I would like to thank Dr. Nawal Sarraf Sayegh, who graciously wrote and published a book, about my theological Philosophy, and decided to distribute it to all of you. In spite of her health condition, she insisted to attend this event and sign her book to whoever would like his or her book signed by her. You will definitely enjoy reading it.

Thank you Dr. Nawal for all your love and generosity to our Cathedral. Your adding the Elevator and the Library is very much appreciated by me, personally, and by all of our parishioners. Thank you.

As you see you have also received another book “Reflection & Appreciation” which the Church has published for the occasion, I thank Fr. Nektarios and Khouriyee Miray who worked very hard to produce such a beautiful book.

Again thank you to all members of the organizing committee and all who came tonight to celebrate my anniversary.

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