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Up until the late sixties, the Melkite Catholic Congregation in Melbourne was served by the Maronite Monsignor Paul Al-Khoury, may God bless his soul, who dedicated himself to the service of all with due sacrifice and love. By the late sixties, some of the Melkite Catholic families in Melbourne approached His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos V Hakim, and expressed to Him the wish of the Parishioners in Melbourne to have Deacon Joseph Awaad ordained Priest and be sent to serve the Melkite Catholic Congregation. His Beatitude accepted the petition by writing and endorsed it with His Apostolic Blessing.
At that stage, the visit of His Eminence Cardinal James Nox, the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne was finalised. He strongly approved the existence of a Centre and a Church for the Melkite Catholic Congregation and their friends in Melbourne. He also generously offered to assist in the preparation for the welcoming of Father Awaad and secure lodgment and a Church for him to perform his spiritual duties.
At that time, the Archmandrite Aftimos Haddad travelled down from Sydney and took charge of the situation. He blessed our work and introduced us to other Melkite families. He then appointed a special committee headed by Mr. Ibrahim Baccash, whose first duty was to prepare for the welcoming of the first Priest for the Melkite Catholic Congregation in Melbourne. He also asked Mr. Ibrahim Baccash to preside the first Parish Council for our Church in Melbourne. Father Awaad was the founder of the Melkite Catholic Parish in Melbourne, a Church built upon Christ, the Word and the Truth, and the faith and affiliation of its children.
In 1971, many of the Parishioners witnessed the wonderful encounter at Melbourne Airport and the hearty reception that Father Awaad was honoured with. Soon after that, Fr Awaad who was in his late fifties, started his services with all sincerity and eagerness, and soon enough all who had dealt with him perceived in him the faithful servant and the humble educator. He restlessly served for seventeen years, without concern for any lack of sleep, working seven days a week, exchanging love with all. The fruit of this hard work was the purchase of St Joseph Church in Fairfield in 1975, four years after his arrival in Melbourne. He paid for it in five years by going tirelessly and without lassitude from door to door to collect the price of the Church.
When His Beatitude Maximos V Hakim visited Australia in 1981, he raised him with merits to the rank of Archmandrite in appreciation of all the work he’d achieved for the Church and the Parish as a whole. From 1988 till 1996, Archmandrite Awaad served with all humility, disinterest and self-denial other Churches in our Eparchy in Australia, in Sydney and Perth. He then retired in Cairo (Egypt) where he died in December 18, 2000 at the age of eighty, may God bless his soul.
If we indeed are forgetful, we will never forget that during his years of service and even after his departure, St Joseph Church in Fairfield was and still is the centre of the apostolic work in Melbourne. Over the years, St Joseph’s has also offered various services and apostolic works. It helped and supervised the foundation of churches and missions all over Australia under the mandate of His Grace George Riashi, the past Archbishop, and after him, His Grace Issam John Darwish, current Archbishop of our Eparchy. The missions were in Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Hampton Park, Sunshine and Oaklands.
After Father Awaad, various reverend Fathers followed in succession in the service of the Parish, each in turn offering to God the most precious of his years for the service of the parishioners. The priests that followed were Fr Henry Dabbous together with, Fr André Nahhas, Fr Emile Konsol, Fr Antoun Yaacoub, Fr Waheed Riad, Fr Laurence Cross, Fr Edward Ibrahim, Fr Nakhleh Al Zakhem, Fr Hassan Al Nassir, Fr Hanna Dagher, Fr Nimr Abou Shaaya, Fr Francis Al Taweel and lastly Fr Samir Haddad. It has also had many Deacons, Chanters, dedicated Readers and Sacristans.
Many thanks to all who over the years collaborated with the Church, the departed and the ones still alive, and may God repay them for their contributions thirty, sixty and one hundredfold, and subsequently the Kingdom of God.
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