A day in the life of an
by Michele Chabin with photographs by Ilene Perlman
ifteen minutes before the liturgy, the pews at Sts. Peter and Paul Church are nearly full as people of all ages arrive. Anticipation builds as the parishioners wait for the Rev. Androwas Bahus to finish his prayers of preparation — they in their Sunday best, he in white and gold vestments. Finally, the priest switches on the lights of the recently refurbished church, the glow of chandeliers illuminating dozens of gilded icons on the wall depicting the life of Jesus. The parishioners straighten up as the Melkite Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy begins. They smile when the parish’s many children gather before the priest for a blessing, and listen intently to the homily, focusing on the importance of quietly helping the needy, and placing trust in God. “Create a relationship with your Father in heaven,” Father Bahus says. “We know that when we give, we receive.” At the end of the Eucharist, the priest urges his parishioners to attend a solidarity rally that afternoon at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the Sea of Galilee, which, just days earlier, had been badly damaged in an arson attack.
In the seven years since becoming parish priest in the city of Shefa‘Amr — a small city in the Galilee with a mixed population of Christians, Muslims and Druze — Father Bahus has inspired his parishioners to move beyond their fears and work toward the good of their small, tight-knit community. Under his guidance, the city’s Melkite Greek Catholics — who, along with Christians from other denominations, comprise a quarter of the city’s population of 40,000 — have made great strides in renewing faith and community. By pooling its resources and enthusiasm, the parish has renovated and restored their Ottoman-era stone church, built a thriving community center and supported church-run schools, the budgets of which have been slashed in recent years by the Israeli government. According to parishioners, the parish has experienced a revival ever since Father Bahus arrived. People speak highly of his enthusiasm, charisma, activism and determination to stem the tide of Christian emigration from Israel. They admire his efforts to foster communal responsibility and a deep sense of belonging.
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF CNEWA
The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)