Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Saturday, 23 December 2023
USA: Arab Catholic community finds home at Our Lady of the Ridge

Joyce Duriga/ :

On the First Sunday of Advent, the Arab American Catholic Community of Chicago held its first Mass with its new resident priest at Our Lady of the Ridge Church in Chicago Ridge.


The community has been gathering at the church for over a year with the Latin Patriarchate of the Holy Land sending priests for short periods. Now, Fr. Wissam Mansour of Jordan has been sent from the patriarchate to serve here for five years.


Cardinal Cupich greeted the community at the end of Holy Mass, offered the final blessing and attended the celebration dinner afterward.


“I want to say to all of you here that I am honored, and the Archdiocese of Chicago is honored, to be able to make sure that you find a home here because you are the ancestors of the first church,” the cardinal said.


“And we are a young church. We need to have the voices and the prayers of those Christians who were the disciples of Jesus at the very beginning. And so you have so much to offer us in that historical connection that ways in which we reach back in time and connect ourselves with this early church.”


Michael Bader, a native of Jordan and president of the community’s board, said he and other Arab Catholics have been trying to establish a community for over 20 years.


Bader has ties to the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem because he studied at a seminary in Bethlehem before moving to Chicago in the late 1990s.


“The past three patriarchs, all of them visited me here in Chicago, trying to get something going since 2002,” he said. “When the patriarch visited her last November, we agreed that we were going to move forward.”


New York and Los Angeles also have established Arab Catholic communities.


When Bader was introduced to Father Ryan Brady, associate pastor of Our Lady of the Ridge and St. Linus Parish, he found someone willing to help. Both Brady and Father Mark Walter, the pastor, welcomed them to the parish, Bader said.


“Little by little we started growing. We are about 150 families,” said Bader, adding that he believes there are about 500 other Arab Catholic families in the Chicago area that can be invited to join the community.


Mass is celebrated Sundays in English and Arabic; Friday evenings are family nights, when people pray the rosary and then play games or participate in other activities. There is also a youth group and a rosary group.


Named Our Lady of the Holy Land, the community is a group belonging to the parish and will not become a separate mission serving only Arab Catholics, Bader said.


“While we try to build bridges with our mother church in the Holy Land, we want to make sure all the world understands that we are a part of the body of the church and will remain under our Chicago archbishop’s obedience and jurisdiction,” Bader said. “We are here to love each other and live our faith together.”

Cardinal Cupich’s support has made a difference.


“Without his support, we would have never done anything,” Bader said. “He was supportive from day one.”


Having the Arab American Catholic Community at the parish has been positive, especially for the Our Lady of the Ridge worship site, Brady said.


“There’s a lot of beautiful cultural things that they do,” he said. “They will have processions each night during the Triduum. It brings life to the community. The neighborhood sees 50, 60, 70, 100, 200 people processing around the church again — they haven’t seen that in a long time — so it’s a good witness to the community and the public.”


It is also a good witness to the wider community that there are Arabic-speaking Catholics.


“There are Christians in the Holy Land,” he said. “There are Catholic Christians in the Holy Land.”