Visit of The Hon Mike Baird, Premier of NSW To Beit Maroun



Address by Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
Visit of The Hon Mike Baird, Premier of NSW
To Beit Maroun
Thursday 26 February 2015


Dear Premier and Friends,

I would firstly like to welcome the Honourable Mr Mike Baird, Premier of NSW, on his first visit to Beit Maroun.  Mr Baird is the leader of the State Liberal Party, Member for Manly, Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Western Sydney.

Mr Premier, we bid you a warm welcome to Beit Maroun during this most Holy Lenten season.   It is perhaps timely for us to reflect during Lent on our shared values of faith, love and community. These values that the Maronites have carried with them from their homeland and that they share with the wider Australian community. 

Allow me first to tell you a bit about “Beit Maroun” where we gather today. This house was designed by the famous Architect Walter Burley Griffin, and built in 1927 for the McCormic family. Archbishop Khalife, the first Maronite Bishop of Australia, purchased it in 1984. Beit Maroun translates to the House of Maroun, father of the Maronite Church. It is basically the house of all the Maronites of Australia.

The history of the Maronite Church in Australia, dear Premier, tells of how a people held fast to what was good, working tirelessly for their families in a new land that became their home. 

The first Lebanese probably arrived in Australia by 1850 emigrating from North Lebanon to achieve a better life for themselves and their children. Family and church were essentially one for these people. On 10 January 1897, the first Australian Maronite Church, St Maroun’s in Redfern was dedicated.

Our community today counts around 250,000 people and our Eparchy is served by 48 priests and 21 religious sisters working in our 18 parishes and mass centres, 5 schools, 3 nursing homes, child care centres, a Radio station, and our official magazine Marounia. 

In continuing the tradition of service, the Maronite Eparchy of Australia is embarking on a number of exciting and substantial community projects in the areas of aged care, health, disability, child care and drug rehabilitation and reintegration, to provide much needed facilities and services. We hope to achieve all these projects in partnership with the federal and state governments, especially in NSW as working for the betterment of a community also serves for the betterment of the wider society and the nation. 

In the area of aged care, we have identified the need for aged care services for our community in the Bankstown and Parramatta regions and are therefore hoping to establish the Our Lady Care Centre in Harris Park and the St Charbel’s Care Centre in Punchbowl in collaboration with the Lebanese Maronite Order of Monks. Planning is now at an advanced stage for both projects. Our intention is to also establish a much needed medical centre in Harris Park.  

Plans are also underway for a centre for the care of people with disability as part of the community of St Joseph’s Parish in Croydon. 

Another major project that we are launching is the White Stone project in Bilpin, NSW. This centre will not only help treat individuals suffering from addiction but also aims to raise awareness of these social issues and to promote prevention programs. 

Our Eparchy is also budding with many initiatives and activities. One of our most prominent groups is Maronite Mission which is made up of a group of dedicated volunteers who reach out to the marginalised members of our society to relieve some of their sufferings and provide some companionship through a number of initiatives including:
weekly Food van outreach programs 
a home visits program where they provide companionship, food packs and advise to struggling families
overseas missions to help the poorest of the poor in the slums of the Philippines, and in Lebanon to help those individuals and families displaced due to war and persecution. And they have plans to send a team to Iraq in the near future. 

All these projects present a significant undertaking, but we are confident on being able to deliver them with the assistance of the community and in partnership of the different government departments. 

Dear Mr Premier, 
It is our greatest pleasure to welcome you at Beit Maroun along with many other guests whom we are proud to call friends. Allow me to extend a warm welcome to:
Mr Charles Casuscelli, Member for Strathfield 
Mr Tony Issa, Member for Granville
Mr Glenn Brookes, Member for East Hills
Mr George Zakhia, Liberal Candidate for Bankstown
Mr George El-Dahr, Christian Democratic Party Member for Lakemba
Very Reverend Monsignor Marcelino Youssef, our Vicar General
All the Reverend Monsignors, Superiors, Fathers and Religious Sisters
The Presidents and Members of the Maronite and Lebanese organisations
Representatives of the Media 
Supporters and dear friends of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia

You come to your home when you visit Beit Maroun. As we say in Arabic, ‘Ahla w Sahla’.

Dear Premier, you have announced that the NSW Government will turbocharge the NSW economy by investing $20 billion in infrastructure through its Rebuilding NSW Plan. We assure you that the Maronite community will definitely stand by you in this initiative. Not only that, it will be also by contributing to rebuild New South Wales by launching the projects that I have mentioned to serve the community. 

The Maronite community has produced professionals and tradespeople, skilled and unskilled, each with their unique talent and dignity, and, significantly for our future, politicians and public servants. Although they have not forgotten their homeland, the Australian Maronites consider themselves Australians through and through. They have nothing but great love, deep gratitude and strong loyalty for this generous nation.

Dear Mr Premier and dear friends, we feel that we are heading into a new era for our church in Australia, in community services and we are confident the government of NSW will be supportive of our initiatives.

Mr Premier, once again, welcome to Beit Maroun. Thank you for taking the time to visit us today although we know you have the busiest of schedules. We look forward to working with you towards the service of the community and Rebuilding New South Wales.

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