In 1997, former Maronite Bishop of Australia, His Grace, Youssef Hitti, asked theFrEd.FrCharb Superior General to send Monks to work in the Diocese, and very specifically, in Melbourne. The Maronite Church in Melbourne was in great need of the Antonine Monks, to assist in the Parish and to start a mission in Victoria. After many meetings with Bishop Hitti, the Superior General agreed to establish this mission in Victoria.
Former Superior General of the Antonine Order, the late Abbot Youhanna Slim, sent two Monks, Fr. Charbel Chidiac and I (Fr. Edmond Andraos) to work and help the Parish Priest Monsignor Joseph Takchi. Our aim was also to establish a Monastery for the Order.
We arrived on Monday 9th February 1998, the Feast Day of St Maroun.
In 2002, a property at 43 The Grove Coburg, was purchased in the name of the Monastery of St. Charbel. This quickly became a centre of prayer and spiritual gathering; a sanctuary in the name of St. Charbel. The dream for Melbourne Parishioners had become a reality; to have a Monastery in the name of St. Charbel.
We worked very hard for the Parish of Our Lady of Lebanon, in many aspects: visiting the elderly and sick, assisting grieving families, working with the youth, renewing liturgical activities with Monsignor Joe, working with the Antonine Sisters and offering Prayers and Masses at the Monastery everyday.
Fr. Charbel was appointed, in 2003, to work in the Adelaide Parish and Fr. Chucri El- Khoury was sent to work in Melbourne with me. In 2005, the Antonine Maronite Order General Meeting and Chapter took place in Lebanon. These Meetings happen once every six years to elect a new Superior General. Fr. Boulos Tannouri was elected the new Superior General and Fr. Charbel Chidiac would become an assistant. This meant that Fr. Charbel would return to Lebanon to work in his new appointment. Fr. Chucri El-Khoury was also to leave as he was also appointed a new position in Lebanon. Fr. Charles Hitti was nominated to replace Fr. Chucri in Melbourne to work in Our Lady of Lebanon Parish, and to be part of the Monks Community in the Monastery of St. Charbel. Fr. Charles has been working in Melbourne since 2006.
As Monks, we live in a Community of brotherhood and have taken vows of Poverty, Chastity and obedience. We are consecrated to God and we give our lives to serve the Lord Jesus. Our mission in Melbourne is to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to love and help all people.
Working hand-in-hand, for the good of the Parish, Monsignor Joe, Fr. Alain, the Antonine Monks and the Antonine Sisters have formed an excellent team. This was evident throughout the greatest achievement of the Parish; the building of the new “Our lady of Lebanon Church” in Thornbury.
We can see a brilliant future in Melbourne and look forward to many more achievements for the Parish of Our Lady of Lebanon and the Monastery of St. Charbel.
Fr. Edmond Andraos
Former Superior General of Australia