While Pope Francis was bringing the message of brotherly love to the faithful at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, members of the Ladies Guild of St. Jude Melkite Greek Catholic Church were in the rectory kitchen rolling stuffed grape leaves in anticipation of Miami’s annual pilgrimage of thousands to St. Jude for the Feast Day Festival of their patron saint.
The concrete gray Romanesque Gothic Cathedral, with brightly colored stained glass windows, was built in 1946 by architect Henry Dagit and rests on the corner of Brickell Avenue and 15th Road (126 SE 15 Rd.), one block from Biscayne Bay.
Formerly the site of the Academy of the Assumption, a Carmelite Nunnery and boarding school that welcomed Mother Theresa of Calcutta to its grounds and provided sanctuary for Cuban exile “Pedro Pan” children, the property was purchased by St. Jude’s Arabic American founders in a 1978 transaction approved by The Vatican.
The Melkite Church was born in Antioch, “the cradle of Christianity.” They are in harmony with the Catholic Church according to Father Gabriel Azar, assistant pastor. However, unlike Roman Catholics who celebrate St. Jude Thaddeus’ feast day in March, the Eastern tradition celebration day is Oct. 28.
“We come from the mother church in Jerusalem where Christ and the apostles began preaching the good news,” Father Gabriel said. “We are in communion with the Pope and follow the same sacraments, but our liturgy, rights, and theology are Byzantine.”
Father Gabriel originally is from Lebanon and the Diocese of Beirut.
“The Pope has one billion and a half followers and we have two million. He does not have an army, but when he speaks the world listens. We hope the voice of his humble heart causes change. With Christians fleeing the Middle East in persecution, and this frightening terrible war in Syria, we need to pray a lot for peace. This celebration is a chance to come back to God. It is a family gathering of the devout to show respect and gratitude for the intercession of St. Jude, the saint of hopeless causes.”
The Feast Day is like the shrine church’s birthday for St. Jude who was one of the original 12 disciples, born in Israel to a Jewish family and said to have ultimately died a martyr’s death in Syria.
Right Reverend and St. Jude Thaddeus Pastor Damon Geiger said, “Each year we are honored and delighted by the thousands of devotees who come from near and far to share this great celebration. We are an evangelizing church, called to reach out in hospitality and to cordially welcome each and everyone who comes in faith and gratitude to venerate a saint who has worked so many miracles for so many people, in all states of life, in all places, and times.”
The St. Jude Annual Festival opens Oct. 24 and closes Oct. 28, following a day of special masses. The festivities will include Middle Eastern and Latin entertainment and cuisine, educational tours, children’s activities, and a gift shop bazaar. For more information, visit stjudemiami.org or call the church at 305-856-1500.