Did you know that Brooklyn has a saint? Just one. St. Raphael Hawaweeny.
He was neither Catholic, nor of European descent; Hawaweeny was born in Beirut in 1860 to Syrian parents fleeing the Christian massacre in Damascus. He helped build the Eastern Orthodox Church in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, and is now known as St. Raphael of Brooklyn.
Hawaweeny was first brought to New York in 1895, where he lead a new Syrian Orthodox congregation in Lower Manhattan. He moved his church to a larger building on Pacific Street as more Syrians moved into Brooklyn. In 1905, he started a magazine called “The Word” that is still published to this day. Raphael continued his ministry across the country, starting nearly 30 parishes from Texas all the way to Michigan.
Raphael was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in North America. He was canonized at a monastery in Pennsylvania in 2000.
4,000 mourners lined Pacific Street when he died in 1915. Today, worshippers celebrate his life by honoring the 100th anniversary of his death. His icon, adorned with red and white flowers, was paraded through the St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral on November 5th – the Centennial Jubilee of the Falling Asleep of St. Raphael of Brooklyn.