Of the many branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the two most prevalent in America by far are the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox. However, one of the most popular Eastern Orthodox saints in America belonged to neither of these, but rather the fairly uncommon Antiochan Orthodox Church: Father Raphael of Brooklyn. Honored by all of the Orthodox churches, Father Raphael was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated on American soil, and he was instrumental in spreading the faith in the northeast. Although forever associated with New York City, his remains now rest at the Antiochian Village Camp in Pennsylvania, a retreat and pilgrimage site of the Orthodox Church.
Father Raphael was born Raphael Hawaweeny in Lebanon in 1860. His family belonged to the Antioch Orthodox Church, of one of the smallest but also one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox churches. In adulthood he commited his life to the Church, and studied at some of the oldest and most important Christian schools in the Middle East and the world.
Through his studies he became well acquainted with the other churches in the Eastern Orthodox communion, most notably the Russian as he also studied for many years in Kiev. In the 1890s, he became known to the royal family, and Tsar Nicholas II himself requested Raphael’s appointment to serve the small but growing Greek and Russian churchs in America.
Raphael served in the United States for twenty years, mostly in and around New York City. He ultimately made his base in the borough of Brooklyn, with which he was later associated after his canonization. In 1904, Archbishop Tikhon of Moscow traveled to the United States and personally installed Raphael Hawaweeny as bishop, the first Eastern Orthodox priest to be so honored on American soil.
Father Raphael served as Bishop of Brooklyn for the last decade of his life, during which time he established numerous churches and congregations throughout the New York City area. He is credited as the founder of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. He died in 1915 and was buried in Brooklyn. In 1989 his remains were removed to a religious retreat in Pennslvania. He was canonized in 2000.
The Antiochian Village in Ligonier is a religious retreat which services the various churches of the Eastern Orthodox Communion. A modern example of such a religious community retreat facility, it hosts both religious events as well as a Summer camp. In 1994 it hosted the Ligonier Meeting, a semi-informal conference of Eastern Orthodox leaders.
During the 1980s and 1990s a number of relics were relocated to the village, turning it into a pilgrimage destination. The St. Ignatius Chapel reliquary is home to bits of St. Herman amd St. Moses the Ethiopian. Sr. Raphael of Brooklyn is buried on the grounds in a well-marked and highly visited grave.
The Antiochian Village is located outside of Ligonier, approximately forty miles east of Pittsburgh. Technically an open site, the facility is open seasonally and access may be restricted at certain times. There is no cost of admission to see the pilgrimage sites. No other visitor information was available as of this writing. Web: www.antiochianvillage.org (official website).
Western Pennsylvania is home to numerous Eastern Orthodox communities, and several institutions of interest, including the Christ the Saviour Carpatho-Russian Seminary in nearby Johnstown.
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