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Panoramic Views > North > Al Batroun > Convent Aabrine

The Congregation of the Maronite sisters of the Holy Family

The Congregation of the Maronite sisters of the Holy Family is a religious Apostolic Congregation of Patriarchal right. It was founded on the 15th of August 1895 by Patriarch Elias Hwayek, Mother Rosalie Nasr, and Sister Estephany Karddouch, "for the glory of God and the salvation of souls", as well as for the benefit of the Church and the country.

The Congregation is deep-rooted in the Antioch Syriac Maronite Church and aims to go deeper in its hermitic and apostolic spirituality. It is opened to the Universal Church, in an ecumenical spirit, embracing its mission, perceiving its needs, and mobilized for the service of "the edification of the Body of Christ".


The Congregation aims towards a life of "lasting union with God" through prayer and work, "for the glory of the great Divine generosity", in the service of the Church, the family, and the brethren, "with no distinction between confessions and nationalities", in accordance with the necessities of the time and the "requirements of the state of the country":

His charisma is:

a- In the pedagogical and educational service: - especially among the poor.
b- In humanitarian and social services of all types, rearing orphans, taking care of the sick, looking after aged people and pastoral care.
c- In pastoral service and Christian education through spreading the Word of Salvation, implementing catechesis, prayer, organizing missionary and pastoral services in collaboration with the Bishops and the parish priests.
d- Through the service of the pastoral theology of the family for its edification and healing rifts, in order that the family remains the basic unit of every healthy social and ecclesial life.

Patriarch Elias Hwayek along with Mother Rosalie Nasr and Sister Stéphanie Kardouche founded the Congregation of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family on the 15th of August 1895 "for the glory of God and the salvation of souls", "for the welfare of the Church and of the country".

The motivating intuition

The idea of founding an autonomous and apostolic religious congregation of Sisters was always present in the Patriarch's mind since the beginning of his consecrated life.

During his tours in the villages and towns, as a pastor, a priest and a bishop, he felt and understood the needs of the family, the society and the country for such a Congregation.

The necessity of founding a Religious Institute constituted an important solution for the development and construction of a society that was worn down by the plague of corruption and ignorance.

The Patriarch was deeply convinced that the future relied on young women's education. For him, the young woman, the mother to be, was the heart of the family as the family, was the rock of society. So wanting to give the Lebanese youth an education based on human, civic and evangelical values, he insisted the mission of the new Congregation be directed towards the children, the young and the sick people, who were considered his main concern.

A providential meeting

After waiting and searching for many years, his began to see the light in 1893 when he met, providentially, at the house of his friend Cheikh Assaf El Bitar, Mother Rosalie Nasr, a Lebanese Sister of the Rosary, who came to Kfifane to establish a mission with Sister Stéphanie Kardouche. Mother Rosalie, a native of Kleiat - Kessrouan, was a nun for 24 years with the French Sisters of Nazareth and for 11 years with the Rosary Sisters.

Patriarch Hoyek made his project known to her, which she accepted, provided that the Church would approve and validate her transfer. After accomplishing the canonical procedures with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, in charge of the Rosary Sisters’ Congregation, Patriarch Hwayek sent for Mother Rosalie and addressed her with these words: “Providence is calling. It is time to answer God’s will and to initiate the work confided to us by releasing it from potentiality to reality. Let us take our strength from the Almighty and rely on Him, He who had no place to rest. Let us dare to start it without respite ". Mother Rosalie then answered: "We are to be available; the divine Providence shall dispose and the Almighty shall accomplish. Where could we settle? Is there a place to settle down immediately?"

The first Home, the Foundation Mass

As the necessary funds were unavailable, Patriarch Hoyek put at the disposal of the small community a convent in the plain of Jbeil that a benefactress of Amchit named Ursula Lahoud had given to the Church as an entailed estate (wakf). It was the first “home” and Mother Rosalie received its keys on the 12th of August 1895. On the 15th of August 1895, the first foundation Mass was held. Since that date, the Assumption has become the Congregation’s Patron Feast.

“The Holy Family personifies its name”

The founder gave the young Congregation the name of “Holy Family”, totally convinced that the holiness of the name would encourage sisters to follow the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth and to spread its virtues. Also, he was sure that it would be the ideal example to follow for all of the Lebanese families in order to form a solid and healthy society. According to him, “these virtues would edify families, save them and preserve society from any corruption.”

"Towards a new destination". No sooner had the first community stepped forward than it found itself obliged to move to the abandoned school of Boutros Chéhadé at the south of Jbeil, which is situated
not far from the Church of Our Lady of Martine. The building turned out to be uninhabitable, so Mother Rosalie found herself forced to look for another "home".

With the approval of the founder, she bought four cellars that needed restoration at Ibrine. She moved there at the end of September 1896, one month after the foundation date. In 1898, the Congregation had eight nuns, four novices and three postulants, a school at Amchit and another one at Ibrine, the Mother House.

The big ordeal

After barely four years of hard work of founding the Congregation, a significant blow occurred, with the martyrdom of the founder. It happened on the night of the 22nd to 23rd of August 1899 when a young girl, expelled because of her inability to cope with the religious life, stabbed her to death. On a hot night of full moon, and knowing the entrances of the small convent, she made her way towards the Mother's room on the ground floor, entered through an open window, approached her bed and stabbed her in the heart. Half an hour later, Mother Rosalie passed away.

There were many who thought that her death would be a fatal blow to the young congregation, but divine providence was looking mercifully over it. The Founder's martyrdom did nothing but strengthen it through greater riches bestowed upon the mission.

On the 30th of August 1899, one week after Mother Rosalie's death, the Founder named as Mother General, Sister Stéphanie Kardouche, her friend and companion. About thirty years of age, Stéphanie, whose motto was "my God and my Congregation", started working, absolutely certain that neither the farmer nor the waterier could make the young plant grow but that God alone gives life.

Building the Mother House

The basic objective of Mother Stéphanie was to build the motherhouse. The decision was taken at once, with the new construction to be built over the blood of the Founding Martyr.

Mother Stéphanie, herself, directed the labor force and the works. The first stone of the chapel was laid in 1907. The Founder consecrated it in 1913 and the work was completed by 1917. The convent doors were wide open to accept young girls, according to the main aim, for which the Congregation had been founded. Mother Stéphanie built a school as well as a boarding home.

Fortified by the blood of the Founding Martyr, the unshakeable faith and iron will of its co-founder, the nascent Congregation developed and expanded with astonishing rapidity, to become a very huge tree where birds have come to nest, from having been a mustard seed, as the Founder witnessed himself.

Since the Foundation...

Moved by its faith and hope in Providence, the Congregation did not stop the foundational task. At each period, it drew its strength of pursuing its course, thus remembering the words of its Founder who tirelessly repeated to it with Paul saying: "He who began in you the good work, will fulfill it to the day of Jesus-Christ" (Ph 1). One quarter of a century later, the young Holy Family Congregation counted seventeen institutions and over one hundred sisters. Seventy years later, its educational and hospital institutions amounted to seventy along with eight others in Syria.

In the seventies- nineties, civil war, which raked the country and its infrastructures, also hit the Congregation, its persons and institutions. After the war, the Congregation recovered quickly by rehabilitating its diverse sectors so as to face the new challenges of the third millennium.

In 1995, the Congregation celebrated its first centenary, remembering its Founder's words: "We are grateful to the Divine Providence, which watches over the work since its foundation to our days, helping it to develop, to strengthen, to fulfill good works and to succeed spiritually well and temporarily".

In the beginning of the third millennium, the Congregation started a second foundation by discovering again its own spirituality by voting in its new constitutions, and by modernizing its institutions so as to best meet, the mission's needs.

Today, the Congregation pursues its growth seeking to further highlight the face of its institutions, which are currently sixty-two in Lebanon, two in Syria and four in Australia. With its Founder, the Congregation gives thanks to the Lord for all the gifts it was granted to fulfill for the Kingdom through its presence in the world.

- Congregation of the Maronite sisters of the Holy Family: >> View Movie << (2009-05-01)
- Congregation of the Maronite sisters of the Holy Family: >> View Movie 2 << (2009-05-01)
- Congregation of the Maronite sisters of the Holy Family: >> View Movie 3 << (2011-06-15)


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