By: Mike Mastromatteo
Father Michel Chalhoub of Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church in Thornhill, Ontario, blesses the congregation.
The establishment of the Knights’ first Melkite/Arab Christian council near Toronto adds new meaning to the international fraternal organization’s outreach and support of immigrant communities. Based at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church in the north Toronto community of Thornhill, Jesus the King Arab Christian Council 15045 was established in May 2010 to serve a unique community of Eastern Catholics.
The Order has made significant progress toward accommodating more ethnicities, language groups and cultures throughout North America.
The founding of Council 15045 and other diverse councils — whether populated by Cuban exiles, Hispanic Catholics, or recent arrivals from the Philippines, Vietnam and other parts of Asia — give evidence that the Knights of Columbus has moved far away from its stereotypical image as an Irish old boys’ club.
Indeed, the Order has made significant progress toward accommodating more ethnicities, language groups and cultures throughout North America. Not all of these councils, though, are of recent origin. Our Lady of Charity Council 5110 in Miami recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of service and support to the Cuban exile community in south Florida (see sidebar). In Toronto, the Ukrainian-rite Sheptytsky Council 5079 likewise recently marked a half-century of service.
Today, councils such as Toronto’s new Melkite council and those drawn from the Vietnamese community are working to keep the faith alive and vibrant not only in their new homes in North America, but also in their native lands, where governments often impose harsh strictures on religious liberty.
Deputy Grand Knight Hikmat Dandan was not new to the Order when he co-founded Jesus the King Arab Christian Council 15045. A member since 1997, Dandan had worked with brother Knights of his former council — North York Council 4393 — to take up the challenge of the persecuted Catholic Church in the Middle East. In addition to raising funds to build new churches in Lebanon and elsewhere, the council actively supported Dandan’s website — ChurchesforJesus.org — which calls attention to the travails of declining Christian communities in the Holy Land.
The Melkite community that makes up Council 15045 largely consists of first-generation Canadians who immigrated with their parents from Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. READ MORE…