A celebration offering a firsthand experience of the rich traditions of Lebanese culture and the Maronite Catholic Church is set for Winslow on Saturday, September 28.
St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Waterville invites all to gather for a “Hafli,” a fall, Mediterranean Festival at the MacCrillis-Rousseau VFW Post 8835 on 175 Veterans Drive in Winslow. The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A “Hafli” is a celebration featuring authentic Lebanese cuisine, dancing, music, games, art, and more. George Maalouf and his band will perform live music from noon to 4 p.m., and the festival will also include dancing lessons, prizes, a cash bar, and a $10,000 super raffle. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children (12 and under).
“St. Joseph Maronite Church literally had its foundation built by generations of Lebanese immigrants in the Waterville area,” said Bruce White, one of the “Hafli” organizers. “The Lebanese were known for their communal support and made sure no one went hungry. Many families had open doors to their kitchens to help those in need.”
Though urban renewal has changed the landscape of the area, a strong sense of family and community created through food remains.
“A ‘Hafli’ is considered a homecoming of sorts,” said White. “It is a celebration to promote a sense of community and respect for cultural diversity. Waterville and all the surrounding communities each have legacies rich with immigrant populations and a story to tell. St. Joseph is hosting this event to help celebrate and preserve the Lebanese identity.”
The Maronite Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in the Middle East with around three million members, including nearly one million in Lebanon where the Maronite Catholic Church is based. The Maronite Church traces back to a community formed around St. Maron, a 4th century monk, receiving papal recognition in 518 A.D. The Maronite Church is in full communion with the Church of Rome and the Pope. There are two Maronite eparchies or dioceses in the United States. St. Joseph Maronite Church in Waterville is part of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, which stretches from Maine to Florida.
Lebanese immigrants began arriving in Maine in 1890 and started to establish a community in Waterville. They came to America for economic reasons and worked in factories, on the railroad, and as peddlers. The community attended church services at several different churches and venues until 1927 when Fr. Joseph Awad came to minister to the Maronite community. Property on Front and Appleton Streets were soon purchased from the Marchetti Family. The second floor of the house served as the church and the first floor as the rectory. The cornerstone of the present church was dedicated in 1951. The original altar, which remains in the church, was designed and made by Fr. Toubia Ashkar, a Maronite priest in Lebanon, and is made of Italian marble. The life-size painting of St. Joseph and the Christ Child is in the center above the altar and is originally from Italy. In May of 2017, Fr. James Doran was named pastor of St. Joseph, and continues to serve in that role today.
All proceeds from “Hafli” will help St. Joseph Maronite Church continue to support and promote community activities and events that encourage respect for cultural diversity. For more information about the festival, call Subdeacon Steve Crate at (207) 314-2049 or Ruth Lunn at (207) 708-0476.