You may call A. Elias Zaidan “Your Excellency.” His Excellency, Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon. You may also be wondering what that means.
It means he is in charge of one of two Maronite Catholic Church dioceses overseeing some 42 parishes across the United States, covering more than half of the country — from Michigan south to Alabama and all the way west. That territory includes Our Lady’s Maronite Catholic Church at 1320 East 51st St. in Austin, which has more than 600 members and is celebrating its 30th anniversary and which Zaidan will be visiting this weekend.
“It’s the 30th anniversary,” Zaidan said this week. “I’m looking forward to meeting with them and greeting them, listening to them and talking to them.”
It’s also a chance to raise the profile, at least locally, for the church and to remind people that Christianity didn’t originate in the West. For some, it might be their introduction to the church, the origins of which date to the 4th century and which remains a major institution in Lebanon. In recognition of its roots, part of the liturgy is in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. It is also the branch of Catholicism that remains closest to its Jewish roots.
Zaidan has visited other Texas cities before and he’s got a lot of travel ahead of him.
“My schedule from now to the end of May is fully booked,” he said. “All next year is going to be busy for me, too.”
Zaidan sees part of his mission as raising the visibility of the church, which has believers all over the world but which many don’t know exists in contemporary times. And it’s Zaidan’s whole life.
“It’s a calling, not a job,” he said. “It will always be that way. You’re not a Christian for one hour on Sunday.”
Zaidan will deliver the Pontifical Liturgy and “Ministry Awards” at the church Sunday from 10 to 11:30 a.m.