A Lebanese taxi-driver tells the story of a fare he picked up to 'Saint Paul's Church. He assumed the passenger meant Saint Paul's Cathedral and promptly drove him there. Upon reaching the destination (Swanston Street, Melbourne) he turned around to find the passenger shaking his head in disappointment, saying this was not the place he wanted. He was after the Lebanese Church: 'Oh, you want Father Paul's Lebanese Church', the cabbie replied. 'Saint Paul-Father Paul', the passenger replied. 'what's the difference?'
There is no difference as far as the Lebanese Community is concerned. To them, Monsignor Paul had become a mentor as well as their Pastor. Like the resolutely standing cedars of his birthplace Lebanon, he was recognised as a human symbol of the Maronite Church in Melbourne and indeed all over this country.
Monsignor Paul was also held in high esteem by the Community at large, as was evidenced by his Order of Australia, awarded to him in June 1985, and the Order of Lebanon in 1988. Monsignor Paul faithfully served the Church in Australia as Pastor to the Maronite Community in Melbourne, for almost forty years. Prior to that time he ministered in Brazil and Lebanon. As a Priest, he took up the challenge of Christ to preach the Good News to all people. As Chaplain to the Maronite Community, he made many friends, bringing them a word of advice by listening to their needs and problems and playing the occasional game of back-gammon and cards.
He was a counsellor, lawyer, real-estate agent, picnic organiser, interpreter, social worker, electrician; carpenter and builder. In reality a Priest of all trades; indeed, in the words of St. Paul, 'he became all things to all men, hoping to save some.'
Born in 1914 in the town of Bakarzala, Akkar in North Lebanon, Monsignor Paul's vocation to the priesthood was nurtured by his parents. They were prayerful people dedicated to the Church and their family. As an early age and with the blessing of his grandfather, Father George El-Khoury, he entered the Minor Seminary of 'Mar Jacoub' in Karm Saddee. He was ordained Priest on 29th June 1938.
Seventeen years later, at the age of 41, he arrived in Australia, to minister to the growing Maronite Community. Being the first Maronite Priest in Melbourne, Monsignor Paul had to start from scratch; gathering his people, finding a home and above all, finding a Church that the Lebanese Maronite Community could call their own. For the first 27 years that Church was Our Lady of Lebanon, 357 Rathdowne Street Carlton.
In the mid to late 1980's, a second church was acquired; a new 'Our Lady of Lebanon at 199 Rathdowne Street Carlton. This move was prompted by the steady increase in the numbers of the Maronite Community during the past ten years. In 1995 St. Paul's Hostel was inaugurated in his name as a testimony to his restless efforts in the service of God and the Community.
The late Archbishop of Melbourne, Doctor Mannix, commented when meeting Monsignor Paul for the first time that if he failed as a Priest, there would always be a place for him in Aussie Rules Football! Fortunately for the Church, Monsignor Paul did not fail as a Priest, his 59 years testimony to that. To his credit, Monsignor Paul always promoted a united Lebanese Community and has never made distinctions between any person who sought his help.
Sadly, Monsignor Paul passed away into Eternal life on 20th January 1997 in Melbourne. His wish was to be buried in Lebanon in his beloved village of Bkarazla, in the little Church attached to their family home, the Church of Saint Moura. The Maronite Community in Melbourne held a moving funeral service for him where Maronites and Lebanese came from all over Australia to mark the life of this wonderful man. A few days later Monsignor Paul was welcomed into Bkarazla by hundreds of mourners and was finally laid to rest in the little Church he loved so much.
His spirit lives on in our Community in Melbourne. His dream of a Maronite School and a place to look after the elderly became a reality.
May the Lord reward his faithful servant for his dedication and service.
- Monsignor Joseph Takchi
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