Saint of the Day – 26 June – Blessed Jacques Ghazir Haddad OFM Cap (1875-1954) aged 79 – Priest, Religious of the Order of Friars Minor as a Capuchin Friar, Founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Cross of which he is the Patron, noted Preacher and founder of many orphanages and schools across Lebanon, Apostle of Charity. Called the “St Vincent de Paul of Lebanon,” “the Apostle of the Cross” and “the Apostle of Lebanon.”
Fr Jacques Ghazir Haddad was born on 1 February 1875, in Ghazir, Lebanon, the third of five children. He attended school in Ghazir and then the College de la Sageese in Beirut, where he studied Arabic, French and Syriac.
In 1892 he went to Alexandria, Egypt, to teach Arabic at the Christian Brothers’ College, and there he felt the call to the priesthood. He entered the Capuchin Convent in Khashbau the next year. He was ordained a priest on 1 November 1901 in Beirut, Lebanon.
As an itinerant preacher from 1903 to 1914 he walked all over Lebanon proclaiming the Word of God and was given the name “the Apostle of Lebanon”. He was also seen preaching in Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Turkey.
In 1919 he bought a piece of land on the hill of Jall-Eddib, north of Beirut, where he built a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Sea. Nearby he erected a great Cross.
Fr Jacques was tireless, he would help anyone in need following in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi. In 1920, to assist him in this mission to help the sick and the poor, he founded the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Cross of Lebanon. Sister Marie Zougheib was his first collaborator and aided him in setting up his new congregation. He set out in the rule of his order with the insistence, above all else, that the works of mercy never be neglected in the pursuit of the order’s work. He had been titled as the “Vincent de Paul of Lebanon”.
The modest work of Fr Jacques aroused the people’s admiration, many poor and sick people began to go to the “Cross” and Fr Jacques would welcome them all. In 1950 the “Cross” became exclusively a psychiatric hospital, one of the most modern in the Near East. The movement of charity began to spread throughout Lebanon and Fr Jacques and his Sisters multiplied their works of social assistance.
In 1933 he opened the House of the Sacred Heart in Deir el-Kamar, a girls’ orphanage, which later became an asylum for the chronically ill. In 1948 he opened the Hospital of Our Lady for the aged, the chronically ill and the paralysed. In 1949 St Joseph’s Hospital became one of the most important medical centres of the capital. It was followed in 1950 by St Anthony’s House in Beirut for beggars and vagabonds whom the police found on the streets and Providence House for homeless girls.
Even though Fr Jacques was very busy with the hospital mission, he and his Sisters carried on the important work of education and opened several schools as well as an orphanage for 200 girls.
Fr Jacques was worn out by vigils, fatigue and travel. Although he suffered from numerous illnesses, became almost completely blind and was stricken with leukemia, he did not stop blessing God and working. He was lucid to the end, at dawn on the day of his death, he said “Today is my last day!” His last hours were an uninterrupted series of prayers invoking the Cross and the Virgin Mary until he died on 26 June 1954 in Lebanon.
His cause for Beatification was introduced in February 1979, on 24 February 1979, His Holiness St Pope John Paul II signed the Decree of Introduction of the Cause for Beatification. On Sunday, 22 June 2008, he was Beatified during a special Mass in Beirut by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, C.M.F., Prefect of Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Since Blessed Haddad’s death, additional hospitals have opened to assist those injured during the war and to assist the Kabr-Chemoun region where medical services were scarce…Vatican.va
Father al-Haddād received from President Émile Eddé the Palm Medal of Lebanese Merit on 5 January 1938 while President Bechara El Khoury awarded him the Golden Medal of Lebanese Merit on 2 June 1949 and then the Officer Degree of the Lebanese Cedars Medal on 26 November 1951.
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