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Southwest Orange Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 3 years ago

St. Jude priest celebrates 25 years

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St. Jude’s Father Bassam Saade felt called into ministry after immigrating to the U.S. from Lebanon
by: Brittany Gaines Reporter

DR. PHILLIPS When Father Bassam Saade immigrated to the United States nearly 30 years ago, his specialty was finance, not ministry. 

But that was before he felt the calling and saw the need to do the Lord’s work.

Now, his life is dedicated to serving his parish at St. Jude Maronite Catholic Church, and he recently celebrated his 25th anniversary as a Maronite priest.

“My ministry has been a joyful one,” he said. “I love what I do.”

Following the calling

Born in Lebanon, Saade and his family lived in Beirut until their home was burned down by militants fighting in the civil war. Seeking safety, they moved into the mountains, but the violence and destruction followed. 

“A lot of my friends and classmates died for no reason, just because of the evil,” Saade said.

In 1986, his family decided to moved to the United States to escape the war at home. At that point, Saade had completed a degree in finance, but everything chanced once he arrived in the U.S.

He joined a church in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and felt compelled to join the ministry.

“When I came here, I saw the need,” Saade said.

He decided to attend Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., and graduated with two master’s degrees and his doctoral degree.

His first assignment was to lead a parish in Detroit, Michigan, which eventually led to a leadership position at a church in Utica, New York, where he stayed for 16 years.

But working in ministry can be both a joy and a challenge, he said.

“There’s a lot of ups and downs,” Saade said. “I carry the load, so it weighs on me. The ministry is a very, very hard one. You ask for God’s strength to face the problems. He’s your support, your guidance. I cannot do anything without the help of God.”

Building a parish

Over the years, Saade has become known for his ability to help a parish flourish and grow.

“I’m known in the diocese as a fixer,” he said. “If there’s a problem, I fix it. (The bishop) sent me here to fix this one.”

During the time he’s spent working with the parish at St. Jude, Saade said he has seen it grow to include people from all walks of life and all nationalities.

“The church here welcomes anybody and everybody,” Saade said. “It’s amazing. It’s a small parish, but the people feel like they’re home. It’s a family.”

Saade said he has been blessed to have such open and welcoming parishioners.

“The love I share with my people as a Father is overwhelming,” he said. “They not only open their homes but their hearts as well.”

That dedication was on full display two weekends ago during Saade’s 25th anniversary celebration. Parishioners organized a luncheon in the fellowship hall and a dinner reception, with more than 200 people attending the events, including several notable bishops.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful affair,” Saade said. “The people were overwhelmingly kind and generous.”

According to Gail Bell, who helped organize the events, everyone was eager to lend a helping hand to make sure the celebration was a memorable one.

“He’s truly an amazing priest,” Bell said.

For Saade, seeing his parishioners come together was the highlight of the event.

“It really was overwhelming,” he said. “It was very memorable.”

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